Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Murder She Wrote

12 seasons. 264 episodes. 286 murders. 12 emmy nominations for best actress and 0 wins.

Murder She Wrote first appeared on screen in 1984 and brought with it a new era of whodunit. Women were strong and smart. Cops were invariably dumb. Killers would always leave an obvious clue behind and they would always confess. (Looking back now, I'd advise them to get a good lawyer first).

My top 10 favourite episodes:

1.Murder Takes the Bus (1.19)

Jessica and Amos Tupper are onboard a bus bound for a convention in Boston when the weather forces the passengers to take refuge at an out of the way diner.
Highlight: A variation on the closed circle mystery, set on a dark and stormy night.

2.Who Threw the Barbitals in Mrs Fletcher's Chowder (4.12)
When Amos' sister and her in-laws descend upon Cabot Cove, Jessica hosts a dinner party with homicidal results, leaving the finger pointing at the Sheriff's sister.
Highlight: New England home cooking with a pinch of murder. But the highlight is indubitably Amos Tupper and his relatives.

3.Mr Penroy's Vacation (5.3)
Jessica is perplexed by the apparent murder of an elderly man that points to two simple-minded, spinster sisters he was living with.

Highlight:The delightfully practical Appletree sisters and the arrival of Sheriff Metzger.

4.Crossed Up (3.13)
The phone wires get crossed during a storm and Jessica can't convince anyone that what she heard was real.
Highlight: Shades of Hitchcock. And yet more dark and stormy nights.

5.Joshua Peabody Died Here ... Possibly (2.2)
Plans for a new hotel in Cabot Cove must be put on hold when a skeleton is discovered at the construction site and Amos and Jessica find a second body.
Highlight: The infamous Joshua Peabody.

6.The Corpse Flew First Class (3.12)
Theft and murder occur on board a jet bound for London with a plethora of suspects ranging from an older couple to a well-known actress to a former police officer.
Highlight: murder on a plane. Guest stars Kate Mulgrew (Voyager).

7.The Sins of Castle Cove (5.17)
A vindictive, tell-all work of fiction mirroring Cabot Cove sends the townspeople into an uproar, and when a murder occurs following the plot of the book it's up to Jessica to separate fact from fiction.
Highlight: Hilarious metadrama episode.

8.Sticks and Stones (2.10)
Cabot Cove is flooded with poison pen letters which proves hard for the town to handle as Amos prepares to hand the reins over to a new sheriff, Harry Pierce.
Highlight: Reminiscent of Christie's Moving Finger.

9.The Grand Old Lady (6.3)
Jessica narrates a story from 40 years ago when another female mystery writer helped to solve a mysterious murder aboard the Queen Mary.
Highlight: The best bookend episode.

10.Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble (5.13)
Jessica is suspicious when the appearance of the ghost of a long-dead witch burned at the stake coincides with the release of a book on the very subject.
 Highlight: Ghosts! Witches! Hack writers! Oh My!

Of course, what really made this series work was the star, Angela Lansbury.

Perhaps not the best actress in the world, but immensely charasmatic: her Mrs Fletcher was someone everyone wanted as a friend, or a teacher, or a relative. Or the person to prove your innocence if you're wrongly accused.

I grew up watching MSW, and loved it first for the fact that it was one of a handful of programs my mother would actually sit down to watch. (You'd have to know my mother and her energizer bunny work ethic to fully understand). Of course, since then I've loved it for a host of other reasons, for its quiet humour and quirkiness, its wholesome values, and its faithfulness to the whodunit format.

Quintessentially Murder She Wrote:

  • The 'Cabot Cove syndrome', coined to describe the statistically improbable number of murders that occurred within the town.
  • The typewriter. Techno geek that I am, I still mourn the typewriter.
  • Sheriff Tupper, his appetite, his ineptitude, his "Miz Fletcher"ing. 
  • The often long-suffering Sheriff Metzger and his never seen but briefly heard wife Adele.
  • Dr Seth Hazlitt, bachelor and philosopher.
  • The man-eating real estate agent Eve Simpson.
  • Grady Fletcher, Jessica's unlucky but entertaining nephew.
  • Her endless list of falsely accused relatives and friends.
  • Her beloved husband Frank.

Friday, June 15, 2012

About Me

Jen lives in sunny Queensland, Australia. She has a doctorate in history, a love of pop culture and an addiction to pretty shiny things. In 2012 she started designing bags and accessories with her artistic mum Tricia, and found a niche in the market for bags that are fashionable and culturally referential.

Visit her at murdershetote.etsy.com

Monday, June 11, 2012

Keep Calm and Read This Blog


You've heard of the Keep Calm phenomenon. I'm not going to pretend that there's a person out there that has managed to miss the youtube documentaries, the news reports, the viral posts and reposts. On the off chance that there is a Chuck Noland amongst you, the short version is this:

In 1939, at the start of  WWII, the British Ministry of Information produced the Keep Calm and Carry On poster to be displayed in the event of invasion. Over 2,500,000 copies were printed, but only a handful were ever distributed, and they were destroyed unused and unneeded at the end of the war.

Fast forward sixty-one years, and one of the few remaining copies was discovered by the owners of a second hand bookshop in Alnwick, Northumberland. From it's rediscovery in 2000, the keep-calm-o-matic has been reproduced millions of times in merchandise, in both faithful and parody form.

Here a few of my favourites:

Pinned Image

Experts will tell you that we find comfort in such an attitude, "unshowily brave and just a little stiff, brewing tea as the bombs fall", and I would agree, but I think there's also an element of modernity in there, celebrating the retro in a technological age that allows the everyman to express their creativity and wit through a universal message.

Since the beginning critics have been predicting its imminent demise (with the confidence that comes from knowing that all fads die out, be they shrug tops or tamagotchi pets):

But the Keep Calm slogan just keeps carrying on.

Visit this fab website to create your own.