|To confuse you, here is a hot picture of Angela Lansbury.|
I would like to say that my avid interest in the comings and goings of JB Fletcher correlates directly with my recent unemployment. However, that is a convenient excuse that is not available to me. I simply finished up on the whole run of Matlock and Columbo episodes – more on him in a future entry – and still wanted to poke at my “mystery” genre itch. I couldn’t find a good source for Perry Mason or Remington Steele or something else, so I settle on Angie.
If, for some reason, you managed to never see any of the 12(!) seasons of the show, most of them followed a rather simple formula. The first two-thirds of the episode may or may not feature the “murder” hinted at in the title, but you are introduced an array of disposable characters that served as suspects. Typically, MSW didn’t settle on the most obvious suspect (like a jilted ex-wife) as the killer. If it did, then usually the struggle would not be in the Whodunit, but in the Howdtheydoit.
A simple but effective framework, and it mostly served as a vehicle for Lansbury anyway. The woman does have some acting chops, you know, between the five Tony awards, six Golden Globes and a slew of Emmys, thanks to MSW. When I was a kid, I inexplicably liked Bedknobs and Broomsticks, a second-tier Disney movie from 1971 that starred her, so maybe I’m just pre-disposed to likin’ Angela Lansbury.
Anyway – Even with the pat structure of a typical MSW episode, there was still some initial tinkering. Like I finally doubled back and watched the pilot episode, which had JB Fletcher as not yet famous. Later in the series, it doesn’t matter where she goes; even backwater counties in Canada apparently get her books, and she’s recognized constantly. Oh, and also, in the first episode Lansbury almost gets mugged, stabbed and raped while walking down an alley in New York. You know, stuff happens.
As the series goes on, most of the episodes are set in Cabot Cove, a tiny fishing hamlet in Maine that has the highest murder rate of all-time, to make a hacky joke that everyone else already has. According to TV Tropes, the town’s murder rate is about 86 times that of the murder rate of the worst city in the world, and Wiki says that about 2 percent of the town’s population was murdered during the show’s run. (Also, as usual, pretty much everything on the TV Tropes page for the show is awesome.)
Finally, murder is just a game to JB Fletcher. The end of pretty much every episode was a still-frame of her laughing at something. “Oh, remember how your cousin was brutally murdered a few days ago? Well, stiff upper lip, Toby – Just think, his body is feeding the worms right now. Ha ha ha!” Thankfully, someone has already done the great service of making a montage of all of the bizarre still-shot endings on the show: