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The Way Back Machine Presents: The Corpse Danced at Midnight or 11pm Central Time

March 3, 2011

Ms. Angela Lansbury

I have a confession: I have never seen the series finale of Murder, She Wrote and I’m not sure I want to. Since Netflix put the series on instant viewing, I have binged on its tropes, cheestastic guest stars (I see you, Abe Vigoda!) and convoluted mysteries. I have also decided never to make murderous hamlet of Cabot Cove a vacation destination – visitors and residents alike have an uncanny knack for ending up poisoned, shot, stabbed or run into trees in cars with tampered brakes.

Superlatives

Favorite David (Baxter) Birney apparance

    David (Baxter) Birney who made four appearances on the show – twice as characters named “Lawrence” though not the same character! My favorite appearance being the shady prognosticator/murder suspect/homewrecker in “Prediction: Murder”

Best Surrogate Jessica Fletcher

    Hands down winner: Harry McGraw. Boozy P.I. Harry McGraw was played with great gusto by beloved song and dance man Jerry Orbach. During the later seasons Lansbury, weary from a show with such a long production schedule (and other passions neglected), took occasional breaks allowing other characters to step up and perform her murder solving duties. Ken Howard was great as Bill, an ex-football player (there’s a stretch, kinda!) turned private investigator in Jack & Bill and he’s capably backed by a Mr. Patrick Harrington Jr. as a police Lt, who does not have keys to every bathroom, closet or filing cabinet in the precinct. That said, Orbach was the most amazing and enjoyable as Harry McGraw. Though popular as the character was, the appeal failed to draw viewers to the spin off, which barely lasted a season.

Oh look it’s George Clooney – again

    Sure he’s a big, sexy star now, which is great because if I don’t feel like dealing with him, I know how to avoid him. The same cannot be said of the 80s, where episodic television devotees seemed resigned to their pre-famous, awkward Clooney guest appearances fate. In 1987 alone, he did his tour of duty on the “Nana circuit” with appearances on The Golden Girls, Hunter and of course, M,SW – as Kip in the episode “No Laughing Matter”, which also starred Buddy Hackett and Steve Lawrence. I know, right? He wasn’t the murderer! He wasn’t famous enough yet. While I might fall in and out of love with Clooney, the star, I always respect Clooney, the actor. He paid him some dues!


My heart still skips a beat watching that intro. Selleck is so dreamy!

Who wears short shorts? Thomas Magnum does!

    In a stroke of crossover brilliance, CBS decided to take their two juggernauts, which oddly enough had lots of demographic overlapping, and give fans a double delight! Who do you think Magnum wore the short shorts for? Grannies and gay dudes. At peak height Selleck stood 6’4 (6’2 and over generally put male actors squarely in “villain” or character actor territory no matter how cute their faces were) – unheard of at the time for leading male TV stars who were also positioned as hunks – there was no reason for a man (even in Hawaii) that tall and with legs that long to wear shorts that shorts. But thank Xena he did! Anyhoo, Thomas and Jessica (cause she called him “Thomas”) join forces and Thomas definitely was trying to get his flirt on with Jessica. Other treats from this pair of episodes: Lucille Bluth!!! Oh yes, Ms. Jessica “Play Misty for Me” Walters guest stars in a Lucille Bluthish role, which is hilarious.
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