Honey, what do you think television’s all about? We haven’t got time to think up new plots.
This week, we’re in Hollywood!
Jessica is on tour and doing a book signing when she’s approached by an aspiring TV writer and told that a TV show is about to steal the plot from her latest book for its upcoming episode.
Just the facts ma’am:
Spoilers are in white font, so highlight the text below to reveal the answers.
- The victim was… the TV producer, 60% owner of SharkStone Productions!
- killed by… the TV director!
- in… his office after hours (8:45pm)!
- with… dynamite packed inside a gift-box wrapped in “feminine” pink paper!
- because… he threatened to expose the director’s drug past!
- vital clues: a lunch meeting few could have known about.
This episode features a lot of actors who made multiple appearances on the show.
Ken Swofford, seen here playing the victim Sid Sharkey, made a total of 11 appearances on the show. This is his third. In six of his appearances he plays a character called Lt. Catalano. Sadly, Ken Swofford died on on the 1st of this month (November 2018).
Bradford Dillman, seen here playing Avery Stone, the other co-owner of the SharkStone production company. This is his 3rd of 8 total appearances on the show, each time playing a different character.
Two main ladies in this episode also made a number of appearances on the show.
- Lenore Kasdorf (left), played actress Brenda Blake in her third of four total appearances on MSW.
- Fionnula Flanagan (right), played secretary Freida Schmidt in her first of also four appearances on MSW. Flanagan’s future appearances all focus on her Irish background as she appears in the Ireland-focused episodes.
A few more repeat offenders include:
- Vincent Bagetta (left), playing TV director Bert Puzo in his second of three appearances on MSW;
- Doug McClure (center), playing actor Gary Patterson in his second of two appearances;
- and Gail Strickland (right), playing TV exec Kate Hollander in her first of two appearances.
Big names & Honourable mentions:
- Scott Lawrence (left) plays the nameless assistant director in his first ever on-screen role. Lawrence went on to have a major role on JAG.
- Kim Miyori (center) plays aspiring TV writer Gayle Yamada. Miyori had a recurring role on St. Elsewhere.
- Yaphet Kotto (right) plays police Lt. Bradshaw. Kotto went on to have a major role in the 90s show Homicide: Life on the Street.
There are a couple of references to titles of J.B. Fletcher’s novels, but it’s uncertain whether these might be fake. Jessica mentions the titles “Murder at the Assylum” and “Calvin Canterbury’s Revenge” when she tries to catch a TV exec in a lie about having read her books.
This episode also offers an interesting look at the TV business and the opportunity for lots of self-referencing.
For instance, at one point there is reference to the fact that the network wanted to do something new by hiring a female writer — in reference to the fact that female writers were rarely hired. Even when it came to Murder, She Wrote, only up to 4 episodes per season had female writers involved, and usually only in conjunction with other male writers. At the time this episode aired, only the previous episode “If it’s Thursday it must be Beverly” was written entirely by women.
Additionally, it’s interesting to note the fictional TV show portrayed on the show. Sometimes referred to as “Danger Doctor”, and at other times as “Fearless D. Valiant, M.D.”, the show is about a crime-solving doctor and his nurse sidekick. While it’s clear the inspiration for it is likely shows like Quincy, M.E., the reference to a “street-smart big-city sidekick” is reminiscent of the Father Dowling Mysteries — a TV show starring Tom Bosley (a.k.a. Sheriff Amos Tupper) as a crime-solving Catholic priest assisted by a young nun. The TV movie pilot for that show premiered just two weeks after this episode first aired.
Finally, I’ll leave off with this little gem of a dialogue:
Kate Hollander: “I’ve got a much better idea. A weekly series. The Jessica Fletcher Mystery Hour.”
J.B. Fletcher: “What?”
KH: “The real-life adventures of a crime-busting mystery writer.”
JBF: “No, no, no, no.”
KH: “Oh, yes, yes. It’ll be sensational! New, different, original, but familiar.”
JBF: “Miss Hollander, I don’t write gunfights, car chases or bedroom scenes, so who would watch? I’m sorry, but that is absolutely the worst idea I have ever heard.”