Just as I had done when I reached the end of Season 3, Season 4, Season 5, and Season 6 I wanted to put together a recap of Season 7 trivia now that I’ve reached the end of this season in my episode summaries. Murder, She Wrote is known for certain recurring themes/motifs/imagery, and one of the things I was most curious about when I embarked on this project to document each episode is: just how frequently these themes/motifs/imagery recur.
But before I get to giving a run-down of this trivia, I wanted to take some time to discuss the importance of Season 7 in the history of the show as a whole. There were several aspects of Season 7 that make it stand out from other seasons of the show:
1. Producers were under the impression that this season would be the last.
Ever since Season 5, when Angela Lansbury’s initial contract was about to expire, the future of the show was uncertain. Lansbury had been complaining of being overworked, and although producers managed to get her to sign on for Seasons 6 and 7 with a reduced work-load, they couldn’t get her to agree to sign on for an eighth season until filming for Season 7 was almost over. As a result, there were several very special episodes that were written into Season 7 in order to ensure the show had a great send-off. Two memorable episodes include “The Return of Preston Giles” (which referenced the pilot episode) and “Thursday’s Child” (which referenced her marriage with Frank).
Additionally, the final episode of the season, “The Skinny According to Nick Cullhane“, was written specifically in order to be flexible in case Angela Lansbury changed her mind about signing on for Season 8. If this turned out to be the final episode, it would have ended on Harry McGraw saying “And that, as they say, is all she wrote.” But the subsequent scene with Angela winking and looking into the camera was filmed just in case there would indeed be an eighth season.
2. There was a mini-spin-off featuring Dennis Stanton.
One of the most notable aspects of Season 7 was the continuation of the so-called “bookend” episodes, which were also prevalent in Season 6. These episodes, which feature other detectives and only include short scenes of introduction from Jessica Fletcher, were produced in order to give Angela Lansbury a break from her grueling filming schedule. Unlike in Season 6, where every bookend episode featured a different protagonist, all the bookend episodes in Season 7 featured Dennis Stanton—Jessica Fletcher’s jewel-thief friend first introduced in Season 5’s “A Little Night Work“. Effectively, this created a mini spin-off show within a show since the Dennis Stanton bookend episodes came with their own cast of regular characters.
3. There were some notable (and notably absent) characters.
Just prior to the start of Season 7, William Windom left the show in order to co-star in a sitcom called Parenthood. As a result, Seth Hazlitt was absent at the beginning of Season 7, and instead a new character was introduced to act as Jessica Fletcher’s sidekick in Cabot Cove. Ben Devlin was introduced as the new editor of the Cabot Cove Gazette in “Deadly Misunderstanding“, and made two more appearances in “A Body to Die For” and “Murder in F Sharp“. When the character failed to resonate with audiences, Ben Devlin was written out of the show and was merely mentioned in “The Skinny According to Nick Cullhane“. When William Windom’s show Parenthood was cancelled half way into the season, Seth Hazlitt made one appearance in Season 7 in the episode “Family Doctor” and was furthermore mentioned in “Thursday’s Child“, before being brought back as a series regular in Season 8.
Looking ahead, Season 7 is notably the last season for recurring characters Mayor Sam Booth (in “Prodigal Father“), and Deputy Floyd and Harry McGraw (in “The Skinny According to Nick Cullhane“). Season 7 is also the first season to have not featured an of Jessica Fletcher’s family members (although she does mention shopping for her nephew in “Murder, Plain & Simple“).
Which brings me to my run-down of recurring motifs:
Season 7 by the numbers:
Number of nieces/nephews/cousins etc. = 0
Number of “dear old friends” = 6
There are quite a few times in this season where Jessica Fletcher is visiting friends or dropping in on them while she’s in the area. And it isn’t always clear how she knows these people in the first place. Somehow, she knows an aspiring politician (ep.5), a veterinarian (ep.16), and someone she for some reason helped prove innocent back in Boston (ep.21). There are also a few friends where her connection to them is more apparent: a fellow writer (ep.4), an old friend from camp (ep.9), and an old college friend (ep.15).
But in this season, Jessica Fletcher is equally likely to stumble upon a crime due to her career as a writer, or simply due to travelling for pleasure.
Number of Cabot Cove deaths = 5
This is a typical season, with five episodes/murders taking place in Cabot Cove. The involvement of locals versus visitors in these murders is split exactly 50/50. There were two episodes where both the victim and killer were both long-time locals (ep.2 and ep.17); there were two episodes where both the victim and the killer were newcomers or visitors (ep.13 and ep.22); and there was one episode where the victim was an outsider but the killer was a local (ep.6).
J. B. Fletcher, Globetrotter
As usual, Jessica Fletcher does a lot of travelling throughout the series. Notably, every episode in this season takes place in the USA, and there are a couple of cities/states that occur multiple times: New York City (ep.1, ep.5, ep.7); and Pennsylvania (ep.4 and ep.20, albeit in different towns). She appears at every other location just once: Nashville (ep.9); Boston (ep.11); Texas (ep.14); Missouri (ep.15); Kentucky (ep.16); Oregon (ep.19); and California (ep.21).
The fact that multiple episodes in this season take place in New York City help create a fairly seamless transition to Season 8, which marks Jessica’s move into a permanent NYC apartment.