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Just as I had done when I reached the end of Season 3, Season 4, Season 5, Season 6, and Season 7 I wanted to put together a recap of Season 8 trivia after having 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 8 in the history of the show as a whole. As many long-time fans know, there was a major shift in the series which happened at the beginning of Season 8:
Jessica Fletcher gets an apartment in New York City.
After quite a rocky and uncertain Season 6 and 7 peppered with so-called “bookend” episodes, producers of the show were relieved to have Angela Lansbury agree to another season — and this time one without any of those unpopular “bookend” episodes. Part of the agreement includes Angela having more creative input on the show. in order to avoid potentially butting heads with her when it comes to the creative direction of the show, Peter S. Fischer, the show’s creator and long time executive producer, steps down. (You can read more about his perspective surrounding these events in his autobiography.) His duties as executive producer are taken over for the season by David Moessinger, who writes and directs the first episode “Bite the Big Apple“, which finds Jessica embarking on a new adventure as a lecturer in Manhattan.
In Season 8, Jessica divides her time between her NYC apartment and her Cabot Cove home, so the show doesn’t abandon her roots entirely. But I would venture to guess that the move to New York was designed to inject more excitement into the long-running series.
There were some notable new characters.
With Jessica’s move to New York, we are introduced to a handful of recurring characters that help create some consistency in the show. These include her doorman Ahmed (who appeared in four episodes) and her colleague at Manhattan University, Dr. Raymond Auerbach (who appeared in two episodes). However, neither of these characters lasted beyond this season.
There were also some character changes in Cabot Cove as Deputy Floyd gets replaced by Deputy Andy.
Which brings me to my run-down of recurring motifs:
Season 8 by the numbers:
When it comes to the characters that appear in the series, the show continues to shift away from Jessica’s personal life to depicting more of her professional life. Notably, we don’t see Jessica visiting with any of her relatives, nor do we see her visiting her dear old friends as often as she did in earlier seasons. Instead, Jessica frequently stumbles upon a crime in the publishing world.
Number of nieces/nephews/cousins etc. = 0
Number of “dear old friends” = 6
As is the case in many other seasons, there are quite a few times where Jessica Fletcher is visiting friends or dropping in on them while she’s in the area. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish “dear old friends” from those she simply knows professionally. For instance, two of the friends she visits are writers: one is a children’s author (ep.7) and one is a playwright (ep.20). Aside from that, there are friends she knows from doing charity work (ep.6), friends who work in politics (ep.10), friends who are putting on a ballet (ep.11), and friends who own hotels (ep.14).
Number of Cabot Cove deaths = 4
Although many fans believe that there are fewer episodes set in Cabot Cove following Jessica’s move to New York City, that isn’t really the case. Although most of the previous seasons had five episodes/murders taking place in Cabot Cove, this season only brought that number down by one. However, what’s unusual about the Cabot Cove episodes in this season is that they all involve locals rather than newcomers or visitors to the town. In all four episodes (ep.4, ep.12, ep.18, ep.21), both the murderer and the victim were long-time local residents.
Number of episodes set in New York City = 8
In comparison to the Cabot Cove episodes, there were twice as many episodes in which Jessica investigates a murder in New York City. However, Jessica’s connection to each of these murders breaks down in an interesting way:
- In two of the cases, Jessica gets involved because they involve people who live (or lived) in her building. This is the case in ep.1 and ep.16.
- In three of the cases, Jessica gets involved because they involve people she knows from teaching at Manhattan University. This is the case in ep.2, ep.5, and ep.17.
- And in three of the cases, Jessica gets involved because they involve her career as a writer. This is the case in ep.3, ep.9 and ep.22.
Therefore, only 5 of those 8 episodes are due to Jessica moving to NYC to teach.
J. B. Fletcher, Globetrotter
As usual, Jessica Fletcher does a lot of travelling throughout the series. However, with so many episodes this season devoted to New York City and Cabot Cove, there are consequently fewer episodes that take place elsewhere. Notably, there are a handful of episodes this season which take place outside the USA: there’s one episode in Monte Carlo, Monaco (ep.14); one in London, England (ep.15); and one in Mexico City, Mexico (ep.19).
Aside from that, this season also finds Jessica in New Orleans (ep.6), Santa Barbara (ep.7), Las Vegas (ep.8), Washington D.C. (ep.10), San Francisco (ep.11), Hollywood (ep.13), and Carmel (ep.20). I found it interesting to note that four of those seven places are located in California.
Not my favourite season but the Cabot Cove episodes are always worth rewatching.
I miss Floyd but I like Andy too.
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This is an interesting recap. I learned a few insights. I would add that along with David Moessinger came J Michael Straczynski, who not only wrote for Season 8, but co-produced all 22 episodes, and 8 of Season 9. They were something of a team, previously together on Jake and the Fatman, when David was pushed out, J Michael left in solidarity. David brought J Michael on MSW, and while writer and showrunner Tom Sawyer of Season 9-12 doesn’t mention names, he clearly felt Season 8 was being done poorly. In his book he describes 8’s flagging ratings and for the first time angry letters to the show and Angela. Apparently they removed David but not J Michael who left to create Babylon 5. J Michael had a lot of good ideas, especially Lines of Excellence, a theme he would return to on other shows.
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