Murder, She Wrote Season 7 “Bookend” episodes

A popular topic among Murder, She Wrote fans involves the so-called “Bookend” episodes — episodes where Jessica Fletcher provides introductory (and sometimes concluding) remarks, but doesn’t actively take part in the main story action.

The reason for these episodes had to do with contract negotiations with Angela Lansbury. Reportedly, Angela Lansbury felt overworked, and when her contract was about to expire at the end of Season 5 she hinted that she did not want to renew for a sixth season. Eventually, she was swayed to sign on with a reduced workload for Season 6, which is why Season 6 had a whopping 9 episodes in which she only briefly appeared (as I have written about in my post about the Murder, She Wrote Season 6 “Bookend” episodes).

Similar contract negotiations took place ahead of Season 7. This time, Angela Lansbury signed on with the promise that she would do 17 regular episodes and 5 bookend episodes. But while in Season 6 the bookend episodes each featured a different detective, the producers had decided that all of the bookend episodes in Season 7 would feature the same one: Dennis Stanton (played by Keith Michell).

Personally, I think this was a good move for several reasons:

(1) Dennis Stanton as a character had already appeared in two regular Murder, She Wrote episodes plus the Season 6 Bookend episode “Always a Thief“. Thus, viewers were familiar with his character and relationship to Jessica Fletcher.

(2) Multiple episodes in Season 7 hinted at the fact that Jessica Fletcher had used her knowledge of Dennis Stanton as a basis for one of her book characters. (See in particular “The Great Twain Robbery” and “Where have you gone, Billy Boy?“.) This gave viewers an added glimpse into Jessica Fletcher’s writing life.

(3) And finally, having the same character at the center of every bookend episode allowed the producers to make use of a steady cast of supporting characters—effectively giving Dennis Stanton his own mini-spin-off.

[Update: May 25th 2021]

Just as I’ve done for the Season 6 “Bookend” episodes, I wanted to give readers of this blog and fans of the show a chance to vote on their favorite Dennis Stanton “Bookend” episode. To that end, I’ve set up a Google forms survey that asked Murder, She Wrote fans to rank the 5 Bookend episodes from Season 7 as well as the 1 Bookend episode featuring Dennis from Season 6.

A total of 23 people responded to the survey in the one week span between May 17th and May 24th. They were each asked to rank the episode from 1 (best) to 6 (worst). According to their votes, the following ranking emerged:

  1. Always A Thief (average score = 2.3)
  2. The Great Twain Robbery (average score = 2.5)
  3. Murder in F Sharp (average score = 3.1)
  4. See You in Court, Baby (average score = 3.2)
  5. Suspicion of Murder (average score = 3.9)
  6. Where have you gone, Billy Boy? (average score = 4.3)

The following image includes a more detailed summary, with the bar graphs representing the number of people who assigned a particular ranking to each episode.

Given this results, it appears that the best Dennis Stanton bookend episode is actually the only one that appeared in Season 6 (i.e. “Always a Thief“). In fact, it was the only episode to have never been ranked 6th. However, Season 7’s “The Great Twain Robbery” is a very close second, and is by far the most favorite Season 7 bookend episode. On the other hand, “Where have you gone, Billy Boy?“, the last of the Dennis Stanton spin-off episodes, was by far the least favorite.

(Because not too many fans have had a chance to vote in the survey yet, I am keeping it open for the foreseeable future. You can still access and vote in the survey by following this link: https://forms.gle/r4cJ8X6we1nYvaPt9. I may update this post in the future if the results are significantly different after more fans have had a chance to participate.)

4 comments

  1. Hi Joanna,

    It’s funny that you literally wrote this today, as I’m watching season 7. I have to agree that I am not a fan of the “bookend” episodes, but I can’t blame Ms. Lansbury for taking down time. From the beginning I fell in love with Grady, Donna, and Michael’s characters, so as long as these bookend episodes have these characters, I actually look forward to them.
    I read your previous post about the bookend episodes of season 6 and noted your response to one of your followers about how the producers planned to end the series at season 5. I confess, I still have a mental argument with myself as to who I would like to see Jessica with more- Michael (if he ever retired from MI6…which I feel wouldn’t be likely, that he would always somehow be involved) or Seth. But then, I think that is part of the charm of Mrs. Fletcher. The fact that her romance is with Frank and she goes on so many adventures and fills her life with friends and family without the need of a significant other. I find that relevant for women around my age. Not trying to be political, just wise observations made of women my age who could take a note or two from Mrs. Fletcher.
    On a semi-related note, I can’t tell you how pleasantly surprised I am at finding people who appreciate shows like Murder, She Wrote, considering today’s television culture. I’m in my mid twenties (an old soul, my father says) and I prefer these shows. I’m currently in grad school, and I know this is the only thing keeping me sane at the moment. I thoroughly enjoy your blog, and I look forward to more of your work. Just wanted to let you know that you have younger viewers of much loved older series. (We are out there!)

    Much love and mystery,

    E.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much for your comment! It’s funny you should mention being in grad school. I started this blog a few years ago while trying to finish writing my PhD thesis — I found it helped get over my academic writers’ block. I’m not so old myself, being in my mid-30s now, so I definitely know that the show appeals to all ages 🙂

      Like

  2. Man, i missed the survey!! But that won’t stop me form commenting, LOL!!!
    Just watched “The Great Twain Robbery” and it is def my favorite of the six listed and is Stanton at his best!!! “Always A Thief” and “See You In Court, Baby” tie for a close second.

    Overall, a big thumbs up to all the Dennis Stanton episodes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You can still submit your ranking! Not too many people responded within a week, which is why I’m still keeping it open and included the link to it. I’ll check back in a couple of months and will revise the post with the updated results.

      Like

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