Goodbye, Jessica Fletcher

October 14, 2022

You’ve likely heard the news that earlier this week, actress Angela Lansbury passed away at age 96. Though Lansbury’s 70-year (!) career encompassed films, television, and theater, for me she’ll always be Jessica Fletcher, of the TV series Murder, She Wrote. This series is one of my go-tos for comfort TV, and when I’m feeling sick or stressed, I rewatch my favorite episodes, even if they’re on quietly in the background.

Why I love Jessica

Aside from the fact that Jessica (or J.B.) became a best-selling mystery author in her 50s (we’re never explicitly told J.B. Fletcher’s age, but Lansbury was 58 when she was cast as the character), she was unfailingly kind, tactful, and did not hesitate to do what she felt was right. She was active—you see her running and biking in the opening credits alone. She also fishes and gardens, lives on her own in her hometown of Cabot Cove, Maine and later in an apartment in New York. She travels the world, visiting her large circle of extended family and friends. She’ll drop everything to help her loved ones when they’re in trouble (it goes without saying that they are often on the hook for murder…). She’s always perfectly groomed and wears great, casually elegant clothes. She always seems sensible, capable and equal to the task, whether it’s learning to use a computer or catching a murderer.

She lives an active, full, and vibrant life into her 60s and 70s—altogether a pretty positive role model!

Mendocino/Cabot Cove

Murder, She Wrote

Murder, She Wrote isn’t highbrow TV, but many people besides me refer to it as comfort TV. Even if bad things happen (and as I type this, someone is being chased by a murderous remote-controlled van), perpetrators of bad things will be caught and face the consequences of their actions. One writer described it this way: “It’s Sherlock Holmes with less cocaine, more chowder and Coastal Grandmother Sweater Looks.” Murder, She Wrote ran for 12 years, from 1984 to 1996, and you can still watch it on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, and streaming on Peacock, Freevee (Amazon), and The Roku Channel. 

During its initial run, my mom and I watched Murder, She Wrote together when we could (I was already away at college)—and we still watch those reruns when we’re together. This only adds to the “comfort” vibe.

My favorite episodes—they’re the coziest—are those set in Jessica’s hometown, Cabot Cove (which must be in line for murder capital of the world). In exterior shots, Mendocino, CA, doubles for Maine. (My friend Kerri and visited there on a road trip in 2018—see the pictures in this post.) 

Beyond Jessica

Of course, Angela Lansbury does not equal Jessica Fletcher, but it seems from all I’ve been reading that she was a lovely person. She was certainly a talented and versatile performer, nominated for and winning many professional awards. She was nominated for Tony, Emmy, Golden Globe and Academy awards during her long career, including 12 Emmy nominations for Murder, She Wrote (she never won). 

She did win five Tony awards for roles that included Auntie Mame and Nellie Lovett, the pie maker with the gruesome fillings in Sweeney Todd. A Lifetime Achievement Award brought her total of Tonys to six, tied with Audra McDonald and Julie Harris for the most awards given to one actor. On Oct. 15 at 7:45 p.m., Broadway will dim its marquee lights for one minute in her memory. 

Angela Lansbury’s work has brought me a lot of simple pleasure through the years, and I’m grateful. Rest in peace, Ms. Lansbury. 

For an in-depth story about Angela Lansbury’s life, click here.  

Kingkongphoto & from Laurel  Maryland, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Kathy - wow I feel the same way about Murder She Wrote...When I cannot sleep at night I turn her on and watch old shows. My mom and I loved her as well and Mom often would stay up late in her older years and watch her. Like you the Cabot Cove ones were my favorites. Angela Lansbury will certainly be missed but she hopefully will live on at Cabet Cove! Have a delightful day. Hugs!

    1. Debbie--Yes! There's just something so calming about J.B.!