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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although the violence in Murder, She Wrote is extremely tame compared to many of today's graphic series (almost to the point of being a bit cheesy), each episode of this fan-favorite crime drama does revolve around a murder investigation. The deadly confrontation is often shown on screen, as well as several scenes of the corpse and the crime scene (often blood-stained). The heroine is a successful, self-confident woman whose determined inquiries and attention to detail often outshine the work of professional detectives.
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What's the story?
In its 12-year run on CBS (from 1984 to 1996), MURDER, SHE WROTE followed the many adventures and investigations of the indomitable mystery writer (Angela Lansbury), a retired teacher with an insatiable thirst for knowledge who lives in the quaint town of Cabot Cove, Maine. When she's not tapping away at her typewriter, Jessica is often out about town or traveling to visit the inexhaustible bevy of friends and family she has throughout the world, where, amazingly, she almost always stumbles onto the scene of yet another murder in need of a determined gumshoe. And with each mystery she helps solve, she gets inspiration for her next best-selling novel. Jessica's curiosity often leads her to poke her nose in police affairs, and while the Cabot Cove sheriff's department is accustomed to her friendly meddling, other law officers who don't know her (and are often looking for a quick-and-easy solution to the crime) find her inquiries irritating. In the end, though, Jessica's sugary charm and knack for asking just the right questions out the real bad guys and saves the day, and she makes new fans with every case she cracks.
Is it any good?
More than two decades after its debut, the show continues to engage audiences with its endearing heroine and an ever-changing cast of guest stars. Through the years, Murder, She Wrote has featured soon-to-be-familiar faces like George Clooney, Courteney Cox, and Marcia Cross. But crime-drama buffs take note: This is no Law & Order or CSI. The action is slow, and characters rely more on chance eavesdropping or friendly conversation than on actual interrogation to gather information. Foot chases are rare, and hardened criminals even rarer. Overall it's a fantasy world for detective work, where the bad guys stand out, tense situations are often tempered by wry humor, and loose ends are tied up in a nice, neat package by show's end.
The only real caution for parents of older tweens and up is the potential for some violent images, but the relatively low-key nature of this crime show makes it a decent choice for families. The simplistic, dialogue-based plot, however, may leave kids rolling their eyes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Murder, She Wrote is similar to and different from more recent crime dramas. Why do you think newer shows have upped the blood-and-guts level? Are there any shows on the air today that are like this one, or are they all a lot more serious and graphic?
Families can also discuss the investigation process. Which clues help detectives find a starting point for their investigations? How do they narrow their searches for clues and suspects? In what ways do the roles of detectives and private investigators differ?
Families can also discuss how the justice system works. What rights do all citizens have in the court process? How do those rights protect innocent people? How do they protect criminals?
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