Murder, She Wrote



Simple crime drama is tame by today's standards.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The main character is a strong, intelligent woman who's never afraid to ask tough questions and always speaks her mind. While there's plenty of lying, stealing, and allusions to sleeping around among suspects, the bad guys always get their due in the end.


Each episode revolves around a death, and often the act of murder is shown as well as a few shots of the dead body (though it's all very tame compared to modern forensic crime dramas). There are lots of verbal threats ("I'll kill you") and some fist fights and scuffles here and there, which lead to bruises and bloody lips.


Characters occasionally talk around the subject of sex with loaded comments like "I don't know what you're doing or who you're doing it with." Extramarital affairs often pop up in investigations. Female characters sometimes dress in skimpy clothing. There's occasional kissing and some light fondling (rubbing thighs or backs, for instance).


"Damn" and "hell" are used infrequently.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults often drink wine or beer in social settings.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that although the violence in this fan-favorite crime drama is extremely tame compared to many of today's graphic series (almost to the point of being a bit cheesy), each episode 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.

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, Murder, She Wrote continues to engage audiences with its endearing heroine and an ever-changing cast of guest stars that, through the years, included 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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how this show 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?

TV details

Cast:Angela Lansbury, Tom Bosley, William Windom
Networks:A&E, Biography Channel, Hallmark Channel, Syndicated
TV rating:TV-PG
Available on:DVD, Streaming

This review of Murder, She Wrote was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Educator and Parent Written bylouisamay August 8, 2011

Wise Woman Does Good

fine, strong female lead is superior role model--and familiar, beloved voice (kids will recognize her from Beauty & The Beast and The Last Unicorn!)
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written byJon Lovitz May 20, 2009

I love this show!

Most kids probably won't like it, but if they wanna watch it, it should be fine.
Adult Written byLowe's man November 8, 2015

better than many of today's crime dramas

Actually I wouldn't call this show simple, as it requires a lot of thinking. It is tame and the violence is minimal, but that's what makes the show great. Ideal for those who like detective series or mysteries but do not like the intense and often graphic violence found in many crime dramas that have come out in the last 20 years or so. The reason why Jessica Fletcher, played by Angela Lansbury, does a better job than many professional detectives is because of her attention to detail and her slow pace, proving that slow and steady wins the race. Although this show was designed for senior citizens, adolescents will enjoy it too. If not right away, they will if they give it a chance. A great opportunity for them to try something that is designed for a different audience and one that many wouldn't watch on their own.


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