murder, she wrote

Murder and mayhem on the coast of Maine

image of DVD set In 1984, TV viewers were introduced to Jessica Fletcher, mystery novelist and amateur sleuth. “Murder, She Wrote” ran for twelve years before going off the air in 1996, and the mark it left on the American public cannot be denied. Although the formulaic nature of the program and the disturbing volume of murders that occurred around the central character left it open to criticism from audiences eager for more hardboiled mysteries such as Law & Order and CSI, the show filled a niche for a generation that grew up on cozy mysteries by authors like Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen. The appeal has remained strong enough that twenty years after the original broadcast, Universal has released the second season on DVD.

There were few central characters besides Jessica Fletcher, so each episode had a handful of guest actors ranging from the very-well-known to never-seen-again. What does “Murder, She Wrote” have in common with early 1980s TV favorite “WKRP in Cincinnati”? WKRP actors Frank Bonner, Gordon Jump, Richard Sanders, and Howard Hesseman all appeared as guests in the second season of “Murder, She Wrote”. However, you wouldn’t know this from the episode descriptions on the box set. A full listing of guests can be found at the Internet Movie Database, if you’re interested. Some notables not mentioned include Brock Peters, Robert Culp, and John de Lancie. John Astin is in three episodes as a re-occurring character of note.

To me, this is indicative of the lack of care and attention paid to the creation of this box set. There are no extras or frills to entice buyers, and the episodes still have that slightly grainy quality prevalent in 1980s television filming. One must also be careful in handling the discs themselves. They are double-sided so as to hold eight episodes on two discs and six on the third disc.

One thing this collection has going for it is the script writing. Season two of “Murder, She Wrote” had the advantage of fresh ideas and mostly realistic plots. Locations alternated between Cabot Cove (Fletcher’s home) and someplace else. The murders were complex and the identity of the murderer wasn’t quite yet obvious from the start. The set is well worth getting if you’re a fan wanting to wander down memory lane and re-visit the show back in the golden years. Just don’t expect anything else from it.

trekkie

I’ve been coming to terms with my inner Trekkie lately. It all started when I began reading Wil Wheaton’s blog on a regular basis. He writes more about his family and poker obsession than about Trek, but it began reminding me of my absolute fanaticism as a teenager. I picked up a couple of lots … Continue reading “trekkie”

I’ve been coming to terms with my inner Trekkie lately. It all started when I began reading Wil Wheaton’s blog on a regular basis. He writes more about his family and poker obsession than about Trek, but it began reminding me of my absolute fanaticism as a teenager. I picked up a couple of lots of old paperbacks (TOS and TNG) on eBay last fall, and as my reading log shows, I’ve been steadily making my way through them. It’s been fun to re-connect with the characters, and to appreciate the abilities of some fine science fiction writers. I spent most of the past two years on cozy murder mysteries, and it was refreshing to have something different for a change.

I also bought and read Wheaton’s book, Just a Geek. In the book, Wheaton writes about his struggle with coming to terms with Trek and what it means for his life and career. In reading his acceptance of Star Trek in his life, it helped me embrace my own geeky love for the television show. It’s okay to be a Trek fan.

A few weeks ago, I decided to give Netflix a whirl. I loaded up my queue with the entire seventh season of TNG and began making up for lost time. I missed most of that season while I was in college, and I haven’t had television consistently enough since then to catch the re-runs. It’s been like reuniting with old friends, and even more so since the seventh season episodes seem to focus more on individual character development in a bittersweet-this-is-the-last-season kind of way.

There’s a documentary of Star Trek fans called Trekkies, and it’s hosted by Denise Crosby, who played Tasha Yar on TNG. Tasha was my first serious TV character crush, even to the point of creating a little shrine to her on my dresser in the height of my fanaticism. So, not only is it a documentary about people like me, but the actress playing my favorite character is the host. Of course, I had to watch it, and into the Netflix queue it went.

The DVD arrived today, and I watched it this evening. It was the reality check I needed. I expected that the documentary would focus on the more extreme fans, and it did, with some coverage of the average types. After watching it, I realized that even though I may have been obsessed with Star Trek fifteen years ago, I’m not quite so much anymore. I’m a fan, sure, but not a fanatic. It’s one part of my own geekiness, but I’ll never live and breathe it like I once did.

librarian celebrity

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to hear Kee Malesky speak at the Kentucky Library Association fall meeting. For many years now I have been envious of her job as one of the three reference librarians for NPR, but after hearing about the stress and intensity that is a part of her daily routine in … Continue reading “librarian celebrity”

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to hear Kee Malesky speak at the Kentucky Library Association fall meeting. For many years now I have been envious of her job as one of the three reference librarians for NPR, but after hearing about the stress and intensity that is a part of her daily routine in a deadline oriented institution, I am glad I have my quiet cataloging job.

First it was Bert & Ernie, then it was Tinky Winky, and according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, some folks are claiming that SpongeBob SquarePants is gay. I don’t care one way or the other, but what gets me is that some people are afraid of gay characters in children’s television programming. With the backlash against even the hint of the possibility of a character being gay, should the number of hate crimes against gay people committed by youth really surprise us?

“Whether he’s intended to be a gay character or not, that’s the question people are asking,” responded Mr. Kenny. … “It’s never been addressed by us on the show,” he said, adding with a wink that besides, “all the main characters are hiding horrible secrets of their own.”