Sally Watches… Murder, She Wrote!

On the Youtube channel, Hallmarkies Podcast, there is a series of videos called “Amber Makes Rachel Watch”. In this series, Amber, one of the hostesses of Hallmarkies Podcast, introduces Rachel, her friend and fellow Hallmarkies Podcast hostess, to television shows that she has never seen before. This inspired me to broaden my television horizons for the Mystery Mania blogathon. You’d think with the amount of content I watch and talk about from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, I would have gotten around to watching Murder, She Wrote. Well, to say it honestly, I’ve never seen any episodes of the show…until now. For this special post, I will review three episodes of the show that I have chosen at random. Because Hallmark Movies & Mysteries regularly airs re-runs of Murder, She Wrote, I was able to easily access these episodes by recording them on my television. Throughout this blogathon entry, I will break down each episode and share what I liked about it, what I didn’t like about it, the mystery within the episode, and the other factors from the episode. I will also be sharing my overall thoughts not just about each episode, but about the show as a whole, based on the three episodes that I’ve seen. Now that this introduction is finished, let’s have Sally watch Murder, She Wrote!

Mystery Mania Blogathon banner
Mystery Mania Blogathon banner created by Robin from Pop Culture Reverie. Image found at https://popculturereverie.wordpress.com/2019/01/22/announcing-the-mystery-mania-blogathon/.

Episode Name: The Legacy of Borbey House

Season 10, Episode 3

Premiere Date: October 3rd, 1993

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The title card for “The Legacy of Borbey House”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
What I liked about this episode:

The acting was definitely one of the stronger components of this episode! Within this cast, there were three actors that gave stand-out performances. The first is David Birney, who portrayed Lawrence Baker. Even though his on-screen appearance was very limited, David did a good job at making his character equally charismatic and suspicious. Roy Dotrice also gave a memorable performance as Dr. Howard Sorenson. All of his reactions appeared believable and Dr. Sorenson’s enthusiasm for the subject of vampires seemed genuine. The last stand-out performance came from Gary Hershberger. His portrayal of Dave Perrin was one of the most well-rounded performances in this entire episode, giving this character the emotional depth that kept me invested in his story.

 

What I didn’t like about this episode:

When I read the synopsis for this episode, I was excited to see how the subject of vampires would be incorporated within the overall narrative. Before I watched “The Legacy of Borbey House”, I thought this subject would play such a large role in the story, that various characters would have continuous competitions to see who could drop the most vampire related pop cultural references in one sitting. Unfortunately, this was not the case. In the overall context of the episode, the subject of vampires seemed like an afterthought. While it was addressed to a certain extent, it was never explored enough to keep me satisfied. If anything, the most talked about subject in this episode was the various renovations that were taking place in the town of Cabot Cove.

 

The mystery itself:

Honestly, I was very disappointed in this mystery. The entire first half of the episode was dedicated to exposition and build-up to the mystery. The myself itself, however, didn’t start until the halfway point. Several moments after this happened, Jessica ends up solving the mystery single-handedly based on one photo she was given from her acquaintance. Because of this, it didn’t give the audience a chance to solve the mystery alongside Jessica. This made the mystery not engaging or interactive.

 

The other factors from this episode:

There were three things within this episode that stood out to me. They are:

  • The opening scene when Dr. Sorenson pops out of the grave was so random, that it was hilarious!
  • Even though the Borbey House wasn’t on-screen for long, its architecture and décor were gorgeous! I have no idea if this is a real-life house or just a television show set.
  • I really liked the brief discussion about how different people view topics relating to belief systems and the supernatural. This added depth not only for the episode’s story, but also for the characters.

 

My overall thoughts:

At best, “The Legacy of Borbey House” was just ok. But, at worst, I found it to be disappointing. Instead of an engaging mystery featuring the topic of vampires, I ended up getting an episode that treated renovations as if they represented social status. The mystery in “The Legacy of Borbey House” was not very well-written. In fact, this episode didn’t really talk about the “legacy” that was referenced in the title. Yes, there was a myth about vampires being associated with the Borbey family. However, this concept was not explored in this episode. If this episode were given an honest title, it would be called “The Legacy of Cabot Cove’s Renovations”.

 

Rating: A low 3 out of 5

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This book seems a lot more interesting than the episode I ended up watching. I wonder if this book has a chapter about Lestat and Jesse’s relationship? Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Episode Name: Film Flam

Season 11, Episode 16

Premiere Date: February 19th, 1995

20190327_225558[1]
The title card for “Film Flam”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
What I liked about this episode:

I really liked seeing the different steps that are involved in the process of bringing a movie to its premiere stage. As someone who likes movies and appreciates the movie-making process, I thought this portion of the episode was very interesting and educational. Even though I knew that planning and hosting a movie premiere required a lot of time and effort, this episode opened my eyes to some of the aspects that could affect a movie’s release. In “Film Flam”, the creative, business, and legal areas associated with a particular film were represented. This episode also discussed the various people and situations that could also affect a movie premiere as well as the film itself. I thought this topic was not only well explored, but also effortlessly woven into the overall narrative.

 

What I didn’t like about this episode:

In this mystery, I thought that the guilty culprit was a little bit obvious. As soon as they introduced themselves and revealed some of their back-story, I immediately knew that they must have something to do with the crime. After everything was said and done, I ended up being correct in my guess of “whodunit”.

 

The mystery itself:

The mystery in “Film Flam” was much better than in “The Legacy of Borbey House”! While the first half of the episode was still dedicated to exposition and build-up to the mystery, it was also paired with the behind-the-scenes aspect of coordinating a movie premiere. These two elements balanced out the story really well. There was also enough room for the audience to solve the mystery alongside Jessica. This allowed for the mystery to be interactive and intriguing. With various suspects and clues, I thought that “Film Flam” was a well-written mystery story!

 

The other factors from this episode:

Here are some of the things that caught my attention while I watched “Film Flam”:

  • Whoever scouted locations for this show did a really good job at choosing gorgeous houses! Fritz’s house in “Film Flam” was beautiful, both in architecture and design/décor.
  • Whenever Elaine Brown and Darryl Harding appeared on-screen together, I could sense strong on-screen chemistry between Jim Caviezel and Stacy Edwards. Because of this, I was really hoping that Elaine and Darryl would, at least, start a romantic relationship by the end of the episode. While this is only assumed, based on the fact that Darryl and Elaine were holding hands toward the end of “Film Flam”, I’m hoping these two characters appeared in other episodes. That way, there could be a chance for them to receive their “happily-ever-after”.
  • I won’t spoil anything if you haven’t seen this episode. However, all I will say is when the guilty culprit reveals why they committed the crime, I found their explanation to be very creepy.

 

My overall thoughts:

I really liked this episode! It combined a well-written mystery story with something that I love; movies. Because this episode centered around the process of a movie premiere, I feel like I gained valuable and educational information about what it takes to coordinate an event like this. “Film Flam” was both intriguing and engaging, things that I think a good mystery should be. While the guilty culprit was a little bit obvious, I still enjoyed the experience of trying to solve the mystery alongside Jessica. Even though I’ve only seen two episodes of Murder, She Wrote so far, I would be willing to guess that this story was one of the show’s stronger episodes.

 

Rating: A 4.7 out of 5

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Honestly, seeing Darryl and Elaine’s relationship progress as this episode went on was, for me, a highlight of “Film Flam”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Episode Name: School for Murder

Season 11, Episode 19

Premiere Date: April 30th, 1995

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The title card for “School for Murder”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
What I liked about this episode:

I liked how some of the students of St. Crispin’s Academy were able to play a role within the overall narrative. When reading the description for “School for Murder”, I wasn’t sure if any of the students were going to be prominently featured in the episode. Even though I’ve now only seen three episodes of the show, I’ve noticed that there aren’t many opportunities for young people to be included in the overall story. So, it was nice to see these students incorporated into this episode.

 

What I didn’t like about this episode:

I wasn’t a fan of St. Crispin’s Academy’s “secret society”. Because of the inclusion of this story element, it felt like there was too much going on in this episode. It also felt like the screenwriters were trying to accomplish too much in one story. While this “secret society” did play a role within the overall narrative, it just seemed like it didn’t need to be there.

 

The mystery itself:

The mystery in “School for Murder” was very interesting. There was not only a primary mystery, but there were also two sub-mysteries. All three of these mysteries were connected to each other in some way. I thought this was a very unique approach to the story-telling aspect of this episode, especially compared to the previous two episodes that I’ve seen. There were also a few surprises that I did not see coming. Added with enough room for the audience to solve the mystery alongside Jessica, the mystery story of “School for Murder” stood out from the rest.

 

The other factors from this episode:

In this episode, there were only two things that stood out to me. These are:

  • I’m sorry if I sound like a broken record, but whoever was the location scout for this show knew what they were doing when it came to choosing the locations for Murder, She Wrote. St. Crispin’s Academy was a really nice-looking facility! Like with the Borbey House in “The Legacy of Borbey House”, I’m not sure if St. Crispin’s Academy is a real place or just a set.
  • I’m not going to spoil anything if you haven’t seen this episode. But I thought the way the guilty party was written was very interesting. Instead of being deceitful or hateful, like the guilty parties in “The Legacy of Borbey House” and “Film Flam”, the guilty party in “School for Murder” was portrayed in a more human and realistic way. To me, this was a unique departure from the aforementioned episodes.

 

My overall thoughts:

While “School for Murder” was ok, it wasn’t as disappointing as “The Legacy of Borbey House”. There were too many story elements associated with this episode, which caused this story to feel too jam-packed. However, “School for Murder” did have some merits. One of them is the inclusion of young people in the overall narrative. These merits and strengths added something interesting to this episode. It made “School for Murder” somewhat different from “The Legacy of Borbey House” and “Film Flam”. I wonder if the other episodes of Murder, She Wrote took creative approaches to its use of story-telling?

 

Rating: A 3.2 out of 5

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This facility definitely looked the part of an well-respected, private school. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
My final assessment:

So, now is the moment you’ve all been waiting for. What do I think of Murder, She Wrote? Overall, the show is fine. If I had nothing else to do and if my options for what to watch on television were limited, I would definitely watch an episode or two. Something that I noticed when I watched these episodes was that the overall quality of the show was not consistent. Out of the three episodes that I saw, I really liked only one of them. The other two were just ok. But no television show is perfect and some episodes are bound to be better than others. If you’re like me and have never seen Murder, She Wrote before, I would definitely recommend it! Just pick a few episodes and then decide if this show is for you. The great thing about Murder, She Wrote is that it doesn’t really rely on an over-arcing story. This makes it easy to watch any episode without having to watch its predecessors.

 

Have you ever watched Murder, She Wrote? Would you like me to review other episodes of the show? Please tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun in Cabot Cove!

Sally Silverscreen

5 thoughts on “Sally Watches… Murder, She Wrote!

  1. Pingback: The Mystery Mania Blogathon Is Finally Here! | Pop Culture Reverie

  2. Robin Franson Pruter

    All three of the episodes that you watched came from late in the series. I think the series had reached a level of fatigue by then. In the early seasons, the murders came about a quarter of the way through the episodes. Starting at about season six, the murders would come at the halfway point. You might like the earlier seasons better. I’ve seen all the episodes of the series. My memory of some is better than others, but I don’t remember any of those three being particular standouts as good or bad.

    As for “The Legend of Borbey House,” that stood out to me because, as a result of my EDS, I have photophobia like Birney’s character, and my dad always jokes that I must be vampire because I like the dark so much.

    “Film Flam” I only remember because it contains a pre-stardom Jim Caviezel.

    I liked “School For Murder” because I like stories about high schools. I was surprised to see that Dana Barron was still playing teenagers 12 years after National Lampoon’s Vacation. As a fan of One Life to Live, it was fun to see a young Trevor St. John.

    Here are some episodes to watch out for:
    Murder Takes the Bus (maybe my favorite episode)
    Crossed Up (a great take-off of Sorry, Wrong Number)
    The Days Dwindle Down (a unique episode that acts as a “sequel” to the 1949 movie Strange Bargain, using many of the original actors from the film and scenes from the film itself as flashbacks)
    We’re Off to Kill the Wizard (MSW’s take on the locked-room subgenre; a fun/bad performance from Joaquin Phoenix as a child)
    Paint Me a Murder (not a great episode, but one with an outstanding collection of classic stars)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for checking out my review of Murder, She Wrote! I can definitely see how the screenwriters of the show could have fallen into a pattern, especially since the show had been on the air for more than 10 years. Like I said in my review, some episodes are just bound to be better than others. When Hallmark Movies & Mysteries air the episodes that you suggested, I will definitely take the time to watch them. Thanks so much for your suggestions!

      Like

    1. Thanks for reading my review of Murder, She Wrote, mda4life! I’m glad Hallmark Movies & Mysteries airs re-runs of the show on their network. Otherwise, I might have never had the chance to finally see this show.

      Like

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