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Murder, She Wrote; Mord ist ihr Hobby; Murder Is Her Hobby—The Character Assassination of Jessica Fletcher

A deep-dive into the German’s questionable translation of “Murder, She Wrote.”

Let’s take a minute to lament how German translators willfully shamed the great American treasure Murder, She Wrote into Mord ist ihr HobbyMurder Is Her Hobby. Hobby. Are we supposed to believe Jessica Fletcher just casually solved murders in her spare time? Or is the implication that being a murderer was her hobby?

If it's the latter, the Germans are walking dangerously close to libel, and the only murder committed is that of Jessica Fletcher’s character. Granted, I suppose a certain air of suspicion could be cast over Cabot Cove’s 274 killings, but I chalk that down to coincidence and bad luck. At some point, people should have realized hanging around Fletcher would lead to an unfortunate ending.

Jessica Fletcher and the sheriff looking perplexed.
I often wondered why the cops were so reluctant to have Fletcher help them—she always solved the case. Worth noting: The sheriff on the right would “retire” during the first half of the show.

Now, the fact that she solved 274—two hundred and seventy-four—murders should throw out the thesis that she was just dabbling, haphazardly helping the cops. I guess we could take this to a dark place and suggest Fletcher was behind the ghastly deeds merely so she would look like a good sleuth while sending innocent people to life in prison. I, for one, refuse to degrade Ms. Fletcher as being such a sociopath. Not a court in the country would convict her on circumstantial evidence like tossing out, “Oh, but this was no accident. No, this was murder,” with a titch too much confidence.

All this is to say that the German translators wronged Jessica Fletcher in one way or another. Whatever Ms. Fletcher may or may not have was anything but a trivial hobby.

Murder, She Wrote In Memoriam

I will forever consider Murder, She Wrote one of the great detective shows of the 1980s, eclipsed only by Remington Steele. The show ran for twelve seasons starting in 1984, clocking in 264 episodes plus four made-for-TV movies. Twenty-five million viewers tuned in during the height of the show, a number most streaming series can only dream about. Spin-off books are published even today.

Still, in 1988, Murder, She Wrote almost came to a grinding halt when star Angela Lansbury suffered from a burn-out. The producers found a solution where Jessica Fletcher would mostly make short appearances in episodes starring auxiliary characters, a decision that made viewership plummet. The experiment ended after two seasons when the show returned to its original format with one major change: Cabot Cove was switched out with New York City.

The show fizzled out in 1996, with episodes ranging from the world of virtual reality to a satire on Friends. Murder, She Wrote had certainly changed from its quaint beginnings.

Jessica Fletcher in a VR set.
Move over Apple Vision Pro. (CBS)

Subsequent TV movies fared better, with the first one accumulating a solid eighteen million viewers. A healthy ten million people tuned in to the 2003 finale.

Murder, She Wrote has seemingly never completely left the zeitgeist. A 2013 reboot starring Octavia Spencer was announced but stopped in pre-production after Lansbury balked at the idea.

Angela Lansbury passed in 2022, and a film adaptation of Murder, She Wrote was quickly announced. Whether they can recreate the Cabot Cove magic in the 2020s is an open question, but let’s be honest… odds seem slim.

Web Sources

Murder, She Wrote. (2023, November 18). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder,_She_Wrote