Verne Gay Verne Gay

Gay is the television critic.

'Murder, She Wrote" is about to get a rewrite, with Octavia Spencer in the role that Angela Lansbury made so famous all those years ago. NBC Thursday confirmed a Deadline report that Oscar winner Spencer (2011's "The Help") had committed to at least a pilot, with a 2014 arrival date.

Good idea or not? Remember that "Murder, She Wrote" worked for one reason only -- the incomparable Lansbury, one of the most gifted actresses of the 20th century. She earned eight straight Emmy nominations for Jessica Fletcher (1989-'96) over the show's 12-year run and not a single win. (A record -- also an egregious one.) You don't bottle that kind of talent. You certainly don't assume there's a formula to rip off. She was the show.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

And if you were CBS all those years ago, you thank your lucky stars you could convince someone of Lansbury's stature to do a weekly series.

There were lots of reasons why she did, including financial and personal -- "Murder" ended up gainfully employing family members, including husband and manager Peter Shaw (who died in 2003).

Why wouldn't Spencer -- with her own boatload of talent -- try to launch her own series with her own distinctive stamp, rather than doing another remake? (Not to mention that NBC failed miserably with its just-canceled "Ironside" reboot.)

But if for some reason this does succeed, Spencer may care to heed Lansbury's words: "I felt terribly trapped in it for years but couldn't get out because so many people were depending on me."