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.
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."