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NBC to reboot 'Murder, She Wrote' -- Good move or bad?

Actress Angela Lansbury attends the NY1 20th Anniversary

Actress Angela Lansbury attends the NY1 20th Anniversary party in celebration of two decades of the New York City news channel at New York Public Library. (Oct. 11, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

NBC has now confirmed an earlier report on "Deadline" that a reboot of "Murder, She Wrote" starring Octavia Spencer, has been ordered.  Not much else is known but some reports are indicating that it's a "put pilot," which means that at least one episode will air, elsewise NBC will owe substantial penalties. (Put pilots are a way to get a major talent to sign on the dotted line, knowing that their work won't go in the shredder...) 

 So debate among yourselves: Good move or bad move?  I'm inclined to the latter, and here's why. "Murder, She Wrote" worked for one reason and one reason only: Her name was Angela Lansbury  - the incomparable Angela Lansbury, one of the most beautiful, skilled, gifted film and TV actresses of the 20th century. You don't bottle that. You don't copy that. You certainly don't think there's some sort of formula that you can rip off. She was the show.

If you were CBS all those years ago - "Murder" finally ended in 1996 - you thank your lucky stars you could convince someone of Lansbury's stature to do a weekly serial. There were lots of reasons for that, some of them financial (she made a fortune off the series), some personal -- it seemed that "Murder"  ended up employing many of her family members, while her husband and manager Peter Shaw was central to the show's creative direction, if memory serves. I do clearly remember that Lansbury wouldn't do anything without Shaw's imprimatur - they were a real Hollywood team and a genuine power couple. 

He died a decade ago, but Lansbury, at 88, is still very much a life force and (I think - but please don't hold me to this) even lives in New York... (Bill Link and Richard Levinson - who died in 1987 - were among the original creators and showrunners.) 

I don't see what the appeal is for Spencer who, at 43, may not be considered "youthful" by brutal Hollywood standards but has a boatload of talent and an Oscar to prove it. Why not do more films? Get a series that you can put your own stamp on? Why do another one of these dismal NBC remakes that invariably seem to go nowhere? ("Ironside" as the most recent example...)

And if by some wild chance this is a success? Heed the words of one Angela Lansbury, whose glorious (film) career began all the way back in 1944 with "Gaslight": As she told the Times in a long-ago profile when discussing the success of "Murder, She Wrote:" 

“I felt terribly trapped in it for years,” she said, “but couldn’t get out because so many people were depending on me.”

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