Jessica Fletcher owes her success perhaps less to Agatha Christie (from whom the title of the show was inspired), but more to the dismal failure of Ellery Queen. Producers Richard Levinson and William Link bombed with the 1975 sleuthing series, but remained enamored with the concept of a murder mystery novelist who solved real murders in their spare time. Changing the protagonist to a middle-aged widow proved a winning formula and Murder, She Wrote would run for 12 seasons (plus four made-for-TV movies).

The formula rarely strayed from “someone is murdered, police suspect obvious suspect, Jessica doesn’t think so and unveils the real killer” territory, but who cares? It worked and we loved it. Angela Lansbury holds the record for the most Emmy nominations for outstanding lead actress in a drama series with 12, one for each season. She also holds a record for the number of times she won… never. She was robbed! Or was it… murder?

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