NBC Eyes Murder, She Wrote Reboot Starring Oscar Winner Octavia Spencer

Octavia-Spencer-Murder-She-WroteJessica Fletcher will ride (her trademark bicycle) again! Well, sort of.

NBC has given a put pilot committment to a Murder, She Wrote reboot starring Oscar winner Octavia Spencer (The Help), our sister site Deadline reports.

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Alexandra Cunningham (Desperate Housewives, Prime Suspect) will write — and executive produce with David Janollari — the project, which will put a new twist on CBS’ long-running smash. Spencer’s character is described by Deadline as “a hospital administrator and amateur sleuth who self-publishes her first mystery novel” and sets out to help solve real-life crimes.

The original Murder, She Wrote ran for 12 seasons — from 1984-1996 — on CBS, earning series star Angela Lansbury a whopping 12 Emmy nominations for Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

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Spencer, who took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2012, is a veteran with a long line of TV credits, including recurring stints on Ugly Betty, Raising the Bar and The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman — as well as a memorable bit playing a madcap version of herself in a Season 7 episode of 30 Rock. This past Monday, she began a recurring stint on the CBS comedy Mom as an alcoholic money manager on the lam for embezzling her clients’ dough.

Excited about a modern-day Murder, She Wrote? Are you digging the idea of Spencer in the lead role? Sound off below!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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101 Comments
  1. Stuart says:

    Yeah I’ll be watching this. Although according to 30 Rock she’s a mess.

  2. Adam says:

    I am a bit excited for this already, but its a strange casting choice in that I always felt “Murder, She Wrote” was the ‘old lady detective show’ as the character was retired and in her 60s, and Octavia Spencer is only about 40.

    • Kvivik says:

      Jessica Fletcher was not retired. Almost all of the investigations she got caught up in that were not in Cabot Cove happened while she was still on tours for her novels.
      They can call it “Murder, she wrote”, but please create different characters.

    • Stormy says:

      I always kind of considered JF to be an American Miss Marple. If they are smart, they’ll take note of the Ironside debacle and use the premise of amateur sleuth/crime writer, but don’t use the show title or the name Jessica Fletcher. The people who were devoted to MSW will not be tuning in and the idea should be to capture a younger audience. JMO

    • Alice says:

      Yeah, I thought the main gimmick of Murder She Wrote was that, like Miss Marple, it was this little old lady solving crimes. And people would talk to her because they thought she was harmless.

  3. Bobbi says:

    I loved the original and I love Octavia Spencer, but why can’t anyone come up with a new idea? Didn’t they learn anything from Ironside?

  4. Aimee says:

    The most surprising thing about this announcement is that it will be on NBC and not CBS.

  5. Pat says:

    This won’t last, remakes on tv are just as crap filled as movie remakes. Too bad hollywood has their head so far up their own greedy rears to ever stop.

    A mash up between murder she wrote and diagnosis murder is all this is.

    Dead after 4 episodes, so hoping, the more they lose money the faster these remakes will stop, hopefully.

    • Drew says:

      There are as many crappy original shows as there are remakes. Remakes aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Different companies have been performing Hamlet for years now and that is just one script over and over again.

      • Two says:

        WTF does Hamlet have to do with remakes? Hamlet is the same story, remakes are taking an idea, making changes, and telling different stories based on an initial premise.

        • Stormy says:

          Um, The Lion King is Hamlet.

          • Ashmarnet says:

            Thank you! How no one can make that connection is beyond me.

          • Drew says:

            There are a ton of variations on some classic stories. Sons of Anarchy. 10 Things I Hate About You… the list goes on. Remakes aren’t bad. Bad writing is bad.

        • Daven C says:

          Some work better than others. It’s when people behind shows like “the Bionic Woman” are stupid and try to take the very dated premise of the show and modernize it in a way that is wholly unbelievable that you are going to see crap.
          Hawaii Five-0 and Battlestar Galactica are examples of how they got it right.
          The Blair Underwood show was good IMO, but it needed to not be wrapped up in the “Ironside” brand. Call it something else and give credit to the creators of Ironside and move on. It may have been given a better shot if they had done it that way.

      • Kvivik says:

        Agreed. As crappy as you may think it, Hawaii Five-0 clicked with an audience and is still around, while others are just grasping at straws. It’s not the remake itself that is the problem, its the quality of the people behind the remake.
        And there are a lot of really awful original programs that come out each year.

    • Larc says:

      I agree it won’t last unless it stands up well compared to the original. And that won’t be easy. Angela Lansbury is Jessica Fletcher as far as I’m concerned. Somebody will have to do a fantastic job to convince this dedicated MSW viewer otherwise.

    • RobD381 says:

      Agree. Jessica Lansbury was in the show an older distinguished woman of means who wrote books about crime. Raymond Burr was an older man who had lived a life of police work who was confined to a wheelchair. Both were unique because of the starring character and the interesting stories. Putting young people in the roles with no history is just idiotic. Ironsides was doomed before it aired, and so will be this mess. No one with common sense seems to be in a position of real responsibility at any of the TV networks. That and a desire for money first has doomed many a good idea and good show. Everyone should know you have to sell a product to make money, not just dump it on the viewing audience and expect them to buy it.

      • Mo says:

        Actually no. Jessica Fletcher was a small town widow, retired English teacher who wrote some mystery novels that happened to become very successful. A very Miss Marple type because she was such an unlikely sleuth. After the first few seasons, they transitioned her into a successful author who traveled for promotional tours and spent a lot of time working out of New York… probably because it became so improbable that there would always be a murder of the week in her tiny town in Maine.

        I actually quite like the idea of this character starting out as a self published writer.

  6. Drew says:

    I love the idea of spotlighting self published authors. There are some really good ones these days.
    But Angela Lansbury is iconic. Maybe they should have this new character co-exist in the same universe, opening the door to potential appearances by original characters.

  7. Dick Lewis says:

    Dumb idea. Just come up with a new mystery show. Nobody will replace Angela Lansberry.

    • John 1138 says:

      And they’re not trying to, this will be a new character.

      ” “a hospital administrator and amateur sleuth who self-publishes her first mystery novel” and sets out to help solve real-life crimes.”

      Trying to get extra buzz off relating it to MSW is a mistake, IMHO, as it sets up these comparisons and that’s a recipe for disaster.

  8. ... says:

    I love Octavia Spencer and think she would flourish on TV, but she’s much better than this project will likely end up being. Hopefully this goes the way of NBC’s attempts at rebooting/remaking The Rockford Files and she can find a series better suited to her talents.

  9. Stacey says:

    What is with NBC wanting to reboot classics. Can’t they come up with any ideas that are at least a tiny bit original. Rebooting a classic is just asking for trouble… I guess it’s a tiny bit better than trying to do Remington Steele over again as 30 minute comedy.

    • Wiccat says:

      No, they can’t. Ever since the suits at NBC lost ‘ER’ and ‘L&O’, they haven’t been able to find their arses from holes in the ground.
      There have been some awesome original pilots screened for them that they have passed on because they are stupid. Someone there has pulled out the old catalogue and is determined to come up with the next old show remake since their forays into foreign show remakes have died nasty horrible ratings death.

      • lmjo says:

        Yeah, it seems like pilot selection on NBC has always been a bit of a crap shoot. Hell, they almost passed on ER back in 1994!

        As for the “Murder She Wrote” remake – bad idea. I wasn’t born/too young for most of its original run, but I get the impression that it was one of those shows that worked well for that time period. I just don’t know if today’s audience would have that much of an appetite yet for another murder mystery procedural.

        And since I wasn’t old enough to watch MSW when it originally aired, I have to ask: Was the show popular because of the plot/stories, or was it popular because of actresses like Angela Lansbury?

      • Mr Bill says:

        I heard NBC may reboot The Dukes of Hazards… Will Smith and Jamie Foxx as Bo and Luke Duke with Beyonce as Daisy, plus Morgan Freeman as Uncle Jessie. Yee Haw!

  10. Cory says:

    I don’t get the point of remaking procedurals. Other stories sure. But a crime procedural?

  11. icywinter2 says:

    Really, c’mon already enough with the remakes. This remake will just end up getting cancelled. Can’t the writers come up with an original idea for a show, when will they learn that remaking a show is a terrible idea.

    This remake will not be sucessfull, sorry I rather watch the original show than some lame remake.

  12. Joe says:

    I guess the haven’t learned the remakes don’t work ( Ironside , Charlie’s angels ) only Hawaii five o has been a modest hit

    • Stormy says:

      White Collar?

    • John 1138 says:

      ” “a hospital administrator and amateur sleuth who self-publishes her first mystery novel” and sets out to help solve real-life crimes.”

      Okay, so a bit like that series of television movies set in a small town around crimes solved by a bookshop owner?

      I liked those.

  13. Dani says:

    How many successful Reboots were there in the last couple of years? Why can’t they come up with something new? So lame.

  14. kchamley says:

    No if they’re doing a remake they should cast an older actress. Like Frances Conroy. But I think Octavia Spencer would be great in a murder mystery show! She’s very talented.

  15. juda56 says:

    Everybody will think it’s a female Castle more than a new Jessica Fletcher. I always thought that Castle was a “Murder she wrote” remake. For me, this new serie will be a copy of thecopy of the original ;)

    • Butters says:

      Thank you, just wait for the Castle fans to start flaming you.

    • Apples says:

      Ehh, Castle has always acknowledged its similarity- they did an episode called ‘Murder He Wrote’ last season that was a homage replete with a murder literally in Castle’s backyard.

      In tone Castle is very different though, as it is essentially a romcom disguised a procedural and owes much more the likes of The Thin Man…

  16. Dennis says:

    What’s with all the reboots with race changing? 1) reboots are just bad 2) create something original for black actors don’t remake an old show and make the main character black instead of white that’s just lazy it’s almost like saying the only way we can make a successful show with a Black lead is to put them in a role made famous by a former white actor.

    • Rusty says:

      Well said. I agree completely. I wanted to say the same thing about Ironside but didn’t know how to say it without coming across as prejudiced. Blair Underwood is a good actor, but putting him in a wheelchair and acting like a complete a-hole cop who breaks the rules to get the bad guy, was not the right venue for him. I don’t care for the actress Octavia Spenser, don’t know why but she just doesn’t click with me. Remaking original series to find a venue for black actors is just being lazy. There are many good black actors just waiting for a chance to excel in something original if only the studios would stop putting them in subservient type of roles.

      • Stormy says:

        Octavia reminds me of Tamala Jones who plays Lanie Parrish the med examiner on Castle. Love her. I agree about putting actors into reboots, because it invites comparisons and generally anyone who loved the original will automatically reject the remake without giving it a chance.

  17. Trista says:

    NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO! There is ONLY one Jessica Fletcher. If you want to do a series called Murder She Wrote Again and create a new character – that is one thing, but let’s give Angela Lansbury the respect that she deserves for OWNING that character.

  18. Esaul says:

    There is no way this can do well with the current direction of television. There is no room for it. Plus, this is an insult to Angela Landsbury and the original show.

  19. David says:

    This actually doesn’t sound like the worst idea.

    • icywinter2 says:

      Are you kidding it is, a terrible idea. You can’t remake classic tv shows, all the remakes just end up getting cancelled. This one will be like all the rest, watch it will happen. This show will be cancelled pretty fast.

  20. Marcos says:

    wasn’t 12 seasons before enough?

  21. Dicie says:

    Look how well Ironside worked out for NBC. If NBC actually tried original programming they might actually have viewers.

  22. DavidSask says:

    No way in hell this is going to be hit, the original show is so beloved, and if Angela signs up for this over her Broadway work then she is not in right mind. NBC will never learn revising and redoing shows is not their thing. They could just as easily have their own detective show without stealing the good name of a show no one wants tarnished, Kill this while you still can and also their planned Remington Steele. PS. If you want to cater to older demographic start programming original content on Saturday night it would work!!!

  23. murley says:

    I don’t know how to feel about this. I absolutely love the original. Angela Landsbury is an icon. I feel excited and indignant all at the same time.

  24. Butters says:

    Haven’t they already rebooted or remade Murder She Wrote? Isn’t that what Castle is, except he is a dude who has somewhat of a sex-life? But it still is Murder He Wrote in principle. Dude is an author who solves crimes because apparently the cops are so inept that they can’t do it themselves.

    • Stormy says:

      Uh no. Other than the fact that he’s a writer, there is no comparison. Small town in Maine/Big Apple, childless and alone/father with live in mother and daughter, elderly/prime of life, old maid/sexually active, pragmatist/fantasist. Nothing alike.

      • Butters says:

        Easy there Stormy, the premise of the shows are very similar an author who solves crimes then writes about them. To compare Sons of Anarchy is Hamlet even though they are bikers instead of Danes in the Middle Ages or Renaissance. It is the same premise, just like Castle is the same premise of Murder She Wrote.

    • Apples says:

      Castle is a romcom dressed up as a procedural, this doesn’t sound similar.

      • Butters says:

        You contradict yourself if you are the same Apples from a post above because you admitted that the show acknowledges it similarity to Murder She Wrote. So which one is it?

        • Apples says:

          Sharing some similarities does not equate to similar shows. Murder She Wrote and Castle have had very different tones/atmospheres, despite the whole author-helping-solve-murder setups

  25. CBWBDK1 says:

    This is ridiculous! Why do they feel the need to revive old shows and change the lead from white to black? It’s stupid and i blame obama!!

    • Drew says:

      The color of someone’s skin isn’t as important as whether or not they can come close to replicating an iconic character like the one Angela Lansbury played. JB Fletcher was too wholesome for today’s TV. She baked muffins, which isn’t empowered enough by today’s standards, but the grandmotherly image was part of her character. It played into how she solved crimes (everyone would talk to her).
      As I said before, it seems like the best way to do this series would be to set it in the same universe as the original show and just give this new character a different name. Angela Lansbury is Jessica Fletcher. You can’t separate the two (though I respect a lot of her work as an actress). If this show is going to succeed, don’t start out by having Octavia pretending to be Jessica Fletcher. It will instantly turn the audience off.

      • CBWBDK1 says:

        They shouldn’t be doing this series at all. Let alone revive it only to be played by a black actress! Wasn’t Angela Lansbury good enough because she was white? It’s racist BS and i’m sick of it!!

    • Stormy says:

      I don’t have a problem with the race change, I just think they should go for an older actress because the premise of the show was how her age made her seem harmless yet her wisdom made her shrewd. More Miss Marple.

  26. Nunaya_Bidness says:

    Reboots aren’t all bad. Dallas 2.0 seems to be doing okay, as is Hawaii 5-0. Sure, they all don’t make it but at least give it a chance.
    Besides, nowadays everything is a remake or reboot of something else. Nothing is truly original in every meaning of the word anymore.

    As for having an AA actress as the lead? I’m happy to see more people that look like me on my television, getting lead roles on mainstream channels. That in itself is original, IMO.

  27. Kristen Gregerson says:

    Make it a followup rather than a reboot. Ask Angela Lansberry to appear in the pilot, and have Jessica Fletcher meet Octavia Spencer’s character, then they solve the mystery together. Octavia’s character is inspired by the experience, so she sets out to solve mysteries on her own.
    That way, it honors the original rather than seeming to toss it out. (Too many reboots just toss out the original as if it never happened. That’s why fans of the original then stay away.)

    • Mel says:

      Excellent idea. Maybe you should work in Hollywood! :)

    • Mika02 says:

      Love this Idea.

    • Cynthia says:

      Jessica had like 98657 nephews and nieces, can’t she be one of them (adopted of course)? Her last name would be Fletcher and she would have a relationship with her aunt. Lansbury had been vocal about rephrasing her role and this would be her chance to do it, maybe in a Special Guest Star capacity.
      I always imagined a spin-off set in Cabot Cove starring Jessica “Jess” Fletcher, Grady’s daughter who named her after the woman who raised him (his parents died when he was young, he was Frank Fletcher’s brother’s son), but I’m cool with this as long as they make it right.

      In the end It’s all about the quality of the writing and the acting, and Spencer has proved her worth already.

  28. dear nbc there is already a Murder She Wrote remake, it’s called CASTLE

    • Jenny says:

      No Castle is Murder HE Wrote and anyway, this season is much more about pandering to the Caskett shippers than writing good mysteries if the episodes so far are any indication. I’d love a Murder She Wrote type procedural that actually has a brain and isn’t just about catering to whiny teenagers and unmarried 50 somethings.

      • Josh says:

        I feel like someone needs to file a request for a conservatorship because NBCis making decisions like someone heavily on a combination of cocaine and terrible ideas.

    • Butters says:

      Thank you. What I don’t understand is why the Castle fans so protective of that show? And they totally don’t see the similarity between the shows.

      • Stormy says:

        Jessica Fletcher didn’t partner with one cop and work out of the same precinct every episode. She was not investigating by police consent or part of the team. She was all over on book tours and sticking her nose into many different jurisdictions. often to the initial annoyance of the local cops. She had no personal life [one nephew] and no interesting past.

        • Cynthia says:

          She had 1 million nephews (including Cortney Cox), a career as a former college professor, lots of colourful friends, and she had men (often criminals) throwing themselves at her while she remained faithful to her husband memory, even when a woman claimed he got her pregnant during the Korean War.

  29. Jake says:

    Only NBC.
    Bionic women, Prime suspect, Ironside, Now Murder She Wrote.
    Why not just get Katheryn Morriss and Bing Back Cold Case!

  30. Rjrtist says:

    Didn’t they bring back ” The Munsters,” as well? Epic fail! Well if they’re listening how about Danny Glover in the William Windom role? Oh and it has to be Cabot Cove Hospital, the cafeteria serves peach cobbler and everybody has to have a New England accent.

  31. Mika02 says:

    I love this idea and Octavia could totally pull it off. Maybe they should do a movie of the week and then do a reboot if it goes well.

  32. Karen Rice says:

    Why not try not imitating a past show and create a new idea. Call it anything you want and if it is good it will be a hit. Look at Ironsides. It’s already gone down the tubes because it wasn’t any good. You can’t live on past glories.

    • Mr Bill says:

      IMO the problem with Ironside was that they used the name Ironside. If they’d called it something else like “Wheels of Justice” it would probably still be on.

  33. liz says:

    fabulous! Loved watching the original with my mum growing up and Spencer is a fantastic choice to hand the magnifying glass to

  34. Mr Bill says:

    I see NBC’s idea here. Reboot old shows that had iconic actors in them. Recast them with black actors and when the show fails because no one wanted the reboot they can claim to be TRYING to cast minorities, but darn it! No one’s giving them a chance. First was Kojak, then Ironside, and now this.

  35. Mel says:

    I like the idea, but I don’t know if it’s right for the times. People now a days are watching shows like GoT, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, Dexter, and The Walking Dead. Murder She Wrote was a slow, whodunit, with basically one older lady as the lead. Even though Octavia Spencer is younger, I don’t know how well that would go over with the new crop of people who have grown up on much more exciting shows. Lets face it, that coveted 18-34 demo will probably not have the patience for this. (I blame video games!)

  36. jm says:

    I want Angela Lansbury on my TV… and i want her to get a emmy before it will be impossible…

    If they want a Re-Boot, why dont they give us a last true Miss Fletcher case?

  37. Sheila says:

    Why play it up as a reboot when people are clearly tired of them? Admit that it’s “inspired by”, but at least PRETEND it’s different! There are plenty of cozies in the literary world to lift from!

  38. Shane Saylor says:

    If they do a Murder, She Wrote reboot they need re-write the Castle formula for one person. Maybe have her be retired cop/fbi agent instead of a school/english teacher. Thoughts?

  39. Christina Taylor says:

    I am a big fan of Murder, she wrote with Jessica Fletcher. I have 2 copies of the DVDs and watch the complete 13 sets 4 times a year. She is a nosy and forceful character; that is true. Angela Lansbury owns that role. I especially like how the character development went from the small home town school teacher to a sophisticated LADY of the world. (tweeds to silk). I would never compare her to Miss Marple; the characters have little in common. I will try the remake but watch it as a new show instead. I am curious about how Octavia Spencer is going to create the character for herself. Will I like it? After episode 3; I’ll decide.

  40. No chance. The National Broadcasting Company didn’t learn its lesson from that disastrous
    remake of “Ironside”. Octavia Spencer is a talent, but getting her to do a “Murder She Wrote”
    Is wrong. It won’t work.

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