As proof that we are in the midst of the true age of reboots, NBC announced today that the studio will be rebooting the classic Angela Lansbury detective series Murder, She Wrote handing the starring role to Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer (The Help).
Despite NBC's recent streak of failed reboots of classic TV shows - The Munsters, The Rockford Files, and the recently-cancelled Ironside - we'd normally recommend caution, but with Spencer in the lead, the network seems determined to make it a reality.
Deadline reported the announcement, with the show to be produced by Dave Janollari as well as written and executive produced by Alexandra Cunningham - no stranger to reboots, having written and executive produced NBC's Prime Suspect, a 're-imagining' of the Helen Mirren-led British series. The new Murder She Wrote will mark Spencer's first regular series role on television, stepping into a show and role that the actress takes quite seriously.
Spencer explained how her role (and, seemingly, the show itself) came to be:
“I’ve always considered myself an armchair detective and in a recent meeting with [NBC Chairman] Bob Greenblatt, he asked me what type of character would be able to lure me to TV. Naturally, I said "J.B. Fletcher” meets “Columbo”… And here we are.
"I’m ecstatic to have the opportunity to work with Dave Janollari again, and Alex Cunningham a brilliant writer who shares my love for all things mysterious and Angela Lansbury.”
Apparently, NBC is interested in making Angela Lansbury a part of the show in some capacity, but no further details are available. Despite Spencer and Cunningham describing themselves as "amateur detectives/criminologists" and clearly recognizing the legacy of Lansbury's 'Jessica B. Fletcher,' the new form of Murder, She Wrote will be re-imagining several plot elements for a modern audience.
The brief description pitches the reboot as a light, contemporary procedural in the vein of Bones or Fargo, it follows a hospital administrator and amateur sleuth (Spencer) who self-publishes her first mystery novel. Set in a day where sensational headlines inundate the news, this woman’s avid fascination with true crime leads her to become an active participant in the investigations.
Spencer's star will likely continue to rise over the coming years, with appearances forthcoming in Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer and Diablo Cody's Paradise to name just a few. Of course, there is always the question of how many mystery/detective procedurals network audiences can bear before casting some aside. Especially given the similarities between the reboot's description and that of ABC's Castle, a show that adopted many elements of the CBS drama with Nathan Fillion filling the role of author/crime-solver, going so far as to jokingly dub the show 'Murder, He Wrote.'
What do you think of the idea? Is Spencer the kind of star that could elevate the reboot above the imitators walking in Jessica Fletcher's footsteps? Or would you prefer to see classic television shows like Murder, She Wrote left to the past? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
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