DVD Review: Murder She Wrote season eight, Matlock season one.

MURDER SHE WROTE (Season 8) / MATLOCK (Season 1)

Fans of cozy mysteries have plenty to rejoice about; April brought about the DVD releases of Murder She Wrote (Season 8) and the debut of Matlock on the format, with its first season. While it’s great to see MSW flourish in its eighth release, it brings great joy to this reviewer to have another silver haired sleuth back on TV.

Thanks to the success Angela Lansbury found on Murder She Wrote in the early 80’s, an onslaught of elderly actors came out of retirement to play amateur detectives on the small screen. The first to follow suit was Andy Griffith in the titular role of Ben Matlock. In actuality, his series makes a wee bit more sense than Lansbury’s. As a small town Southern lawyer, it was not as much a stretch for him to be investigating bloody crime scenes as, say, an upper crust English novelist. Nonetheless, both were charming shows that managed to co-exist in primetime for almost a decade.

Matlock never strayed from its premise – Ben would be paid $100,000 by wealthy clients accused of murder. That must have been the going rate for exoneration at the time because he rarely lost a case, but never mind. The charm of the show was not found in his defense tactics, but rather his stubborn need to find the real killer. He never settled at proving his client innocent. Oh no, he would always find the killer (usually the star witness for the prosecution) and rub their dirty little noses in the crime. Season 1 lacks the humor found in later years, but shows promise of what’s to come. Show aside, the picture quality on the 7 disc set leaves little to be desired. The episodes are often quite blurry, with dust and grain very obvious in the nighttime scenes. One hopes this set will sell well enough to promote remastering of further seasons. The sound is decent, packaging sturdy and episodes are complete. There are no special features. The poor quality release of such a good show is very disappointing. Matlock: C+

Not much else can be said about Murder She Wrote that I have not previously written. Universal continues to put together strong season sets for my favorite snoop. While the DVD release is great as usual, the show did change a lot in its eighth year. Jessica Fletcher packed up her bags and moved to the Big Apple. Fan reaction was mixed regarding the move from cozy Cabot Cove to New York City. I, for one, loved the concept. Lansbury no longer comes off as the angel of death in a city with a much larger body count. Weekly murders could happen without completely obliterating the tiny population of Cabot Cove. Murder She Wrote (Season 8): B+

Bradley Hayward
For more reviews from Bradley, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.