UPDATED, 11:24 AM: When NBC started to put together its Murder, She Wrote remake starring Octavia Spencer, one of the first things it did was reach out to original star Angela Lansbury with an offer to be part of the new series. I’ve been following the talks between the network and Lansbury’s team, which have been ongoing, with encouraging signs on both sides. But then, surprisingly tor everyone, Lansbury just spoke publicly against the remake, objecting to NBC calling the new show Murder, She Wrote and the main character Jessica Fletcher. The thing is, the character played by Spencer will not be named Jessica Fletcher as execs and producers determined early on that no one but Lansbury could play that character, and NBC has not settled yet on a title for the remake, which may or may not be called Murder, She Wrote. “I think it’s a mistake to call it Murder, She Wrote,” Lansbury told the AP, “because Murder, She Wrote will always be about a Cabot Cove and this wonderful little group of people who told those lovely stories and enjoyed a piece of that place, and also enjoyed Jessica Fletcher, who is a rare and very individual kind of person. … So I’m sorry that they have to use the title Murder, She Wrote, even though they have access to it and it’s their right.”
Written/executive produced by Alexandra Cunningham and exec produced by David Janollari, the new Murder, She Wrote is described as a light, contemporary procedural in the vein of Bones or Fargo that follows a hospital administrator and amateur sleuth (Spencer) who self-publishes her first mystery novel.
This is a problem that arises when trying to reboot recent series. Former Charmed stars Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan also recently came out against CBS’ plan to remake the WB show. But delving too deep into the title libraries risks only bringing out older audiences, as was the case with NBC’s Ironside, a remake of the 1967-75 series. Meanwhile, using the original title is tempting. Having a pre-sold title is important for the networks, with two of the three new dramas that launched well this fall — Sleepy Hollow and Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. — relying on recognizable monikers.