Now, don’t be a hater. We know both shows went off the air, like, forever ago, and we know late night reruns remain the preferred viewing for those of us with one foot in the coffin (everyone else is on the internet) but, the fact is, we love us the Queen boys and Jessica Fletcher. They’re our bedroom companions.
Here’s why: When it’s time to go to sleep, we don’t go easy. There’s last minute chores to do, bills to pay and lunches to make and a cat to feed and two dogs to mollify, and life gets busy. Climbing under the sheets, we need something soothing to push us toward Dreamland. Our sleeping pill of choice is gentle, non-involving, crime-solving television shows. Featuring writers as their leads. ‘Cause it could happen, right?
(Sleep experts say late night television viewing is a mistake and that the flickering electronic eye keeps people awake. Sleep experts are wrong.)
We started innocently enough with the television series, Ellery Queen. Jim Hutton, ever clever, and David Wayne, ever charming, welcomed us into their world and calmed us. As we watched the first episode, father and son got involved in a mystery and...both of us fell asleep. Confident that they’d catch the killer, that all would end well, we fell sleep within seconds of each other, awakening only to turn off the show, turn off the lights, and snooze away.
It was wonderful. Returning to the last bit of the show that either of us remembered, we spent several nights the episode was over. The same thing happened with the second episode. Each of the hour mysteries lasted for a week or more, the perfect antidote to a too-noisy world. But there was only one season of EQ (damn it!) and we were hooked. So we went looking for another writer-as-mystery-solver show and soon remembered the wonderful Angela Lansbury.
Murder, She Wrote is the amateur detective show for viewers who felt Ellery Queen was a bit too racy. If we occasionally got caught up in an EQ puzzle, as happened once or twice, and we sacrificed one of the show’s 22 episodes to our curiosity, we realize this won’t happen with MSW. It eases us to slumber without fail and, as we’re early in the run, we’re delighted to know the show ran for twelve years. And, after series completed its run, Angela still clocked in another four made-for-television movies. With so much of Cabot Cove ahead of us, we’re going to sleep easy for decades.
Since both shows feature crime writers, they’ve taught us a lot about being authors. From EQ, we learned that successful writers are mildly attractive but not distractingly so. We’ve learned it’s okay for forty-something year-old novelists to live with their Dads, always dress in the same clothes (sweaters and deerstalker caps are recurrent choices), and be terribly forgetful... almost get-this-man-a-sitter forgetful...and that wordsmiths can date on occasion but they should never expect to have sex.
Oh, and authors are smarter than cops.
MSW, on the other hand, tells us that fifty-something year-old widowed writers are mildly attractive but not distractingly so. They should live by themselves, dress in the frumpiest clothes imaginable, be instantly recognizable wherever they go (we think it’s the frumpy clothes), and be attractive to the opposite sex, although infrequently, but never engage in sex (again, the choice of clothing may be critical here).
Oh, and authors are smarter than cops.
Which is why you can diss Castle all you’d like. We’re not gonna kid you; we like the show and watch it every week. Still, it’s clearly a fantasy. Richard Castle is gorgeous, almost distractingly so. He dresses in the latest fashions and he clearly wants to go on a date with his partner, Kate Beckett. She's clearly interested in him, too. If they should ever go out for chips and coffee, there’s no doubt they’ll be bed-bouncing before the last commercial. On occasion, Castle’s crime-fighting partner, Kate, solves a crime before he does.
Even though it's been established that Richard is an author and Kate is a detective. Throwing aside everything that we, as writers, know to be true, they occasionally allow a cop to solve the murder.
Talk about hard to believe....