The Readlist: July 2016

Ooh, what a treat this month was. I finally got my hand on a book I’ve wanted for ages…

Me & Murder, She Wrote by Peter S Fischer

me-and-murder-she-wrote-400x400-imadq2ayxnaq3njeFor anybody who has seen any episode of MSW the name ‘Peter S Fischer’ should be familiar to you – it flashes up in the opening credits as one of the creators of the show. His memoir about his work in television had a small print run back a few years ago and as a result is incredibly difficult to get hold of. It’s become one of those books where the Amazon algorithms have taken over and the price continually spirals -asking prices for it were often well over £150. I checked back occasionally and on one occasion was lucky enough to find one had recently been put up from a UK seller for £12.99 plus P+P. A bargain in comparison!

To be honest, the book is  little misleading. Although he is most well known for Murder, She Wrote the book doesn’t focus on this nearly as much as the title would have you believe. He starts it ‘in media res’ with a meeting between himself and Angela “call me Angie” Lansbury and then starts from the beginning of his life. Yes, it is fascinating, but some bits do drag a little and I think it’d be fair to say some sections could have been written a little better. I feel like I’ve committed some sacrilege by criticising a famous TV writer’s work, but truth hurts! (I also appreciate it’s a bit pot, kettle, black in terms of this blog’s terrible excuse for writing and punditry)

The memoir also acts as a window into a different world of US network television, back in the 70s and 80s when you had made for TV movies all over the place and where certain programmes can live and die by their time slot. Indeed, Fischer was aghast when network execs wanted to put Murder, She Wrote on Sunday evenings, a slot that was famously dull and quiet. However, it was a great success and stayed there for eleven seasons – when there’s nothing good up against it, people flocked to it as a result. Then for season 12 (the final one) it was moved to Thursday evenings up against some comedy or other called ‘Friends’. Viewing plummeted, the show was canned and never had a proper finale. Of course that hurts, but S12 of MSW was a far cry from earlier seasons and its time had come.

Fischer isn’t all about MSW though – after some breakthrough TV movies he worked on Columbo (the good 70s stuff) and also one of the most well remembered TV series of its time, Black Beauty, writing every episode. I should probably clarify at this point that he had nothing to do with the Mrs Columbo spin-off, which he regales the history of in the book to much amusement. Poor Kate Mulgrew, hey? Likewise, however, his very own MSW spin-off (which many people still don’t know exists) didn’t work either – The Law And Harry McGraw was placed in the wrong time slot and fell at the first hurdle.

Some of the book does fly straight over my head. There’s a lot of mentions of famous Hollywood actors and the huge honour it was working with them, and the A listers they managed to get for MSW episodes but the names mean nothing to me. They’re from a bygone era and many of them have now “passed on”.

This is a decent read for those interested in the media industry and its history and likewise for fans of the show too. I was eager to read Fischer’s take on all the internal politics of Murder, She Wrote and whether he blamed Lansbury for anything (notably, there were issues with S6 where half the episodes didn’t really feature Jessica at all and were just mysteries, both S5 & S7 were nearly the final series and from S8 Fischer left the show as Lansbury wanted it to take a different direction and wanted artistic control) but he was incredibly nice about it all and there were no harsh words. I was a *little* disappointed there to be honest.

Bonkers by Jennifer Saunders (audiobook)

There was a big change in my life circumstances this month, so I was a little all over the place and trying to get settled so turned to an Audiobook for the first time in my life. I opted for an autobiography and, completely at random, plumped for Jennifer Saunders. I’m in no way her biggest fan and have barely seen any of her work – French & Saunders was no longer on TV when I was past kids-stuff, and the clips of Absolutely Fabulous didn’t massively interest me and yet, she’s somehow this cultural icon in my eyes. She was quite fabulous as the fairy godmother in Shrek 2, it has to be said, and her version of Holding Out For A Hero is class-A.

It was a nice listen – nothing too demanding, not massively compelling either but I got through it, bumbling away in the background during car journeys. Were there any amazing zinger anecdotes? Nope. Was I expecting it to be a little funnier? Yes. Was I disappointed in it though? Not massively. She came across as human and unfazed by fame so that’s a tick from me. I also was completely unaware about her battle with breast cancer so that was an interesting section.

I’ve got another couple of Audible tokens to use and I haven’t been scared off audiobooks yet, so we shall see what’s next…

Articles & Long Reads

ONM! As a kid in that odd stage between being a proper child (under 8) and a teen (13+) I was obsessed by Nintendo. I didn’t own a Wii or a GameCube but the idea of doing so obsessed me and I read the pages of the Official Nintendo Magazine with fascination. It was witty, it was irreverent, it was sarcastic and I loved it – it probably helped shape my personality to be honest. Indeed, I once got a tweet published in it! What a moment that was for me. It was pre-Twitter ubiquity though so no one was particularly impressed. This is a nice look back at the mag and all it stood for (it ceased to be a few years ago, alongside Nintendo’s slide in popularity).

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