Thursday, March 06, 2014

Me And Murder, She Wrote

Me and Murder, She Wrote:
My Adventures in Television with Angela Lansbury,
Peter Falk and Jerry Orbach...among others

By Peter S. Fischer
Published by Grove Point Press, September 2013

Peter Fischer is probably not a terribly familiar name, yet his work has provided a substantial number of well-known TV  series. Have you ever seen an episode of Murder, She Wrote, Columbo, Ellery Queen, Marcus Welby, M.D. , Kojak, Blacke's Magic or Black Beauty? Then you have been watching shows which he has either created, produced and/or for which he has written scripts for episodes.

This is a delightful and entertaining autobiography by a man who has always loved to write, and who  finally, at the age of 35, took a massive leap of faith and became a professional writer. A prolific writer, and blessed with a wicked sense of humour and of the dramatic, in his working career he has created or breathed new life into some truly memorably characters. I must confess to loving the character of Jessica Fletcher and could not pass on the chance to read about how she came into being and how Angela Lansbury, a massive star of stage and the big screen was interested in  playing her character in what turned out to be a phenomenally successful and long-running TV show.

Angela Lansbury and Murder, She Wrote  inevitably occupies a significant part of this fascinating book,  and it was an absorbing look into the world of television and how shows are created and produced. The effective and professional working relationship between Angela and Peter Fischer quickly became an enduring friendship between Miss Lansbury and the Fischer family.

 Murder, She Wrote is just one of the many shows discussed in detail. Having read about the truly Byzantine intrigues and power plays which go on behind the scenes between different departments and people, and the power the "men in suits" have to make or break a potentially brilliant show, it's amazing that any ideas ever actually make it to a completed show, and even then it can all go disastrously wrong very quickly. The wrong producer, budgetary constraints, a wrongly cast part, an overly simplistic or overly complex script or a temperamental actor can cause utter havoc and wreak death to a promising show. Peter Fischer is able to describe this all too well from his insider knowledge as the man who himself has a wealth of experience of pitching ideas, writing the scripts and producing programmes.

Working with stars has its ups and downs, and it was immense fun to read how differently people handle disputes over story-lines, casting and scripts. Peter Falk comes across as a very likable and thoughtful chap and Fischer's respect and admiration for Angela Lansbury are self-evident, but there are some who are much less likable and end up being the stars of very different scenes!

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