Wow, Angela Lansbury Really Hates the Idea of a 'Murder, She Wrote' Remake

The actress, who made the 1980s original a hit, says the Octavia Spencer-starring reboot is "a mistake." But networks love redoing popular shows -- even if audiences don't always get on board

Anyone under 30 might not remember Murder She Wrote -- CBS's Sunday night staple starring Angela Lansbury as an amateur sleuth in a small coastal town called Cabot Cove. But last week's news of a planned NBC remake of the show (which ran from 1984-1996) did make lots of people nostalgic. And putting the Oscar-winning Octavia Spencer in the lead role seemed more or less a good move. (Who didn't love her in The Help?)

But what did the series' original lead think about a version 2.0? The Associated Press tracked down the 88-year-old actress for her opinion, and guess what? She ain't happy.

"I think it's a mistake to call it Murder, She Wrote, 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," Lansbury said. "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." As for Spencer, Lansbury called her "absolutely wonderful, a lovely actress." She wished her well, but added, "I wish it wasn't in Murder, She Wrote."

Lansbury's desire to leave well enough alone isn't new or unique. Sarah Jessica Parker didn't seem particularly thrilled about a younger Carrie Bradshaw coming to TV in The Carrie Diaries in 2011. Granted, she was generous, if a little tepid, about the new show: "Obviously, I feel proprietary in the best possible way about that entire franchise as it were, but I think there are lots of talented storytellers and obviously lots of talented actors who might be a part of it," she said. "I think, like anything, you base your opinion on material and content, and I think that would be the only way for any of us to have an opinion."  She later got in trouble for telling a reporter the show was "odd." 

Fact is, there are several new TV remakes in the works, including Remington Steele, Girl Meets World, the miniseries Roots, and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. News of a reworking of Charmed prompted Rose McGowan to tweet…   


While reboots of Hawaii 5-0 and Dallas are currently having fairly good runs, there are some shows that really should have been left alone in their posterity. 

NBC's Ironside

"If you're old enough to remember the original Ironside, you're out of the demo and NBC doesn't care what you think anyway," wrote The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman, when this remake of the 1970s detective series debuted last month. "If, on the other hand, you've never heard of Ironside and this version starring Blair Underwood is your first exposure, you also won't be able to figure out why they remade it or, in this case, made it for any reason." The show was canceled after three weeks on the air.

The CW's 90210

"A fair chunk of the audience who might be nostalgic for the original are, arguably, too old for most CW shows," wrote Time's James Poniewozik, about the Beverly Hills, 90210 reboot that debuted in 2008. "And The CW’s audience may want to watch a teen soap, but if they don’t have fond memories of the original, why would the remake have any more appeal?" In the end, 90210 wasn't a failure at all. It lasted five seasons and 114 episodes. But was it anything close to the cultural phenomenon that was the original? Nope. It was just another soapy teen show with middling ratings and some tabloid drama about which of the notoriously contentious, original cast members would return.  

The CW's Melrose Place

Ten years after the original Melrose Place was canceled, it resurfaced in 2009 with a whole new cast, plus two returning originals. One of them -- Sydney (Laura Leighton) turned up dead in the pool in the first episode. This would seem like a perfect start to remaking a show known for being ridiculously over-the-top. Sadly, the magic that made us watch the original -- despite plotlines that played out like they were cooked up in a Hollywood dive bar at 3 a.m. -- wasn't present in the remake. "It’s as fresh as yesterday’s daisy," wrote the New Yorker's Nancy Franklin. It was gone after one season.

NBC's Knight Rider

The 1980s hit starred David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight, who drove the unforgettably cool crime-fighting car, K.I.T.T. The series was remade in 2008 with Justin Bruening playing Knight's son, the show's new hero. It didn't work. "If they are going to be as unoriginal as to resurrect dead shows, at least hire a more charismatic actor as your protagonist," wrote one disgruntled blogger. "And promise us more than episodic television that dusts off tired cliches and takes them for yet another spin."  The show lasted one season.

Truth is, Lansbury may have other reasons for resenting a remake of her show. A few years back, she publicly expressed interest in reviving the show with herself in the lead. Hearing the series will be revived -- without her -- must feel like a knife in the back.

Jennifer Graham Kizer is an iVillage contributing writer. Follow her on Google+.

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