Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Maine-line to the Mendocino County Line

As Malcolm has pointed out before, it's the fillers that catch the imagination: those colour pieces on the property pages, the bits from the intern that go between the ads. Frequently that's where the real writing happens.

So, today, his attention was caught by Lucy Mangan doing Cable Girl, on the side-bar of the Guardian's TV schedules:
Have you been to Cabot Cove recently? You really should. At least one person a week is killed there. But honestly, it is remarkably good for the spirit.
For those not with us yet, "Cabot Cove" is the milieu of Murder, She Wrote, one of the stand-bys of day-time TV, whose eighth series (originally from 1996) has finally gone to DVD in the UK, featuring:
Angela Lansbury, who plays widow, thriller writer and amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher. Much of Lansbury's previous career had been in Broadway musicals, and she still carries with her the faint suggestion that she might just break into song at any moment and galvanise the rest of the cast into following suit.
Now, we hear, has Malcolm gone that far down market?

For a start, Malcolm reckons that this was a unique US series that recognised that age did not necessarily mean senility. Nor did it involve braying of dubbbed laughter.

On the other hand, it wasn't original (Agatha Christie would have recognised where it was coming from). It was, from beginning to end, a transplant of the English "cosy" mystery. And, perhaps, none the worse for that.

The essential concept was
Miss Marple taken to the State of Maine:
Widowed Jessica Fletcher, a retired high school English teacher, became a best-selling mystery author after her nephew, Grady, sent a manuscript to a book publisher. She quickly became world famous and affluent, but she maintains the rambling, old house that she and her longtime husband, Frank, shared in Cabot Cove...

In the earlier seasons, a matronly Jessica frequently bicycled across town, boiled lobsters, planned fishing trips on a friend's trawler, or dropped in at the beauty parlor. She wore conservative pantsuits and spoke with an occasional New England influence.
Except, Malcolm's been to "Cabot Cove"...

... and wears the Big Yellow Cab tee-shirt from the Mendocino Wine Company (see left for label: Geddit?) And it drinks even better than the marketing.

That immediately solves the essential enigma, the only one never properly explained by "Jessica Fletcher": why the sun rises in the west and sets in the east in this part of "Maine".

Mendocino, about 150 miles north of San Francisco, stood in for "Cabot Cove".

When Malcolm spent a overnighter at the Mendocino Hotel, just next door to the Mendocino Wine Company. He wandered the streets,and couldn't quite place why it was he felt everything so familiar. It was worse than déjà vu.

Then he realised.

This was Frenchman's Creek, "Cape Breton" in Johnny Belinda, the Salinas Valley of East of Eden, Nantucket in The Summer of '42 and many more. If only, when one turned a corner, the location stayed in synch ...

So, thanks to Lucy Mangan for recovering a memory. Sphere: Related Content

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