I tried hard to think of a snappy title. And that's why I got. Damn it—that's what I got.

I've been thinking about my friend Tim a great deal this week because he's had about the worst week a person can have. He is also literally the only person in the world with whom I have ever had a serious discussion about how the same actors regularly appeared on both Star Trek: TNG and Murder, She Wrote. So today seemed like a fine day to kick off my long-planned and not-at-all-awaited list of my top five favourite least-appropriate Murder, She Wrote guest stars of all time...

5. Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston damn well deserves all the success he now has, seeing as how he spent the 80s and 90s in the goddamn network tv trenches. CHIPs. Airwolf. Matlock. Walker, Texas Ranger. And, inevitably, Murder, She Wrote. THREE TOTALLY DIFFERENT TIMES.

First there was...
"Menace, Anyone?" (1986)
Bryan Cranston is engaged to a professional tennis player (played by Linda Hamilton) and is tragically killed when her car explodes. Is Linda Hamilton insane? Why does she think her dead sister is still alive? And why is a mystery writer the guest of honour at a tennis tournament?

and then...

"Good-bye Charlie" (1990)
Bryan Cranston is involved in an attempt to falsely identify a dead body. We will return to this one in a later post, because in it he is tragically upstaged by the ludicrousness of one of his co-stars.

and finally...
"Something Foul in Flappieville" (1996)
I confronted and was defeated by the prospect of summarizing the plot of this particular episode. I decided it was simply un-summarizable, but then found this glorious attempt on imdb:

All is not well on the set of a children's puppet show. Jessica is there because the shows latest puppet character, Inspector LeChat, is based on a character from one of her novels. Jessica is delighted at the idea and the general consensus is that the new puppet will likely get its own show. The show's creator, Darren Crosley, finds himself being pulled in a number of opposing direction however. Parker Cranston feels the show is losing its edge and its audience and let's it be known that it may be canceled altogether. What he really wants is to line his pockets. One of the producers thinks his wife may be having an affair while those in the creative department are fighting over credit for creating the new puppet. When a security guard is killed and someone breaks into the locked case where the new puppet design is being kept, it's up to Jessica to find the murderer.

I'm probably fondest of this Cranston episode, because it so perfectly captured the spirit of the first Clinton administration.

Also, "Parker Cranston" is actually Bryan Cranston playing someone called Parker Foreman.
"Menace, Anyone?"
Your fucking brother-in-law
3/7/2013 08:15:33 am

I'm surprised you haven't comment on the general correlation between the overall awesomeness of a given episode and the prominence that puppets are given in the screenplay. I can think of at least one other series in which a puppet-centric focus resulted in a series-wide zenith.


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