Peter S. Fischer, co-creator of Murder She Wrote and TV writer dies at 88

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2023 2:43 pm    Post subject: Peter S. Fischer, co-creator of Murder She Wrote and TV writer dies at 88

Peter S. Fischer, ‘Murder, She Wrote’ Co-Creator and ‘Columbo’ Writer, Dies at 88
The crime-writing specialist and three-time Emmy nominee spent seven seasons on the Angela Lansbury starrer after working on 'Ellery Queen' and 'The Eddie Capra Mysteries.'

Peter S. Fischer, the late-blooming TV writer and producer who co-created Murder, She Wrote after serving on such other crime-solving series as Columbo, Baretta and Ellery Queen, has died. He was 88.

His grandson Jake McElrath announced that Fischer died Monday at a care facility in Pacific Grove, California. A cause of death was not given.

He became a prolific novelist after he exited Hollywood, writing murder mysteries, of course.

Fischer, who had worked with Columbo co-creators Richard Levinson and William Link on the iconic Peter Falk series as well as on the Jim Hutton-starring Ellery Queen, accompanied the pair to a meeting with CBS executives in 1984, he recalled in a 2011 interview.

“CBS wanted to do a murder mystery and they called Dick, who was our ringleader. He said, ‘OK, I’ll bring the boys,'” Fischer said. “We went over there and pitched a premise called Blacke’s Magic, about a retired magician who solves mysteries. It became very apparent they didn’t want Blacke’s Magic.

“They were looking for a murder mystery with a female lead. They didn’t specify whether she should be old or young. We came up with the idea for Murder, She Wrote, which basically was Agatha Christie and Miss Marple sort of molded into one character — Jessica Fletcher.”

After being turned down by former All in the Family star Jean Stapleton, they approached three-time Oscar nominee Angela Lansbury about portraying Jessica, a retired English teacher, mystery writer and amateur detective.

Lansbury had never done a TV series but had another offer to topline a Norman Lear-produced show opposite Charles Durning, Fischer said. “She read [the scripts for] both of them over a weekend and decided to do ours,” he said.


Fischer penned the pilot episode, “The Murder of Sherlock Holmes,” which aired on Sept. 30, 1984, and wrote or co-wrote nearly three dozen episodes — and served as executive producer — during his seven-season tenure with the Universal Television drama.

Along the way, he received an Edgar Award and three Emmy nominations for outstanding drama series from 1985-87. (Murder, She Wrote infamously never won that top trophy or any major Emmy, for that matter.)

“I left after seven years because I didn’t know how, as a writer, to keep finding really fresh ideas,” he said in 2012. “I knew we could rehash old plots with different locales and different names and the ratings would hold up, but I would have been bored and we would have been shortchanging the audience.”

Murder, She Wrote, however, went five more seasons without him.

Born in 1935, Peter Steven Fischer studied drama at Johns Hopkins University and did summer stock but discovered “he was not an actor and decided to become a writer,” he said in 2011.

Fischer was 34, living on Long Island and editing and publishing a magazine called Sports Car News when he sent a movie he had written to his younger brother, Geoff, a casting director at Universal Studios.

“He said, ‘You know, this is pretty good, but the format — the form for a script — is completely wrong,'” he told the Monterey Herald in 2013. “So he sent me three Hollywood scripts to use as a guide and suggested I write something else.”


His second attempt would become ABC’s The Last Child, a 1971 Aaron Spelling-produced sci-fi telefilm that starred Michael Cole (The Mod Squad) and Janet Margolin and brought Fischer to Los Angeles in 1971 to pursue screenwriting as a profession.

He sold scripts for such series as Marcus Welby, M.D., Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law and Griff before one he wrote for Columbo became the third-season 1974 episode “Publish or Perish,” featuring guest stars Jack Cassidy and Mariette Hartley.

“Dick Levinson and Bill Link got on my bandwagon, and that was the beginning of a great relationship,” he said. He wrote and produced for the duo on another NBC show they developed, 1974-75’s Ellery Queen — like Jessica Fletcher, Hutton’s character was a crime-solving author, too — then joined Columbo as a story editor and writer.

In the ’70s, Fischer also wrote episodes of ABC’s Baretta, CBS’ Kojak and NBC’s McMillan & Wife and wrote and produced two high-profile miniseries for Universal/NBC: the nine-hour Once an Eagle, starring Sam Elliott, and the five-hour Black Beauty, starring Eileen Brennan and Martin Milner.

Fischer also created, produced and wrote the 1978-79 NBC series The Eddie Capra Mysteries, starring Vincent Baggetta.

Later, NBC wound up buying Blacke’s Magic, starring Hal Linden (as that magician) and Harry Morgan, though the midseason show lasted just 13 episodes in 1986.


Fischer also created the 1987-88 Murder, She Wrote spinoff The Law and Harry McGraw, starring Jerry Orbach and Barbara Babcock.

Several years after he quit Hollywood, Fischer became a full-time author, writing 2013’s Me and Murder, She Wrote and a series of 22 novels under a “Hollywood Murder Mysteries” banner that revolved around a studio press agent named Joe Bernardi. “Joe, like Jessica, has no business being involved in an actual murder,” he said.

The self-published whodunits begin in 1947, and readers encounter the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Jack Warner, Montgomery Clift, Billy Wilder, Robert Wagner and Falk on the pages.

“The famous people in my books — Bogart, or Cagney, or James Dean, or Jane Wyman, or Karl Malden — are peripheral characters,” said Fischer. “They don’t become killers, or suspects, or victims, but they are all integrated into the story, which, I think, makes it a lot of fun.”

He retired from Hollywood in 2002 and moved full-time to Pacific Grove four years later. Survivors include his children, Megan and Christopher, and grandchildren Peter, Nicholas, Samantha, Jake, Molly and Eden. His wife of nearly 60 years, Lucille, died in May 2017.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2023 1:32 pm    Post subject:

It was murder, and the first innocent looking character on the scene did it.
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” ― Elie Wiesel
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