Telefilm Review: Murder She Wrote: Birds of a Feather

Jessica’s niece is worried when her fiance is acting strange. Jessica comes to San Francisco in preparation for her niece’s wedding and urges her to get to the bottom of her fiance’s strange behavior.

They trace him back to a night club where they discover he’s been working as a female impersonator after failing in the insurance business. Right after this, he’s arrested for the murder of a night club owner (Martin Landau.) Jessica sets out to clear her soon-to-be nephew and find the real killer.

What Works

We get an idea of how long its been since The Murder of Sherlock Holmes as we learn Jessica has six best-sellers under her belt, and Lansbury’s performance captures the added confidence. The awkwardness of the first episode is gone as she works the case like a master of the art of detection.

Jessica’s assertive at times without losing her quintessential charm. One of my favorite parts of this episode is where she worms information out of a fired secretary and ends by complimenting her discretion.

Jessica’s police foil for this episode is Lieutenant Floyd Novack (Harry Guardino) who quite reasonably wants to keep an amateur out of his crime scene. However, Jessica uses her celebrity status to push into the case and slowly wins Novack over. It’s a nice, believable turn and they play well off each other.

Landau is the most well-known guest star in this episode, but his part is brief. All he does is exchange a few nasty words and is found dead. Outside of Guardino’s Lieutenant Novack, the best guest character is comedian Freddy York (Gabe Kaplan) who is quite believable as an 80s stand-up comic. He was genuinely funny a couple times but also reveals a nasty streak as the episode goes on, and it’s all quite believable.

The solution was nicely crafted. The vital clue was one we, as the audience were shown quite clearly, but many of us may have missed its significance. In addition, it’s believable that Lieutenant Novack would have missed this clue and Jessica spotted it without making Novack look foolish.

There may be one or two minor points (such as the composition of the wedding party at the end) that you could nitpick, but nothing in this episode detracted from my enjoyment.

This is a solid installment of the series. While it doesn’t have anything that’ll blow your mind, every aspect of this episode is well-done: a good police foil, a good batch of suspects with believable motives, a solid, fair and sensible solution, and a typical wonderful Angela Lansbury performance and you’ve got an hour of television well-worth watching for fans of TV mysteries.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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