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'Murder, She Wrote' to Move to Thursday Night Time Slot : Television: CBS 'youth' move upsets Angela Lansbury after her show's 11 years as a Sunday evening staple.

May 24, 1995|RICK DU BROW | TIMES TELEVISION WRITER

Angela Lansbury said Tuesday that CBS has told her that her hit series, "Murder, She Wrote," one of the most successful shows in TV history, will be moved out of its longtime 8 p.m. Sunday slot next season.

She said she was told that "Murder, She Wrote," a lighthearted mystery show that debuted in 1984 with Lansbury playing a writer who solves crimes, will be moved to Thursdays at 8 p.m.

"I'm shattered," she said in a phone interview. "What can I say? I really feel very emotional about it. I just felt so disappointed that after all the years we had Sunday night at 8, suddenly it didn't mean anything. It was like gone with the wind."

NBC disclosed last week that it was switching one of its hot young comedies, "Mad About You," to 8 p.m. Sundays, setting up a possible shootout with "Murder, She Wrote," which draws an older audience.

CBS, in deep trouble in prime time and scheduled to release its 1995-96 lineup today, has joined ABC, NBC and Fox in going for the younger audiences that sponsors prefer. A Thursday move would put "Murder, She Wrote" up against another hot young NBC series, "Friends."

"I really feel angry for all the people who watched us" and now see the show bumped because of demographics, Lansbury said. "I felt desperate about it. I now feel we can go forward on Thursday and take our chances. It's probably our last year anyway, but I just feel badly for all those people who built their Sunday nights around us."

Lansbury said she was phoned with the decision Monday by CBS Entertainment President Peter Tortorici, "who simply said they were very grateful for all the years and for our contribution in keeping CBS alive when it was foundering. I personally felt very heartbroken. It was a wonderful era, and good TV, and I'm very grateful for it all."

The Sunday tandem of "60 Minutes" and "Murder, She Wrote" was CBS' backbone for years, often its only two series in the weekly top 10-rated programs for total TV households.

Lansbury's son, David Shaw, co-executive producer of her series, said: "I suppose [CBS] is in a panic. It seems like it's turning upside down. Angela's concerned about losing contact with her audience. That's the worry of it."

"Murder, She Wrote" was considered a long-shot when it debuted in 1984 because its lead character was not typical for TV--an older woman in what many considered a soft show. But it fooled the critics and has been a haven for many mature and notable actors who played various parts.

Although Lansbury has never won an Emmy for her role, she wielded great power at CBS.

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