Jessica Lundy wants all the smart alecks out there, the ones who have called her new series "Murder, He Wrote," to know that if the show had a derivative title at all it would be "Murder, They Wrote." She's in the show too, after all, along with Edward Woodward.

And by the way, hello to all her friends at Bob's Big Boy out on Rockville Pike.

There are reasons, of course, to liken "Over My Dead Body" to Angela Lansbury's "Murder, She Wrote." They're on the same network, both have mystery producer William Link involved, and both build their stories around writers of a certain age who find themselves each week hip-deep in crime-solving.

"Body," which debuts Friday at 9, teams Lundy with Woodward, of recent "Equalizer" fame. But before the season's out, she's the one who may give new meaning to the word spunk.

He plays Maxwell Beckett, dignified crime novelist ("That's Maxwell, not Max!") who's teetering on burnout, shadowed by a vague Scotland Yard background. Indeed, he could be the Equalizer retired to a typewriter on the West Coast.

Lundy plays a writer too, Nicki Page, who does obituaries for a San Francisco newspaper. She's eager to move off the obit desk. He's in need of fresh fodder for his fading novels. Presto! A symbiotic odd couple is formed.

The success of the series will likely turn on two things: the quality of the mysteries the duo tackles each week and the appeal of the relationship.

Woodward by now is well known to TV audiences. The British actor first appeared on American radar screens as "Breaker Morant" and in 1985 became a television fixture as "The Equalizer," an urban Paladin with a murky past who came to the rescue of people in trouble.

Lundy is the TV-unknown who brings fresh air to the show and a flare for comedy that's not overbearing but definitely sneaks up on you.

The key to the series' success, she said, is to maintain a balance between good mystery story-telling and keeping the relationship between Nicki and Max interesting. After taping four episodes, she felt the show was still on track.

"It's a good blend of mystery, with the way in which it's solved having to do with the personalities of our characters," she said. "I don't think we ever forsake one for the other. That's what makes our show different. We'd lose a lot of the humor if we relied only on one and not the other."

Lundy's resume' leaves a reader wondering where her flare for comedy came from. Her father is a surgeon and cancer researcher, her mother a housewife "with a healthy sense of humor." So much for the comedy pedigree.

Lundy was born in San Diego, and when she was 2, her family headed east. A number of moves were prompted by her father's medical career; eventually Avon, Conn., became home. "We were there for nine years, and that's where I grew up," she said.

On to college at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. There were roles in Sam Shepard's "Mad Dog Blues," "Uncommon Women and Others" and work with actor John Rubinstein and playwright John Guare.

But there was also work with The Drama Club, a comedy improv group; and with fellow student Alec Mapa she wrote and appeared in a number of cabaret shows. That may have been the beginning of comedy work, but the seeds had been planted years before. And it began where she is now -- on television.

"I watched 'I Love Lucy,' 'Laugh In,' 'Carol Burnett,' the original 'Saturday Night Live,'" recalled Lundy. "I would sit about an inch away from the TV set when I was in high school. I watched a lot of TV -- my eyes are crossed now, but otherwise it didn't hurt me."

In the movies, Lundy appeared in "Bright Lights, Big City," her debut film, and played Jackie Mason's daughter in "Caddyshack II." And there's "Madhouse." "It's out on video, with John Larroquette," she said. "That's what I'd consider a comedy for me -- playing a 35-year-old housewife from New Jersey, and they let me do a lot of improvisation."

Her previous TV exposure was a guest shot on "B.L. Stryker."

You can expect to see a lot of her on "Over My Dead Body." Co-star Woodward, who suffered a heart attack during the run of "The Equalizer," is back, looking fit. He's dropped his three-pack-a-day cigarette habit. "I miss it every single day of my life," said Woodward. "It's been three years now."

It should also help that Woodward's work load on the hour-long show will be limited to four or five days a week, and the filming will be done in Los Angeles and San Francisco. "The Equalizer" was shot in New York.

"The climate conditions in New York proved very nonfortuitous for me, shall we say," said Woodward. "We were working 18, 19 hours a day, and we were filming in temperatures of 100 degrees and 95 percent humidity. And then a few weeks later it would be 20 degrees below, with a wind chill factor of another 10 ... Now I've got Jessica to do most of the work. I'm lucky."

And the producers of the show will be lucky if the relationship between Lundy and Woodward -- that is, Nicki and Max -- works as well as they hope. Not only will that have viewer-appeal, it will help distinguish it from "Murder, She Wrote," which is built primarily around Lansbury's character.

"There is a primary, major relationship in this show, and it's more in the tradition of a 'Remington Steele,' a 'Simon & Simon,' where the relationship was as much the focus of the show as the mystery," said Rick Okie, the executive producer.

Counting Link's collaboration and Okie's credentials, the show boasts three nominees and winners of the Edgar award, which is given to mystery writers. "Our focus is 50-50, if not more, toward the relationship, the Pygmalion excitement that these two create."

Four episodes into the filming, Lundy felt the producers were getting what they were after. "The subsequent episodes we've done are even stronger than the pilot," said Lundy. "We've gotten a better sense of how the characters relate to each other and a better sense of their personalities.

"We continue to get on each other's nerves even more," she said of their contentious relationship. "It can't be anything but that, given our backgrounds, our differences ... Both characters are independent, set in their ways, and both are very stubborn. But there's a genuine caring between the two."

Still, it won't be all zingy one-liners. "We have people who can learn from each other," said Lundy. "There's a kind of a parental aspect to it. Above all it's an interesting friendship, sort of like 'Casablanca' -- two opposites who are drawn to each other."

It figures that a "Casablanca" reference would come easy to Lundy. "The things I enjoy in leisure time seem to be related to what I do professionally," she said. "I work with improv groups, and I like to go to movies -- anything old, from the '30s and '40s."

On the contemporary side, she's a pro basketball fan. "Growing up, I was a 76er fan -- we used to live in Philadelphia." That lasted until Julius Erving left. Now she's a Detroit Piston fan, though she hasn't lived in Detroit. "I like their attitude," she said. "They're tough and they don't apologize for it."

Since February, she's settled in Los Angeles, leaving the family in the New York area, where her father is at Nassau Community Hospital. But don't look for her to become a Laker fan. "I'll go see them when they play Detroit," she said.

Lundy's family travels brought her to the Washington area once, if briefly.

"It was 1983, my first summer out of NYU," she recalled. "My family had moved, and I finally found them. My dad was working at the National Cancer Institute.

"We lived in Rockville, and I worked at the Big Boy on Rockville Pike. Hi to all my friends," she said as if she'd been waiting tables there this summer. "Ah, that great, great breakfast buffet," she recalled, "with all the plates you can make me carry."

Now it's Los Angeles, close to the home she scarcely remembers, and she loves it.

"Since I've been out here I learned to shop," she said. "That's very therapeutic. In New York I used to clean the apartment. This is more fun."