One of this season's better new television shows, "Murder, She Wrote," flashed on the screen on Sunday night with Washington as its locale -- and the episode, while entertaining, made considerable hash of our town.
In the show, produced by California's Universal Studios and carried weekly on CBS, Angela Lansbury plays the role of fictional mystery story writer Jessica Fletcher of mythical Cabot Cove, Maine. In the series, Fletcher invariably steps outside her professional career to help the police solve homicides. The viewer is fed many of the same subtle clues that lead Fletcher to her conclusions. It can be fun and challenging.
In Sunday's episode, Fletcher was appointed by the governor to fill the seat of the local congressman who died under mysterious circumstances. Yet another homicide occurred -- a party girl who was present at the late congressman's demise.
And the newly appointed Rep. Fletcher ultimately discovered that the public relations guy she had inherited from her predecessor was the guilty one. He's a sweet fellow who mouths such things as, "I'm no different than anyone in this town -- you buy and you sell. . . . There's a price tag on . . . everyone." Such lines, even in fiction, sure give Washington an undeserved reputation that feeds cynicism across the land. There's also, during the program, a scene featuring a purported local gossip columnist who is a henna-haired caricature resembling nobody this writer has seen in nearly 29 years of covering Washington.
But let's back up. When Fletcher arrives in town, she's met at the airport by her public relations guy, who manages to drive her from the airport to the Rayburn Building on a mind-boggling route -- eastbound past the White House, westbound up Pennsylvania Avenue with the Capitol dome in the background, followed by arrival at Rayburn.
And while the exterior views of the Rayburn Building depict that esthetic disaster accurately, the interior views show an overly ornate building somewhere else and give Rep. Fletcher an office so sumptuous that it would have made King Louis XIV, not to mention Speaker Tip O'Neill, envious.
There are some mind-blowing bar scenes. One depicts the interior of Tiberio's, the posh K Street restaurant, looking like Clyde's bar. And another scene had a character at a place called Stockman's Bar & Grille. David Stockman's?
It's not detective work, but political science that exposes the fallacy of Sunday's "Murder, She Wrote" episode. Governors are permitted to fill Senate vacancies by appointment. But they cannot fill House vacancies, as depicted Sunday; a special election is necessary.