Monday, December 13, 2021

Murder Monday: Eddie Albert is old in "The Body Politic"

That's the big takeaway for me from the fourth-season finale of Murder, She Wrote: Eddie Albert is old. He was old. You know what I mean. And what's wrong with that? MSW is a show for all the gray panthers out there, and they deserve a great performance like the one Eddie gives in "The Body Politic."

See, part of the appeal of the performance is Albert's age. He is a wealthy industrialist whose wife (Shirley Jones, not as young as she was on Partridge Family but not as old as Eddie) is running for the Senate. the highlight of the episode is when George Grizzard's sleazy newsman/talk show host baits him at a news conference (there are rumors swirling about Jones' fidelity) and Albert lunges after him, trying to kick his tail. It's great to see senior citizen rage every now and then on a show that can be pretty sedate about murder.

Just for the record, here are the approximate ages of everyone in the cast when this episode premiered in May 1988:

Albert: 82
Jones: 54
Grizzard: 60
Lansbury: 63
James Sloyan: 48

OK, Sloyan is a bit younger, but I include him because his turn as an oily campaign manager (There are some who are not) is another highlight. Sloyan wowed me as the law enforcement figure in Season 3's "Corned Beef and Carnage," so it was a treat to see him again.

Here's the other big highlight: the utter absurdity of the plot device that gets Jessica involved in a Senate campaign that leads to MURDER! Jessica happens to be visiting Jones' Kathleen Lane (all we hear is that they have known each other 17 years) right when the speechwriter has left. So naturally, Lane pleads with acclaimed mystery novelist Fletcher to take know, just for a while for a few key speeches. Have I mentioned this is the week before the primary vote?

Not everything in this episode works. A lot of shots at the media fall flat, and the jabs at politics are rather tame. There are interesting hints that Lane may actually be a little more less faithful than we think, though, which adds some spice. And Albert, though looking all of his 82, delivers a fun and feisty performance and has some great lines. 

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