Monday, October 24, 2022

Murder Monday: BOTNS remembers Ron Masak

I have the unfortunate duty of devoting a second straight Murder Monday to marking the death of a Murder, She Wrote alum's life (both from natural causes, thank goodness). Last week I talked about my love of the iconic program and Angela Lansbury, and this week I confess: I was skeptical about Ron Masak, who passed away several days ago after a long career that included his portrayal of Sheriff Mort Metzger on MSW.

When I dove into watching Jessica Fletcher's exploits in order, I had this dread in the back of my mind that soon The Bos would leave the series and things would go downhill. Yes, Cabot Cove's intrepid Sheriff Amos Tupper would depart as Tom Bosley would go on to star in Father Dowling, and where would that leave the viewers? Where would it leave ME?

Well, for one thing, Tupper was not in nearly as many episodes as I expected. Would you believe he appears in a mere 19 of 264 per IMDB? Metzger is in 41. A more important factor is that Masak is great! I''m almost halfway through season 7 now, and I look forward to seeing Mort Metzger and am disappointed if a Cabot Cove episode does not include him.

What I like about Metzger is that he isn't a boob--not to say Tupper is, but Amos is a small-town lawman in over his head despite meaning well whenever there's a murder. Metzger offers a different dynamic as a New York cop assuming he can ease into retirement with a simple, peaceful gig in Maine. The series backs down a little bit from the brash New Yorker aspect as Metzger settles in, but his general attitude persists. Mort's most amusing quality is his exasperation, on display at the behavior of the locals and also at the theories Jessica provides at every murder scene. 

Yet he does not push Jess away; to the contrary, he welcomes the help of Mrs. F, as he calls her, even if he doesn't always believe her. He respects her and, while he is stubborn sometimes, he isn't so pigheaded as to ignore the facts. It's a good relationship the two of them have.

Masak's delivery and charm make the character a likable and stable presence in the Cabot Cove episodes. He's not the cliched pushy New Yorker the character could have been, but he does bring a different energy to the bucolic (yet murder-plagued) Maine setting. He even gives the series its own "unseen character" running gag in the form of his oft-mentioned wife, a real piece of work and a former service member who keeps Mort on his toes.

Rest in peace, Ron Masak! Laurie and I will continue to look forward to your appearances each Murder Monday.

But we still enjoy Tupper, too. Here is a spot with Masak and The Bos together:

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