I’ve often heard it said that Murder, She Wrote tended to be set in Cabot Cove less often later on in the series, so I’ve decided to go through the first season episodes and look at their setting:
- The Murder of Sherlock Holmes — Cabot Cove (8 minutes), New York City (84 minutes)
- Deadly Lady — Cabot Cove
- Birds of a Feather — San Francisco
- Hooray for Homicide — Hollywood
- It’s a Dog’s Life — Someplace in the South (Virginia?)
- Lovers and Other Killers — Seattle
- Hit, Run, and Homicide — Cabot Cove
- We’re Off to Kill the Wizard — Chicago
- Death Take s a Curtain Call — Boston, Cabot Cove
- Death Casts a Spell — Lake Tahoe (California/Nevada)
- Capitol Offence — Washington DC
- Broadway Malady — New York City
- Murder to a Jazz Beat — New Orleans
- My Johnny Lives Over the Ocean — Cruise Ship
- Paint me a Murder — Private Island (someplace warm)
- Tough Guys Don’t Die — Cabot Cove for a few minutes, New York City
- Sudden Death — A University somewhere other than Cabot Cove
- Footnote to Murder — New York City
- Murder Takes the Bus — A bus & bus stop outside Cabot Cove
- Armed Response — Texas
- Murder at the Oasis — Somewhere near Las Vegas, I think?
- Funeral at Fifty-Mile — Wyoming
By my count that’s approximately two and three quarters episodes that were in Cabot Cove in the first season. That’s a mere 12.5% of the first season episodes. I suppose you could argue that Murder Takes the Bus is a Cabot Cove episode since it has Amos Tupper in it, but Tough Guys Don’t Die doesn’t have Amos (or anyone else from Cabot Cove), so that would still only bring us to about 3.5 episodes or 16%.
I don’t know if Cabot Cove episodes ever accounted for a majority of the episodes of any season. There are good reasons for that, since twenty two murders a year in Cabot Cove would be too ridiculous to keep up, even if it was mostly out-of-towners coming in to get murdered. I think that the perception of Murder, She Wrote starting out in Cabot Cove has more to do with Cabot Cove being so picturesque and the characters in it more vivid. They were more vivid in part because we saw them more than once, so they were actual characters rather than stereotypes for quick reference.
Why anyone has the impression that the Cabot Cove episodes had been more common and became less common, I’m not sure. It may be a confusion with the experiments that were done with having detectives other than Jessica (in, if I recall correctly, Seasons 7 through 9), when Jessica appeared in fewer episodes. It may also be the assumption that things tend to degrade over time, so it would be more natural for it to have gotten worse. It may even have been the perception that Murder, She Wrote became lower in quality towards the end of its run and a probable cause being assigned.
Whatever the reason for it, it’s interesting that Murder, She Wrote started off barely set in Cabot Cove.