This show was created at the instigation of Herb Schmertz, head of corporate communications for Mobil Corporation. He suggested the concept of a series of British mysteries to Henry Becton, General Manager of Boston PBS station WGBH in 1979. Mobile had been the sole underwriter for Masterpiece Classic (1971) since 1971, and was looking to put more money into PBS programming.

Starting with the 2008 season, "Mystery!" ended as a separate program and was combined with "Masterpiece Theater", under the banner of "Masterpiece Mystery".

Artwork by Edward Gorey.