Review: ABC’s “Whodunnit?” Good, Bloody Fun
No network loves crime-based game shows more than ABC. We’ve had BuzzerBlog-favorites The Mole (twice ) andTake The Money and Run. ABC is jumping back onto this train with its new game Whodunnit?. The series, which debuts Sunday, June 23rd, at 9:00PM ET, takes some of The Mole, mixes in some CSI-style investigations, and adds a massive layer of story telling. I’ve read some fears from other critics wondering if Whodunnit? would be more like The Mole from the early 2000s or late 2000s. You’ll be happy to know it’s more along the lines of the classic series. It’s fun, suspenseful, the play-along elements are shockingly huge, and it leaves you guessing at every turn.
Thirteen contestants/guests play the game from Rue Manor. One of them is the killer. The host Butler Giles, played by actor Gildart Jackson, leads the contestants through all the events and goings-on of the game. Each episode sees a different “murder” happen. Contestants can choose to enter one of several rooms which give them clues as to how it’s done. Throughout the show more information will be revealed, puzzles will be presented, and contestants can share information, though they don’t have to be truthful.
At the end of the day each guest will make a private accusation as to how the murder was done. At the evening’s dinner each will receive an envelope. Those who did the best will be marked “Spared” and go through. Those who did the worst will be marked “Scared,” and are up for elimination. You don’t know how many could be marked. That night, as everyone is sleeping, the killer will “murder” (or eliminate) one of the marked guests. That person is out of the game, and that murder will be the basis for next episode. The eventual winner will receive $250,000.
The most obvious thing anyone will notice is how much detail they put into the story and scenery of Whodunnit?. On shows like The Mole or Take The Money and Run, especially the latter, while you were thrust into the world of solving crimes, it was clear you’re playing a game and they made that evident as often as they could. Here, they play this without even a wink to the camera. The contestants passingly mention at first about how it’s fake. At first even I thought they were laying it on a bit thick. After about ten or 15 minutes, though, the immersion works. You fall into the story head first and stay in there. Looking back, if they didn’t play it up as seriously as they did, the show would seem ridiculous. Some may not enjoy how deep they make this seem, but I think most will appreciate it.
The special effects are equally spectacular. While it’s not as gory as, say, CSI or The Following, there’s quite a bit of blood and bodily harm going on. The first alone sees someone with glass stuck in that person’s face, what looks to be a bullet in the back of their neck, electrocution, and being caught on fire. The team does everything they can to make it look real which, while obviously a necessity for the game to be valid, puts you into this world even easier.
Speaking of the game, this format does something I wasn’t expecting. I knew we would have a Mole-like element of trying to figure out who it
is. That season-long arch is here, as you try to figure out the killer. However, each episode presents a new murder that the players and home audience have to solve. If you’ve ever watched a crime show like Law and Order or CSI you’ve, no doubt, sat there trying to figure out how it was done. The same goes here. You’re presented with all the clues. You know as much as the guests do. You’ll be sitting and guessing how the murder was done all show. Even after that segment is done we move on to game two, where you try to figure out the murderer. It adds a second level to the often-tried-deception game and it makes each episode seem more complete.
Before we get people complaining about the coverage we’re giving the show, this is just a reminder that this is a game show to the core and a great one at that. A group of contestants play a weekly game, solving puzzles, trying to win $250,000. It doesn’t get any more game show-y than that. And I think you’ll all enjoy it. They went all out to make Whodunnit? an unscripted murder mystery, and their efforts suck you in quickly. The cast is great, the contestants are likable, the game is fun to play along with, and it’s an exciting, suspenseful way to spend an hour each week. You can’t ask for more than that in a game show.
ABC’s Whodunnit? debuts Sunday, June 23rd, at 9:00PM ET. Photos courtesy ABC.
Edit: Corrected a typo.