'Whodunnit?' premiere: 'Clue' meets 'The Haunted Mansion' and 'Lizzie McGuire'

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Image Credit: Eric McCandless/ABC

It was Mrs. Peacock with the slingshot by the fish tank.

Okay, so there is no Mrs. Peacock, but there is a butler named Giles with a fancy British accent and an impeccable ability to keep a straight face. The premiere of ABC’s Whodunnit? was as gloriously campy as one would expect with a murder-mystery reality TV show. For anyone who doesn’t know the show’s premise, it’s Clue, meets The Haunted Mansion, meets the Lizzie McGuire murder-mystery party episode.

Thirteen strangers move into Rue Manor prepared to compete for a $250,000 prize. “But what they don’t know is that the game is murder,” says Giles (Gildart Jackson). All of a sudden, they hear a crash and rush to the living room where contestant Sheri is “dead” on the floor. It’s now up to each contestant to put their detective skills to the test and determine which contestant amongst the group is the murderer. Each episode, contestants must individually deliver their best interpretations of what they believe happened and who they suspect as the killer. The contestant that impresses the murderer the least becomes the killer’s next victim, and the crime scene that sets the foundation for the following episode.

It’s still unclear whether the show actually makes any sense. Poor Sheri was the first to go simply for breaking a champagne glass. Apparently getting sloppy during the meet-and-greet was all it took to become the first victim and eliminate yourself before the competition even starts. And if the killer is among the 13 contestants, someone must have just picked the short straw to get that role and is screwed out of $250,000 right off the bat. Or, the killer is the butler, a possible, but disappointingly predictable twist.

The show also puts quite the spin on the traditional murder-mystery crime. Instead of the candlestick in the study, it’s a slingshotted pellet to the back of Sheri’s head, a bash of the skull on the fish tank, and a crude electrocution that is still pulsing through her corpse when the remaining 12 come running into the room. And poor Dontae comes sprinting out of the mansion at the end of the premiere, burning alive and dives into the pool where he meets his watery grave. Contestants are fully aware that the deaths are fake, yet we’ve already seen on-screen tears, and heard dramatic comments such as, “I’m scared for my life.”

Stocked with unintentional humor and hokey theatrics, the mystery solving in the show doesn’t seem to require much sleuthing ability. The clues and riddles connect in obvious ways, and the more successful contestants sort of fall into answers by being in the right place at the right time. Some take the classic reality TV not-here-to-make-friends approach, while others simply eavesdrop on conversations for information. The contestants are not particularly engaging or intuitive, and there isn’t much detective work left for the audience to play along, too.

Hopefully viewers can look past the slapstick horror dialogue and self-parodying pilot episode to give this one another chance. Maybe episode two will dial down the murder and turn up the mystery.


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