Sunday, June 30, 2013

Whodunnit? Opens a New Door for the Genre

The new murder mystery reality competition, Whodunnit?, premiered last Sunday (6/23) on ABC.  This is not the mundane type of this genre that has become the norm in America.  They aren't battling for singing, talent, surviving on an island, or racing around the world.  Instead it is clearly a Clue inspired production where contestants must use their wits and their networking skills to determine how a murder was committed.  The game is played something like this: a group of people are invited to an extravagant mansion by an illusive billionaire, who is among them, complete with lavish rooms, fancy dinners and their own butler/host, Giles.  A player is killed in every episode and they must choose only one area to investigate; the crime scene, the morgue or the decedent's last known whereabouts.  Here they must look for clues as to how the murder was committed.  They then meet up together to discuss what they found, but watch out because this group of sleuths have already detected that their best chance of winning is misdirection.  They must rely only on what they have seen and decide which participants to trust from those whom investigated the other scenes.  Throughout the show the murderer, a contestant among them, continues to leak clues, puzzles and riddles through Giles.  After racing to decipher the remaining clues and holding as much back form other contestants as possible, they must all give a monologue of what they think happened and who the murderer is amongst them.  During an elegant, final supper the winner is revealed; it is the contestant who came closest to interpreting the clues and determining how the crime was committed.  Following this Giles narrates a well produced reenactment of how the murder actually took place which rivals many scenes from fiction-based television.  The remaining guests are all given cards dictating who is in the bottom two, one of which will be their murderer and gracious host's next target.  Then, when least expected another contestant is killed for all to see!  The great thing about this show is that it is produced!  The elaborate crime scenes are well done and dramatic, the host is an effective actor that fits his part to a T, rather than the Jeff Probst or Ryan Secrest like prompt readers, and one of the contestants is also an actor who must constantly run with the punches and fool not only the viewers but their fellow contestants. It is a show like no other.  I was on the fence at first, but after the premiere I was quite impressed and it will be the only completion series that I tune into!

In the premiere the contestants; Adrianna - TV Crime Reporter, Cris - Ex-Beauty Queen, Dana - Nurse, Don - retired LAPD, Dontae - Insurance Investigator, Geno - Bar Trivia Host, Kam - Homeland Security Attorney, Lindsey - Engineer, Melina - Flight Attendant, Ronnie - Bounty Hunter, Sasha - Journalist, Sheri - Ex-NFL Cheerleader, and Ulysses - Attorney, did their meet and greet, learning more about their fellows.  During the champagne introductions Sheri dropped her glass shattering it on the entry way floor; little did we know that this mistake would lead to her death.  Shortly after their guests were shown to their posh rooms, a loud crash erupted and everyone shuffled down to find Sheri dead in the exact place she had dropped her drink.  She lay in a small pool of blood and large pool of water from the aquarium that had caused the boisterous noise.  A frayed wire from a nearby lamp was also placed into the water, causing her body to be electrocuted every few seconds.  While the cast reacted with shock and awe, Giles ushered them into a nearby room to explain the circumstances and their next task.  They formed groups to examine the crime scene, the morgue (which is conveniently located in the basement of the mansion) and Sheri's bedroom.  Donte, Geno and Kam quickly formed an alliance and decided that they would separate and regroup later to share their findings.  The crime scene group noticed: that the a  into aquarium was broken from the front, implying that she fell forward onto it.  They also noticed a small pool of blood where her body had once laid bringing about suppositions that she was struck from behind.  The group at the morgue failed to find any electrical burns but did find a small musket-like pellet in the back of her cervical spine.  From this they hypothesized that she may have been shot, but remembered there was no gunshot heard.  The crime scene group was able to discover a message written in the bathroom mirror only visible through applying steam, as well as signs that the door had been pried open.  Adrianna noticed a piece of the chest had broken off and made a conjecture that the piece was the murder weapon.  While none of the group bought into her theory, it did seem a little suspicious, like she was trying to sell the group on a fake clue, possibly making her their insidious host.  The message said to meet at the fish tank for vital information. 

After the groups finished their investigations they meet by the pool for snacks and conversation.  While the morgue group decided to keep the musket ball find to themselves, they were shocked when Dontae revealed the information to his table.  Adrianna shifted from group to group as no one wanted her as part of their alliance.  With only the few clues discovered they had little to go off of until Giles appeared with a new message and a set of keys.  Their new task was to uncover what the key opened in the massive estate.  Right away they raced attempting to open anything in sight until a small group started to examine the key more closely.  They found an inscription reading 13:17 and it was Lindsey who went straight to the bible.  She searched Ezekiel for the correct verse that spoke of daughters and time.  Strangely, when questioned why she was looking in this particular bible chapter, Lindsey avoided the question and so they were off trying their keys on clocks and searching for any daughter references in the house.  Ronnie held back and was the only one to recognize that on the side opposite the verse was a drawing depicting two crowns.  Unfortunately he called out to the others rather that keeping the information to himself.  The group recognized that the crowns symbolized 2 Kings 13:17, not the verse in Ezekiel Lindsey had led them to.  It read: Then he said, open a window eastward and he opened it; Elisha said shoot and he shot.  Ronnie then noticed a window pane had been removed from an eastward facing wall and directly opposite it outside on the lawn was a large crate.  Again he drew attention to himself as he raced to the crate, followed by others, unlocked it and saw it's contents.  The contestants were quite pushy and didn't give Ronnie the appreciation he deserved for deciphering the clue.  In the crate there was a crowbar and a slingshot.  While many of the contestants saw the items, a few didn't and only found out through hearsay.  The others played the game and managed to keep the slingshot a secret. 

They all retired to their rooms to think about their version of how Sheri was killed, prepare for a fancy dinner and their fate.  Each member of the group gave their account of events and their accusations of who among them is the mastermind behind the game.  Cris, Dontae, Dana, Kam, and Geno were among the accused but Adrianna was the front runner.  Sherri won with the scenario closest to the truth while Don and Dontae's accounts were furthest from what really happened.  Giles narrated the fantastic recreation of events.  While Sheri went to her room to settle in, she began to shower in preparation for the events.  The killer pried into her room using the crowbar and wrote the message on the mirror in the shower steam.  After reading the message, Sheri rushed to the fish tank where she awaited the information she was promised.  The killer had removed the window pane, then from the garden used the slingshot and the mallet ball to pierce her spine.  Her body swung forward into the fish tank, cracking it.  As the fish tank prepared to shatter, the killer hid the slingshot and the crowbar in the garden crate.  The fish tank broke open and knowing this would happen, the perpetrator had stripped the lamp cord while leaving it plugged in and placed it near so the water would also electrocute her, ensuring her death.  It was a great scene!  

After dinner the guests were provided with top of the line pajamas and slippers and were off to bed.  In the middle of the night a fire alarm woke the contestants and Giles rushed them out of the house to the courtyard.  As they searched to make sure everyone was out of the house, especially Don and Dontae, as they were marked as the killer's next target, they noticed Dontae was missing.  Just then we see him running down the stairway, his back immersed in flames!  He ran onto the courtyard and into the pool where he floated lifeless and extinguished in a pile of ashes.  Another shocking and well produced scene we aren't used to seeing in a reality series.  In the next episode they will investigate how Dontae's murder was executed and even get to study him in the house morgue!

Whodunnit? is definitely a never before seen type of reality show.  With the produced scenes, the make-up recreations in the morgue, and the idea that one of the contestants is really an actor who plays their insidious host and "murderer".  It was entertaining, the viewer gets to investigate and draw their own conclusions from the clues, and like Survivor, contestants will have to form alliances to get all the information never knowing who they can really trust.  It changes the face of reality competitions in a good way and you should tune in to watch!  I think Lindsey is their host and killer, who do you think did it?

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