Sunday, June 23, 2013

ABC's "Whodunnit?" ridiculous, but fun

You know those people in the '90s who totally got into those "How to Host a Mystery" dinner games? They're the contestants on ABC's new reality competition show "Whodunnit?" which premieres tonight.

The show, from "CSI" creator Anthony Zuiker, is essentially a mix of those games with a dash of "Clue." It's hammy and campy, and more staged than most reality shows. But it's also surprisingly fun.

Thirteen people arrive at a mansion called Rue Manor knowing only that they're there to play a game for a chance to win $250,000. Little do they know that the game is -- BUM Bum bummm -- murder! Not long after their arrival, one of their group "dies," and their job is to piece together a string of clues to solve the murder. He who doesn't will meet his own demise, and fuel the investigation in the next episode. Throughout, the contestants are ushered along by their host, a slow-talking, twinkle-eyed, uber-dramatic butler named Giles, played by British actor Gildart Jackson. (Fun fact! He's married to "The Office's" Melora Hardin.)

The contestants seem a little too into it -- they act like their lives literally depend on staying in the game -- but then again, who wouldn't be excited to put those years of watching "CSI" to use? In fact, we get a lot more information than the contestants do, because they get to choose just one of three areas to investigate and hope their peers will share the rest. When some of them are left in the dark, it makes for an entertaining "Murder, She Wrote" moment where people lay out their theories for their mysterious killer -- and some of them are way, way off base.

Should you watch "Whodunnit?" Absolutely. Accept the ridiculousness and play along. It's the perfect light summer fare.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Belated thoughts on the Game of Thrones finale

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister. (Helen Sloan/HBO)
Still riding the emotional wave of the Red Wedding, I went into the "Game of Thrones" season finale with a fair amount of anxiety. I came out of it feeling not much of anything -- not even a burning eagerness for season 4. Part of the reason is that the finale had no hope of matching the visceral impact of "The Rains of Castamere." And part of it is that two of the stories the show wants us to anticipate most -- Theon's and Stannis' -- have been the season's most troublesome.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Game of Thrones review: The Rains of Castamere

Richard Madden and Michelle Fairley as Robb and Catelyn Stark. (Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO)

If there's one thing we should already know about George R.R. Martin's world, it's that anyone can be killed. But that doesn't make last night's events any less shocking.

The final 15 minutes -- like the massacre itself -- was masterfully executed. All was well. Catelyn's brother got a beautiful bride. Walder Frey seemed satisfied. Catelyn and Robb were in good graces again. Robb and Talisa were imagining their future with baby Ned.

As Catelyn watched her brother and his bride get carried off for the bedding ceremony, she reminisced about her own wedding night with Ned, who refused the same ceremony because he didn't want to mar their special day by punching someone in the face. That story was greeted with, in retrospect, a tell-tale smirk from Roose Bolton, who no doubt was thinking, "How quaint." Because then came the solitary guard to close the hall's massive doors, and bit by maddeningly suspenseful bit, the pieces of the ambush fell into place until it was too late to be stopped.