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.

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