Tonight, ABC debuted the premiere episode of a brand new reality competition series called 'Whodunnit?' So what did we think?
'Whodunnit?' comes from Anthony E. Zuiker, the creator of 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation' and producer of each incarnation, including 'CSI: Miami' and 'CSI: New York.' Zuiker has become a very successful and wealthy man thanks to murder mysteries and strange, elaborate answers to the questions that any murder scene poses. Zuiker is counting on our boundless and voracious appetite for a good mystery to bring him another hit series, as 'Whodunnit?' comes straight out of a Dame Agatha Christie mystery novel.
The show centers on thirteen strangers who have been invited to stay in a beautiful mansion and play a game... with the winner receiving $250,000. They know that it is a mystery game, but as our host and narrator explains, they don't yet know that the game is murder. Our host is Giles, the butler of the estate, who is in direct communication with the killer--through notes, no face-to-face discussion. One of the thirteen guests is the killer and that player is in on the game all along--but even we, the viewers, have no idea who the killer is. Giles is played by Gildart Jackson, a British actor from such series as 'General Hospital' and 'Charmed.' Jackson brings an eerie look and creepy calmness to his role, helping to give 'Whodunnit?' a feeling of authenticity that makes the show that much more fun.
Part 'Clue,' part 'Murder on the Orient Express,' and part 'Survivor,' 'Whodunnit?' murders contestants instead of voting them off when they lose--leaving a 'CSI'-style crime scene behind for the survivors to explore. The concept of killing each losing player, thus narrowing down the choices of who the killer could be, is a very smart one. Instead of just watching each bad player take a walk of shame at the end of their tenure on the show, we're treated to a grisly, gruesome death for the remaining players to examine.
And this is where the genius of pairing 'CSI' and a reality competition comes in: the contestants must select if they wish to examine the crime scene, the corpse in the morgue, or the victim's last known location--they can only pick one. This unequal distribution of information gives 'Whodunnit?' its 'Clue'-like feel, where contestants selectively reveal which clues to share with those from other areas and teams are formed. You need to reveal enough to be deemed trustworthy but also retain enough to give yourself an edge... all the while attempting to figure out if the person you're talking to has been the killer all along. It's a great concept that played out very well over the course of the first episode.
After examining their selected scenes, the contestants were lead on a challenge by way of a riddle from the killer: each person was given a key with the numbers 1317 and two crowns engraved on each. Would it open something in the mansion? Do the crowns mean something? A series of clues and red herrings were offered up in the first episode making me wonder what's coming next. What more could you want from a premiere?
Overall, 'Whodunnit?' debuted with a very strong episode based on a brilliant premise. If you don't enjoy reality competition shows, I wouldn't recommend it... but if you like reality shows and are looking for a twist on a tried-and-true premise, 'Whodunnit?' could be exactly what you need to get your blood pumping.
The list of contestants at the beginning of the show, from the ‘Whodunnit?’ website:
Adrianna, 40, an on-air crime reporter from Oklahoma City, OK
Cris, 27, a business manager from Costa Mesa, CA
Dana, 39, a cardiac registered nurse from Asheville, NC
Don, 62, a P.I./former homicide detective from Santa Clarita, CA
Dontae, 27, a marine insurance investigator from Long Beach, CA
Geno, 33, a quiz master at bar trivia from Chicago, IL
Kam, 30, an attorney for the Department of Homeland Security from New York, NY
Lindsey, 27, a senior engineer from Boston, MA
Melina, 29, a flight attendant from Chicago, IL
Ronnie, 42, a private detective/bounty hunter from Kenilworth, NJ
Sasha, 28, a journalist from Washington, DC
Sheri, 28, a bartender and former NFL cheerleader from Los Angeles, CA
Ulysses, 30, an attorney from Mechanicsburg, PA
Now I won't give anything away, but the series premiere of 'Whodunnit?' began with a murder and ended with a murder. That's right, out of the thirteen contestants listed above, we've got a mere eleven remaining after the first hour. One of those eleven contestants is the killer--I know that I have my guess. What's yours?