‘Whodunnit’ Series Premiere Review – Dead on Arrival

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whodunnit abc ‘Whodunnit’ Series Premiere Review – Dead on Arrival

Each year, summer television brings a mixed-bag of new reality/competition shows, most of which don’t make it past a first season. ABC’s Whodunnit, created by CSI mastermind Anthony E. Zuiker, will be lucky if it makes it to the end of its 10-episode run. And if it does, it’s not because it deserves to.

Whodunnit is, essentially, a professionally-recorded and edited video of someone’s extravagant murder mystery party. If you’ve ever been to one – or are even somewhat knowledgeable about it all entails – you know what to expect, and Zuiker’s version – which in no way makes use of his experience as a storyteller – does little to show what a murder mystery could actually be with a sizable budget.

Like [insert your favorite canceled ABC reality show that felt “out of place” – The Mole, The Benefactor, etc.], Whodunnit brings together a group of people to compete against each other for a sum of money – this time it’s $250,000 – which will be given to the one who can correctly identify the “killer” in the group. The set dressing is different, and there’s a “murderous” element added, but Whodunnit still falls in the same vein as the aforementioned failures, as the competition-driven element which helps fuels audience excitement for most competitions shows is, instead, combined with a nonsensical narrative  - and worse, poor acting.

whodunnit abc02 ‘Whodunnit’ Series Premiere Review – Dead on Arrival

The show is (barely) hosted by General Hospital alum Gildart Jackson, who plays Giles, the “creepy” butler. Jackson nails the cliche, two-dimensional role he’s been given and, ideally, he’d be the only one who would be allowed to act in the show. Unfortunately, he isn’t. Instead, the collected group of contestants – which includes a former homicide detective, an insurance investigator, a crime reporter and an ex-NFL cheerleader, among others – are asked – or will be asked – to perform when it’s their time to be murdered. Sadly, it’s Sheri, the ex-NFL cheerleader, who is “chosen” to be the first victim after “dropping” a champagne flute on the floor.

Whether or not Sheri’s death was planned before the show began still remains to be seen, but the manner in which she attempted to play off dropping the glass on the floor is laughable and, more importantly, reveals the caliber of acting – or lack thereof – Zuiker is comfortable presenting to audiences upfront. But poor acting is what makes murder mysteries fun, right? Sure – but only when you’re actually participating in it, not just watching it.

What comes next is a confusing and overly complicated investigation of what’s occurred. Each contestant is allowed to select where they’d like to begin looking for clues – the crime scene, the last-known whereabouts or the morgue – and each setting reveals information about what may have happened, which the contestants can then share with the others, if they so choose. Special effects make-up and cheap props are used to help sell the idea that someone’s been murdered, and each contestant is allowed to follow their own path in an attempt to figure out how the person was killed.

whodunnit abc dinner ‘Whodunnit’ Series Premiere Review – Dead on Arrival

The investigation is more like an Easter egg hunt than anything nearing reality, and the clues provided are as unimaginative and simple as the series itself. After some time has passed, each contestant is then asked to go into an empty room and explain what they believe happened. Then, at a communal dinner, the two who got most of the details incorrect are given “scared” cards by the killer, while the rest given “spared” cards, meaning that they’re safe from death. As the end show ends, one of the contestants who received a “scared” ends up dead, thus starting entire process over again. This will happen again and again for the next 10 weeks.

It’s clear throughout the show that the contestants participating in Whodunnit are having more fun than anyone will by simply watching it – and good for them for being able to have such an experience. Unfortunately, Whodunnit the show relies too heavily on editing in an attempt to make its poor mysteries work, and its inexperienced cast of contestants aren’t skilled enough to help drive intrigue throughout.

Jackson’s “Giles” could have been given a larger, more host role, and the show would be better off if he had. But that’s not what producers wanted, apparently. That said, the one positive aspect of Whodunnit is, unlike normal parties that aren’t all that interesting, you won’t need to figure out how to silently slip away for fear of insulting your host; a click of the remote is all you need to make your exit.

airs Sundays @9pm on ABC

Follow Anthony Ocasio on Twitter @anthonyocasio
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  1. Another reality TV series that just felt like it was scripted with bad acting. Can’t these shows just go away

    • So, you’re saying that the contestants are given scripts to read.. You must be kidding me. OF COURSE they’re acting sucks because they’re not acting. This is how they react to something in REALITY. The stuff you see on Jersey Shore and whatever is scripted reality, but I highly doubt they give scripts to the contestants on this show. It’s sounds fake to you because it’s not acting!!!!!!

  2. I wish the show “The Mole” was still on tv.

    • The Mole was one of my personal favorites.

    • Well, this *is* pretty much The Mole… minus all the interesting stuff. No, I do feel bad about lumping The Mole in with this show, but The Mole didn’t really have anyone trying to better the show’s premise – they just tried to make it work, no matter what, and when it didn’t, they tossed celebrities in it.

      Whenever you see celebrities tossed in a premise for a non-scripted show, it’s because it really wouldn’t without celebrities, or wouldn’t be as appealing – or they’re going for a bump in ad money (as well as free promotion). Without a solid foundation, there are only so many TV “tricks” that a show can use before its flaws overtake them.

  3. I actually liked it. The Special Effects were excellent!

    • I agree! I think that this is a great show :) I’m enjoying it!

  4. This show was terrible

    • I have really enjoyed this show. I don’t think you should judge the show by one episode. I don’t know what else they could do to be better at acting in the show.

  5. I thought it was pretty good. who cares if the acting isnt good. Its reality tv. Go watch csi if you want to have good acting or watch an actual drama murder mystery show. not a game show.

    • How many show did you watch for you to think that its not good!

  6. There was already a show with this premise. It was called Murder in Small Town X.

    • As if there’s never been two shows with the same premise before this. What’s shocking is that there haven’t been more than that.

  7. This show seems like it’s like an internship for hollywood. “Let’s get paid to have a testing ground for actors, cgi, and make up crews…. how can we accomplish that?!”

    I was HOPING this game would play out like the card game “Mafia” but it’s garbage. Giles is the killer… or there will be a retarded twist that doesn’t make sense (much like the show).

    • The abc website already established that Giles is NOT the killer and that it is in fact, a guest.

      • Giles isn’t the killer fool. The show is good because everyone is gonna e tricked and surprised when the killer is revealed and retarder is not the right way to express your opinions. It’s rude

  8. It’s ok for me. I don’t mind these type of shows, but if you’re looking for more a beginning and a ending with real acting, then reality tv shows aren’t for you. I actually prefer real people over actors. They can be just as great or crazy of a person to watch.

    • REALITY… reality. They’re not acting at all. The “dead” people are, but you think there’s a script to where each actor has to say “oh god!”. If there was a script, they wouldn’t let Gino say he was happy to see someone dead just for the money.

      • I don’t understand your rebuttal comment about mine. Are you disputing reality shows? If so, it has nothing to do with what I said. Of course there’s no scripts written for reality shows. They are their own script. Some people believe they are scripted. I do believe when talking to the camera man, they edit it.

  9. I agree with everything everyone’s said about the bad acting, but on top of that, these “mysteries” are so ridiculously simple that my sister and I had them both completely solved within minutes… we’ve watched the first two episodes so far and both times, before the group even started to investigate, we already knew exactly what happened. If it was a little harder to figure out, it might’ve made up for the bad acting a little bit… but I gotta confess, it kinda made us feel a little bit like Sherlock and Mycroft… X-)

    • Sure you did.

    • Do you even watch the show? Because there’s no way you could “solve” the mysteries “completely” (or otherwise) within minutes. Impossible. Unless you’ve got an “alliance” and someone is feeding you insider info you couldn’t possibly know what happened before they even started to investigate. Also, it’s a reality show, I’d love to know what “acting” you’re referring to, Sherlock. NOT! :-P

    • Thats because you saw the whole thing happen, parts of the initial crime, you got to see the morgue, scene of crime, and the past places. The contestants rely on what they hear from others. Plus they can’t tell if each of them are truthful. So, let’s drop you into that situation and see how you fare given that you solved it in minutes.

  10. This show is awesome. I don’t know about you guys, but there’s no acting whatsoever. Of course I question some of the decisions, but this reality show is unscripted besides the deaths. The clues are out there because people frankly are not smart enough and you can’t cram it all in 45 minutes. Props to the prop department. Butlers are supposed to be one sided, and the contestants are pretty much unscripted.

  11. This is my new fav show! Forget the haters! I can’t watch CSI bc of my anxiety. So this is perfect for me. :-D

    • I agree! I loooooooooove this show! I crave it! What “acting” i everyoe referring to that’s so bad? When the victim acts out their death? Ok; perhaps; who cares?! What’s excellent is the emotions you see on the contestants once they are exposed to the new crime and victim. That’s real. I’m scared!

  12. I like this show , similar to mole, whos the killer?

  13. I severely disagree. I have been keeping up to date with this show since the begging and I find it quite entertaining. You think the audience isn’t having fun watching?? We are, and trying to figure out what’s happening includes us in the process. I’m actually amazed at how real these deaths actually look. I love this show and I hope it returns with more seasons.

    • omg thank you you are so correct this show is the best in years and I cant stop thinking about it or leave the couch when it is on thank you for realizing true great television and not agreeing with that stupid critic

  14. Honestly, I love this show. Who cares if there may be some bad acting? Its fun to watch and that is the point of entertainment. The plot is interesting and the murders get more complicated. So excuse the American public for wanting to take their minds off something for some quality and classic television.

  15. One major problem with the show is that it doesn’t matter how good you are as one of the players, you can be screwed by someone deliberately feeding you the wrong information. By only allowing each contestant to attend one of the crime scene, last known whereabouts or morgue, the show is setting up people to fail as a result of the duplicity of other contestants. It essentially rewards underhand behaviour. Not sure I want to see an a-hole win $250,000, as opposed to someone who could win if they could gather all their own evidence and rely on their own smarts. Sure, I understand that the team strategy thing is good television, in that it creates conflict between the players. I just don’t know that that produces a “deserving” winner.

  16. I love this show. Bad acting? I don’t know what you mean about that… I guess they act bad when they get killed because they aren’t actors. I’d be pissed if I was the one to get the message that I had to act like I was getting killed, because that would mean I wouldn’t get to win.

  17. This show makes no sense. It’s boring and over done at the same time. It would be awesome if it wasn’t a reality show. A well-scripted show that let the audience figure out who the killer was would be awesome.

  18. I like this show I’m mean you watch and its exciting .. who’s the killer it’d great!

  19. This is one of the Best TV Shows I have ever watched! And Their not acting your right but if you were in that house you wouldn’t read a script would you ? If you would.. Wow. Their reacting like its real and to me it makes for Great TV so please stop being so negative.

  20. I think this show is a whole hell of a lot better than other reality based shows like Bachelor or Bachelorette.Maybe they could combine these shows & make them better! Instead of giving them a rose or how ever its decided who stays.The next episode which man or woman is still alive are still in the Gold Digger Running!The 3rd or 4th episode could be used as a way to make Reality game show Survivor better! The episode were former Detective/Football Coach so he told other contestants got killed by a couger or mountain Lion. Do away with Americas Got Talent & American Idol, Voice Hell Kitchen there are by far to many Reality Shows. It kills me how many supposed Reality TV shows there are on TV now a days when they is not one bit of reality on them. Everything on these shows are sum what scripted for participants safety! Its so bad NBC is made a TV show making fun of Reality Game Shows called Siberia & its more interesting than real reality shows.

  21. Are you kidding me?! Whodunnit it such an intriguing NON-SCRIPTED show. Those people are NOT acting and to play out the murder right in front of them just amazes me!!! The special affects are excellent and the murders just get more and more interesting. I have NEVER seen such a good reality show. It just burns me up that someone would make a judgment like that after, what? Two episodes?! Those pictures are only from the second episode!!! I agree that after seeing these more recent episodes, the first few we’re kind of boring but, please, I cannot be pulled away from that TV screen when that show is on. So to whoever wrote that up there, you’re just a person who has no respect of good television.

    • omg thank you you are so correct this show is the best in years and I cant stop thinking about it or leave the couch when it is on thank you for realizing true great television and not agreeing with that stupid critic

    • omg thank you you are so correct this show is the best in years and I cant stop thinking about it or leave the couch when it is on thank you for realizing true great television and not agreeing with that stupid critic thank you

  22. whoever wrote this review should be fired and not the cancellation show, his show is a great show and I love it, it is in no way what so ever a reality tv show sure there is acting but the only acting involved is during the death scenes this show is the only one in years that i believe should continue for many seasons to come it is very interesting and keeps my attention unlike other poitless shows that exist the props are in no way cheap and the make up is excellent! I look forward to this show all week so if there is going to be criticism of the show get a real job first instead of being a critic and open ur eyes to the amazing series that is whodunnit

  23. I LOVE this show. It is in no way fake except for the deaths. My entire family from my 38 yr old mom to my 9 yr old brother are excited every time this show comes on. I love the pressure, the excitement, the horror, the backstabbing… This an amazing show on T.V. and I, for one, can’t wait to find out who is in fact the killer! Though I do have my suspicions… ;)

    • i agree with u!!!!!! my whole family luvs whodunnit!!!!

  24. really????? the acting isnt bad!!! they actually look like they’re dying!!!!!!! and the show is one of the best show’s abc has ever had!!! how can u say it’s bad??????

  25. 1. whodunnit has real people not actors.
    2. this show is fricken awesome.
    3.if you want to express the love you never had as a child then you should talk to a therapist instead of hating on an awesome,riveting,REAL game show like nobodys ever seen!!!!

  26. I don’t know what to make of this show. On one hand, I watched every episode, intrigued about who was going to die and how. The puzzles were okay and overall, I enjoyed it. On the other hand there were too many things that the show asked the audience to forgive. Basically the show really tries to sell this idea that the killer is calling all the shots and the killer is watching everyone’s moves, etc. But, fact is, it wouldn’t be possible for the killer to realistically pull off half of the murders, have the time to instruct Giles, while at the same time be one of the contestants in the show. It just felt too contrived and staged. One quick example, the scare/spare cards at dinner. At what time during the day did the killer actually watch ALL of the people’s deliberations and then instruct Giles to hand out the cards. It was stuff like that made me realize that the producers of the show were pulling all the strings, not the killer.

    I think if there is a season 2, The writers need to start from scratch, abandon the whole “contest” feel and come up with true murder mystery show that’s believable, chilling and suspenseful.

  27. Well obviously it is fake, do you really believe that they would let someone kill people on tv? It is much like a real version of clue. I LOVE this show and I look forward to when it airs again.

  28. While I have to admit I did enjoy the show, I don’t think all of the contestants are regular people and unless it’s heavily edited, the conversations they had just don’t sound natural at all. They also don’t seem to have the usual reality show bashing of eachother or sharing of personal stories… which is cool and refresshing, but the conversations and reactions just didn’t come across as realistic. I’m not convinced that they aren’t all actors.

  29. I think Whodunit totally deserves another season!!!! I love the show. It was totally believable! The acting was fine. I liked how the killer threatened us and said that she would get us! Maybe in the next season they will have trained monkeys just like Ronnie said when he didn’t have enough information on a crime! If they used a mountain lion any things possible!! Giles totally was awesome! He is so loyal to the manor and would to anything to protect his guests. Even tranquilze a mountain lion!!! All and all I think Whodunit is a great show and should totally continue with a second season!!

    • I just got done watching the final episode of whodunnit season 1 and its AWESONE!!!! Hope theres a season 2 ;)