whodunnitI found myself watching another episode of an old show I’m not proud to admit to; Whodunnit.

As is often the case, I find myself thinking about TV on two or more different levels. I can enjoy a show for it’s plot, or acting, or other ideas. I often explain my multi-level thinking to others, as if I am my own DVD commentary. I think about the actors and the direction, and the background players and the scenery. This show confused me a bit, because it’s one of the rare shows on TV that is so bad, it’s watchable. It’s a campy mixture of reality TV, role playing in a murder mystery house party.

WHODUNNIT (ABC, 2013) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2699226/ 

I describe it as a home-style murder mystery party acted out each week, but the players are real people – not in any character. They play the role of detectives to try to figure out a crime.  Contestants of a reality show acting very poorly, trying to convince us the story is reality.  It’s an unusual mixture of reality and fiction, and real people find themselves “acting” to the death scenes they know are fake, but providing reactions as if it was real. It was that rare blend of watchable bad TV that made it entertaining on a few levels.

Each contestant must have been told the basics and were told to treat it as real. Like a bad movie or a house party plot, twelve random strangers gather together in a posh home, and presumably stay there for the duration of their “life” on the show. Each week, the loser of the solution competition is killed in some unusual way, and their murder is used as the plot for the following episode. The vote off is a common and easy to grasp formula for reality shows, but this was the first I know of where the contestants are treating the situation as if it was real.  They must fake shock and sadness when their competition are murdered, and they do it very poorly. The viewing audience isn’t treated to any additional information, so we can try to work out the solutions too.

A butler hosts, and I strongly suspect he will end up being the killer, not one of the guests.

While watching the current episode, it occurred to me that I was over thinking it. I’m sure each contestant was simply told to treat it as real. Much like we’re told to treat our own murder mystery parties. Once I accept the bad acting is real and sincere, but the rest of the game is more genuine, I can’t help but wonder why they are so dumb.  They don’t seem like dumb people, and I am hesitant to blame editing, because all the investigation the group does is solely narrated by the people. They know what I know, but wander around aimlessly drawing irrational conclusions. It’s very odd. They seem to ignore obvious clues with clear meanings. I’m not the kind of person that stands up and yells at the TV, but this show made me want to.

I think one of the reasons the show breaks from it’s half reality, half acting concept, and just seems bad, is because it’s also a content. We know the person who understands the clues, and is worst at crime solving will be the one that gets killed at the end of the episode.

If you were to ever find yourself really locked in a mansion with a killer, the group would probably be working together to save everyone. If you walk into a crime scene looking for clues, you share. On a TV show for cash, you act dumb, and share nothing. You covet the information for yourself, secretly hoping they kill off your competition. This explains why people don’t figure it out as quickly as we do as viewers, because we’re seeing it all, and they’re only seing pieces of the puzzle. People are not being helpful. In a twisted way, you want to be the last one standing. You win if you’re the murderer at the end of week 12.

It all makes sense now. I can continue to watch.