A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Whodunnit? is a unique reality game show in which guests attempt to solve a series of staged murders. Viewers see graphic staged deaths onscreen, including self-immolation, stabbings, shootings, electrocution, along with bloody wounds, bones protruding from the skin, bullets being dug from a "dead" body with a wet, sucking sound. Even more disturbing are the moments when the violence has a sexual edge, as when one victim is watched by a menacing stranger who later "kills" her. Every week, one contestant is fake murdered, and we see the supposed dead bodies of people we've grown to known and sympathize with. Tension is amped up with dramatic music and alarming camera angles; it may all prove traumatic to younger viewers, though perhaps fun for older teens and adults.
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What's the story?
Created by the minds who brought you the CSI franchise, WHODUNNIT? blends together a murder mystery and a reality show, with 13 contestants gathered together at creepy Rue Manor to find out who keeps bumping them off. Each week, one or more contestants will meet their untimely ends, while the remaining players try to work out who did the deed. A murder begins each episode; contestants are then allowed to examine either the scene of the crime, the victim's last known whereabouts, or the victim's body in the morgue. Afterwards, they repair to discuss the case -- or to craftily withhold information from each other, which they may or may not reveal in solo behind-the-scenes interviews. Next, contestants tell creepy butler Giles how they think the crime occurred, and who the murderer was. If they're correct or close, they're allowed to proceed to the next week's murder. If they're too far off, they may become the next to die. The last person standing wins $250,000.
Is it any good?
There's a reason the board game Clue has been sold and played for decades (and is a cult favorite film and TV show): It's fun to try to figure out Whodunnit. That gives Whodunnit? a fun little spark lacking from other reality outings. All of the contestants have connections to crime or to sleuthing (one's a journalist, one's an insurance investigator, and so on), so it's fun to watch them busily gathering clues and making deductions in classic Miss Marple fashion.
What's not as fun: The ludicrously exaggerated sense of danger. C'mon, we know these people aren't really dying; stop with the scenes of contestants exclaiming "I'm terrified I'll be next!" Terrified, really? When the only real danger is not winning $250,000? In addition, the gore is a bit surprisingly over-the-top for a television outing, which isn't strictly necessary. Whodunnit? would be better leaning on suspense than gore. We could also do without the tired manufactured tension between contestants, where every offhand comment is dissected in behind the scenes interviews. Ugh, we don't care what Adrianna said about Sasha, let's get back to the mystery.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why it's interesting and/or enjoyable to watch regular people being menaced, hurt, or killed. Why are there so many crime shows on television? What's so interesting about crime and murder?
Watch a show that takes a fictionalized approach to murders, such as Harper's Island. Are the camera angles, dialogue, settings, and other aspects of the production similar to Whodunnit? Or different?
Murder mysteries in which one victim after another die are often called "stalk-and-slash" shows. What does this mean? Why is this a television trope?
For kids who love drama
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