Going into “Whodunnit?” this summer, we were hoping for just a reasonable slice of summer entertainment, at least something that was a major step up from ABC’s other reality experiments like “Expedition Impossible” or “The Glass House.”
What we ended up having was probably the network’s most-entertaining game of strategy since “The Mole”: Groups of players basically living out a murder-mystery game week to week, with a little bit of role-playing thrown in there and a host in Giles the Butler who we seriously want to see nominated and at the Emmy Awards next year in full character. (Granted, it may not be a good idea since death tends to follow him everywhere.) It is a thoroughly-entertaining show with creativity, and thanks to the right cast and some shrewd production twists and turns, it turned out to be even more fun that we first imagined.
But is a season 2 guaranteed? Hardly. The ratings have not exactly been killer (Giles-like pun intended), but they have at least been fairly consistent. Despite airing at a time up against “True Blood,” “Dexter,” and this past Sunday “Breaking Bad,” the show built up its viewership somewhat for its best numbers since the premiere. If this was the fall season, the show would have no chance, but this is summer, and everyone who watched the show seemed to genuinely like it. Nobody wants to get into a show like this mid-watch, but if it gets recommended to their friends over the year and they in turn check it out (which could work if they avoid spoilers), we don’t see why there would not be more viewers next year, when people better know what they’re getting into.
There would be challenges for a season 2, given that Giles would look pretty naive for getting himself in a hostage situation again, and creator Anthony Zuiker would have to work with his team on some new ways to murder people. But, there are also benefits: You could change up Rue Manor a little bit, think outside the box, and build the murders more around what you saw this time. You’ve seen the game play out, and you can now take advantage of what worked (the crime scenes, the riddles, the hilariously awful puns), and minimize what didn’t (the killer’s poetry skills during riddles, keeping things a tad too repetitive at times).
Our point here is that ABC does not really have much to lose here. “The Bachelorette” numbers are down, they don’t have much reality fare in the summer, and this show can’t be expensive compared to most of their other scripted far. So why not give this another try? This is more of the cable model, and if it doesn’t improve the second season in the numbers, then you know that it’s probably maxed out. Is it a little bit of a mystery? Sure, but if the network hated such a thing, they would have never sent these people into Rue Manor in the first place.