Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Forgotten TV: Whodunnit? (1979)

NBC experimented with a mystery/game show hybrid in the spring of 1979. Unfortunately, it might've been ahead of its time.

Whodunnit? was coupled with Highcliffe Manor on Thursday nights for about a month, as NBC was struggling to find hit series. Tonight Show announcer Ed McMahon served as host. McMahon was no stranger to game shows, having last MC'd Snap Judgment, a daytime game, in the 60's.

Unfortunately, complete episodes are hard to come by. We have just this sample clip, with guest star Eve Arden ("Grease") and panelists Barbara Feldon (ex-Get Smart) and Vincent Baggetta (The Eddie Capra Mysteries).

McMahon would recover from this failure and land another hosting gig, one that lasted for nearly a decade--Star Search.

Rating: C.


magicdog said...

Holy cow - one of OJ's Dream Team!

I DO remember this one - it was a "blink and you'll miss it" show. It had lots of promise and I agree it was a bit ahead of its time.

hobbyfan said...

Eve Arden's exaggerated emoting in the open represented a low point in her career. Like, couldn't the writers come up with something better?

Mike Doran said...

Better late ...

This was originally a British show, from Thames Television.
It ran for five series of between six to ten shows a season.
The first season was hosted by Edward Woodward, who was starring at the time in a cop show called Callan, a long-running hit in GB at that time.
Seasons two through five were hosted by Jon Pertwee, who'd just retired from Doctor Who; he was the Third Doctor (bushy white hair).
The celebrity panelists were mainly British TV stars: the most frequent guest was Patrick Mower, the star of another long-term Britcop hit, Special Branch.
Most of the others would be unknown to us in the States; two exceptions would be Yank visitors - Lindsay Wagner and George Savalas (in different shows; their respective US vehicles were hits in England).
Audience members were recruited to play along for modest prizes; the exact mechanics varied from season to season.

The American version was launched just as the British one was winding down.
Interestingly, this clip is from an unshown pilot.
In the six shows that aired on NBC, the weekly victims were (in order - I think) Jack Klugman, Erik Estrada, Loni Anderson, Mike Connors, Vic Tayback, and Audra Lindley.
If memory serves, F. Lee Bailey was in most if not all of the shows; Melvin Belli was in many as well.
American Whodunnit was a throwaway - six and out in the summer.

Recently I celebrated getting an all-region DVD player, by tracking down all five seasons of British Whodunnit on Region 2 discs; you can find many of these shows on YouTube (I think they've got their own channel).

hobbyfan said...

Thanks for the tip, Mike. I may just look into that down the road.