Whodunnit? – Series One

I’ve recently been revisiting the first series of Whodunnit? The pilot, with Shaw Taylor in the host’s chair, aired in 1972 and there was a full series the following summer (this time with Edward Woodward as mine host).

Woodward might have been a fine actor but he was endearingly out of his depth here (think of Charlie Williams hosting The Golden Shot or Max Bygraves’ stint on Family Fortunes and you’ll get the general idea).  It’s not a total car crash as he does manage to get through each show without too many mishaps (apart from the classic moment when he bumps into the furniture and hops about in agony for several seconds) but Whodunnit? is not his finest hour.

There’s something of a stilted air about many of these early shows – partly because some of actors playing the suspects didn’t appear to be too comfortable improvising during their questioning by the panel but also because some of the panelists were rather dour types.

There were exceptions though. Jon Pertwee was irreverent throughout Knife In The Back (clearly he was eying Woodward’s job and imagining that, post Doctor Who, it would suit him quite nicely). Alfred Marks was another panelist whose tongue remained firmly in his cheek throughout.

Kevin Stoney was good value on the suspect front during the final show – Happy New Year – and indeed a number of his colleagues also joined in the fun in an episode which suggests the way the series will develop.

As for the mysteries, some (Missing on Voyage) were obvious whilst others were more of a lottery. Sometimes the clues made little sense to me (although it may be that I was watching too late at night and my senses weren’t at their sharpest). I found it irksome that Woodward forgot to mention any of the clues on one of episodes (presumably he accidentally skipped over that part, and it was decided that a retake wasn’t worthwhile) and he would have done the same at the end of Knife In the Back had Pertwee not prompted him.

So, this early run is a real curate’s egg. Enjoyable enough, especially for the familiar faces turning up as suspects and on the panel, but some of the playlets are a little underwhelming (Jeremy Lloyd and Lance Percival, creators and writers, weren’t going to give Agatha Christie any sleepless nights).

Whodunnit? – Series Five – Forthcoming from Network

who 5

After something of a gap (mainly due to Network negotiating a new ten year licencing deal with ITV Studios) it’s pleasing to see a number of archive television titles are listed as forthcoming on their website.

Whodunnit? – Series Five is particularly welcome – it’s a lovely slice of 1970’s nostalgia with many familiar faces (both on the panels and featured in the playlets).  After a somewhat shaky start (I love Edward Woodward but he was never best suited to the role of panel-game host – see series one for evidence of this) the programme was firmly in the groove by this time, helped no end by Jon Pertwee.  As ever with Network, there’s always the possibility that release dates will slip, but at present it’s scheduled for release at the end of April 2015.

Doctor Who star Jon Pertwee is your host in this highly popular, light-hearted panel game which invites viewers to play detective – pitting their wits against a panel of celebrity sleuths to solve a fictitious murder mystery.

Devised by comedians Jeremy Lloyd and Lance Percival, the show’s brilliantly original formula presents short dramas laden with clues – and a few red herrings – to be pieced together by the panellists who, having grilled the suspects, point the accusing finger at the likely felon…

A star-studded guest panel for this volume includes Prunella Scales, Connie Booth, Liza Goddard, Terry Wogan, Dinah Sheridan, Patrick Mower and Jimmy Jewel; Françoise Pascal, Kate O’Mara, Josephine Tewson and Denis Lill feature among the casts.