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Series / Cluedo

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Cluedo was a TV gameshow made by Granada for ITV and broadcast from 1990 until 1993. It was based on the board game Cluedo and produced in association with the game's owner Waddingtons Games and Action Time. It bore some resemblance to an earlier ITV gameshow, Whodunnit? (UK), in that each edition featured a short murder mystery, with teams of studio guests giving the task of finding the killer. In Cluedo the six possible murderers were the six characters from the board game - Mrs Elizabeth Peacock, Miss Vivienne Scarlett, Mrs Blanche White, Colonel Mike Mustard, Reverend Jonathan Green and Professor Peter Plum - who were played by different actors in each series. The setting for each mystery was Mrs Peacock's country mansion, Arlington Grange (not Tudor Close as in the board game).

As in the board game, the contestants had to use deduction and process of elimination to identify in which room the murder took place, with what weapon and which of the suspects was the killer, being given six options for each. Following a short introduction from the studio host, the two teams of detectives would be shown the pre-recorded drama (filmed on location at Arley Hall in Cheshire) and would then be given the chance to question the suspects - the actors appearing in the studio in costume and in character - before making initial accusations. They would be told how accurate these were, though no one ever got all three elements right first time. After the commercial break they would then be shown a second video clip with one or more previously unseen additional scenes and had to work out how, if at all, this "new evidence" changed things. More questioning would follow before the teams made a final accusation, one of which always fortunately turned out to be correct. The murderer would then turn to camera and make their confession, explaining their motive for the crime, part of which would be voiced over a final clip showing the lead-up to the murder (although, since this went out at 7pm, the actual moment of the killing was always faded out or freeze-framed).

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Four series and a Christmas episode were made, hosted by James Bellini, Chris Tarrant and finally Richard Madeley. In the first series each team consisted of one celebrity and one member of the public involved in criminal justice or detection (police officer, forensic scientist etc.) but from series two this changed to two celebrities. The six weapons from the board game only appeared together once, in the Christmas special, and in other editions a wide variety of possible weapons were used or suggested, from croquet mallet to insecticide. There were no prizes whatsoever for the contestants, although in series 3 viewers were given the chance to phone in and win a murder mystery weekend by answering an observation question based on that night's mystery.

Many well-known TV actors of the time guested as that week's victim, always a ghastly type whose presence spelt trouble for the six inhabitants of Arlington Grange. The regular cast was of a similarly high calibre and the parts were played as follows:

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Mrs Peacock: Stephanie Beacham, Kate O'Mara, Rula Lenska, Susan George, Joanna Lumley

Miss Scarlett: Tracy Louise Ward, Toyah Wilcox, Koo Stark, Lysette Anthony, Jerry Hall

Mrs White: June Whitfield, Joan Sims, Mollie Sugden, Pam Ferris, Liz Smith

Colonel Mustard: Robin Ellis, David Robb, Michael Jayston, Lewis Collins, Leslie Grantham

Reverend Green: Robin Nedwell, Derek Nimmo, Richard Wilson, Christopher Biggins, Nicholas Parsons

Professor Plum: Kristoffer Tabori, Ian Lavender, David Mc Callum, Tom Baker, John Bird

This series is not to be confused with the board game Clue (Cluedo in the UK) or with the American film Clue which was also based on it.

This series provides examples of the following:

Tropes

  • Ad Lib: The actors had to improvise a good deal when being questioned in the studio sequences. Some were especially good at this, notably June Whitfield, Richard Wilson and Tom Baker. Whitfield enhanced her characterisation of Mrs White by introducing Malaproper:

    MRS WHITE: Er, excuse me, Mr Blini, are the defectives allowed to make remarks like that?

  • The Announcer: Charles Foster.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Although it depended which week you were watching.
  • Ascended Extra: Of a sort: Leslie Grantham and Nicholas Parsons were contestants in the Christmas special and series 3 respectively, and were then cast as Colonel Mustard and Reverend Green in series 4, being the only performers to be both detectives and suspects within the series. Richard Madeley was also a contestant (with his wife, Judy Finnigan) in the last episode of series 2 and won not only the contest but the presentership from series 3 onwards!
  • Audience Participation: The studio audience had the chance to vote on the killer's identity in series 1. After that they were restricted to cheering, jeering or booing as the drama unfolded. This was in contrast to international adaptations of the series, including in Germany and Australia, which gave the entire job of questioning and judging to the studio audience.
  • Bait-and-Switch: During an episode in Series 1 a rude guest appears to be the murder victim for the episode. However it's revealed the guest is the one who finds the victim, a minor background character.
  • Big Fancy House: And Mrs Peacock would do anything to preserve it.
  • Christmas Episode: An extended episode broadcast in December 1990 featured a Christmas-themed murder mystery, a one-off cast of suspects and three video clips rather than the usual two. It aired between series 1 and 2 and had series 1's host, James Bellini.
  • Cold Ham: Especially the various Peacocks and Mustards. Quite a few victims too, especially when the likes of Paul Darrow started turning up.
  • Colonel Badass: Mustard, although he no longer had any troops to command. In series 3 he encountered a journalist, David Stringer, who threatened to expose a Gulf War error of judgement by Mustard that had cost several lives.
  • Denser and Wackier: The fourth series' style and tone changed completely from tongue-in-cheek to utterly barking mad, with the characters becoming cartoonish stereotypes who no longer bore any resemblance to real life. Colonel Mustard never appeared without his beret, Professor Plum entered Mad Scientist territory and Miss Scarlett went from English class to American broad. The actors still played the studio sequences relatively straight but the videoed scenes... well... There was no series 5.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: In the first series, Professor Plum was portrayed as a young American entrepreneur and not The Professor of the board game, to which he reverted in series 2. Mr White (played by Graham Rigby) appeared in a couple of episodes while in all later series Mrs White was a widow, allowing her a vague romance with Reverend Green in series 3. In the studio segments of the first series the audience was asked to vote electronically on its views of the killer's identity, though this had no bearing on the outcome. The actors playing the suspects would start at the top of a staircase and then have to walk rather clumsily down to their seats before the detection began, although this had the bonus of allowing the viewer to hear some more of the show's mean and moody theme music. The teams consisted of one celebrity and one member of the public, not two celebrities as subsequently. Following the first video clip, the teams would have to answer a simple observation question to determine who went first, e.g. "What colour was the telephone?", similar to the Observation round in another Granada gameshow, The Krypton Factor, which shared an executive producer with Cluedo. There were various other, smaller differences from later series, such as the opening titles and music being edited differently and the presenter being named with a caption and not by the announcer. The series was in more recognisable form by series 2.
  • Home Participation Sweepstakes: Home viewers could call in to win a murder mystery weekend after watching series 3 episodes carefully.
  • Lady and Knight: With complications, as Mustard was intimately acquainted with both Mrs Peacock and her stepdaughter Miss Scarlett, and was ready to protect them both.
  • Large Ham: Granada could have opened a delicatessen. Particularly in series 1 and 4 and when anyone found the body. Mrs White finding the body could have been heard on another channel.
  • Later Installment Weirdness: The fourth series episodes opened with Richard Madeley walking around the deserted Grange (in a white tuxedo!) to introduce the night's mystery, and the studio set was modified to (vaguely) resemble the library of the Grange itself. There was a complete stylistic and tonal shift into comic and cartoonish territory.
  • Lethal Chef: Mrs White became one in the final series, having been a good cook previously, the occasional poisoning aside.
  • Not Quite Dead: The final episode of series 2 saw Mrs Peacock's wedding to Colonel Mustard interrupted by the return of her supposedly dead husband, Jack Peacock. Professor Plum saw him off though.
  • Rules Spiel
  • Shout-Out: The whole "country-house murder" set-up owed a debt to AgathaChristie and there were some direct shout-outs, such as the series 3 episode And Then There Were Nuns. Tom Baker's outlandish ad-libs as Professor Plum in the studio sequences of that series would be familiar to anyone who's attended a Doctor Who convention. The piece of music used to accompany the closing murder flashback, with its scraping violin strings, was reminiscent of Psycho. The piece of music used to introduce the dramas in the final series was reminiscent of English Country Garden.
  • Thing-O-Meter: Electronically collated the studio audience's votes on the murderer's identity in series 1.
  • Who Dunn It
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