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Series / Whodunnit? (UK)

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Whodunnit? was a British television game show that ran from 1972 to 1978. It was hosted by Shaw Taylor in the pilot episode, then by Edward Woodward in the first season, and Jon Pertwee from 1973 to 1978.

Each week it featured a short murder-mystery drama enacted in front of a panel of celebrity guests who then had to establish who the murderer was. Anouska Hempel and Patrick Mower became permanent panelists from series 3 onwards, with two guest celebrities each episode. The panel members could interview the remaining characters, with only clue being that only the murderer could lie. Each panelist could also request to see a short replay of one section of the initial drama, which would often include events as they occurred and flashbacks as seen and narrated by individual suspects. (The video technology used at the time meant that it usually took a few minutes to set up each replay.)

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Tropes used in Whodunnit? include:

  • Accidental Murder:
    • In "Teddy Bears Picnic", the Victim of the Week suffers Death by Falling Over when she hits her head on a dresser while fighting with a thief in a gorilla suit.
    • In "Time to Dye", the Victim of the Week is chloroformed with a towel. However, the chemical used to drug her interacts with the alcohol she has already consumed and she asphyxiates.
  • Animal Assassin: In "Happy New Year", the Victim of the Week is bitten by a venomous snake the killer placed in his safe.
  • Bitter Almonds: In "Dead Ball", the detective detects the smell of bitter almonds on the lips of the Victim of the Week and declares him a victim of cyanide poisoning.
  • Cacophony Cover Up: In "A Bad Habit", the thief uses a chisel to break the sacred sceptre free from its brackets on the wall; timing his blows to coincide with the striking of the abbey clock.
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  • Caught on Tape: In "The Q43 Experiment", the murder of the Victim of the Week is caught on the tape recorder the victim was using to rerecord his lab notes. The killer, in fact, is planning on this and uses the tape to plant a Red Herring.
  • China Takes Over the World: "Future Imperfect" was set in the year 2076 and had China ruling the UK (and, by implication, the rest of the world).
  • Curtain Camouflage: The thief in "A Bad Habit" hides behind a curtain in the abbey.
  • Cut-and-Paste Note: In "The Rajah's Ruby", Captain Nickerson receives a note made up of words cut out of the Times newspaper warning that the eponymous ruby is going to be stolen. The note turns out to be one of the more important clues in unraveling the mystery.
  • Cut Phone Lines: The killer does this in "Final Verdict" to isolate his victims in the house.
  • Death by Falling Over: In "Teddy Bears Picnic", the Victim of the Week interrupts a thief stealing her jewelery. They struggle and she is pushed over, hitting her head on the dresser and dying.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Sergeant Morris, the Victim of the Week in "Goodbye Sarge".
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: In every episode every character in the episode apart from the Victim of the Week and (sometimes) the investigators is a viable suspect.
  • Fairplay Whodunnit: All of the clues necessary to solve the murder were presented to the viewers.
  • Food Pills: Used in "Future Imperfect", which was set in the year 2076. The options included duck l'organge and haddock Monte Carlo, although one of the characters passed on the new potato pills because they were slimming.
  • Food Slap: After one lewd comment too many, Miss Hampshire throws her drink over Gay Fortescue in "The Rajah's Ruby".
  • Fright Deathtrap: In "Future Imperfect", the Victim of the Week is murdered when the travel tape he was supposed to experiencing is swapped for a tape of a tiger attacking, triggering a heart attack.
  • Hand of Death: Used frequently when showing the murders.
  • High-Class Glass: The Baron, a German flying ace, wears one (along with a waxed moustache) in "The Rajah's Ruby" (set in 1925).
  • High-Voltage Death: In "A Deadly Tan", a dictator is murdered when the killer electrifies the towel rail in his solarium.
  • Mystery of the Week
  • Nasty Party: In "Final Verdict", the eight surviving members of a jury who sentenced a man to life imprisonment invited to to a dinner party on the 20th anniversary of the day they delivered the verdict. However, one of them is the killer in disguise, and announces (via tape recording) that all of them will die unless they can identify the imposter.
  • No Honour Among Thieves: In "Dead Grass", the Victim of the Week is a thief done in by a fellow member of his gang while they were divvying up the loot from a bank job.
  • Obfuscating Disability: used in the reveal in one episode. When the host called on the real murderer to please stand up, one of the policemen dropped his notebook. The man in a wheelchair next to him stood up and handed it back to him.
  • Robot Maid: In "Future Imperfect" (set in the year 2076), the family possesses a robot servant called Mister Seven who is reprogrammed to murder the head of the family.
  • Ruritania: "A Deadly Tan" featured the murder of a dictator in a Ruritania called Barania, which one of the characters indicated was located between Moldova and Albania. The security forces seemed to have stepped out of a Banana Republic, however.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Poisoning was one of the more common methods of murder used in the show, probably because it allows for the broadest possible suspect pool.
  • Ten Little Murder Victims: In "Final Verdict", the eight surviving members of a jury who sentenced a killer to life imprisonment 20 years ago are invited to a dinner. Via tape recording, the killer reveals that he is one of the people attending the dinner in disguise, and that they have to find him before they all die.
  • Thriller on the Express: In "It's Quicker By Train", the Victim of the Week is poisoned in the dining car of an intercity train.
  • Unfriendly Fire: In "Goodbye Sarge", the Victim of the Week is a Drill Sergeant Nasty shot by one of his men who tried to make it look like the work of an enemy sniper.
  • Video Wills: In "No Happy Returns", the Victim of the Week of the makes a film stating that if dies, he will have been murdered by one of the members of his board. The film is not found until 25 years after his murder.
  • Whodunnit to Me?:
    • In "Happy New Year", the Victim of the Week is bitten by a venomous snake. Knowing he has 30 minutes to live, he uses the time to question the suspects.
    • In "Future Imperfect", the Victim of the Week is brought back from the dead by having a robot redirect its 'life force' through him. He solves his own murder but is then killed again by a second attempt before he can announce who done it.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole?: Most victims. In the most extreme case in "A Deadly Tan", every suspect tried to claim credit for killing the victim (a South American dictator) and the mystery was to work out who was telling the truth rather than who was lying.


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