WHODUNNIT?: Anthony E. Zuiker on the Delicate Balance of Creating a Reality 'Crime-Solving' Competition - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

WHODUNNIT?: Anthony E. Zuiker on the Delicate Balance of Creating a Reality ‘Crime-Solving’ Competition

June 22, 2013 by  

Reality television is by no means a new genre on television, but this Sunday, ABC is giving the formula a little twist with their new series WHODUNNIT?

Contestants are set up in a house and tasked with solving a “murder.” All of the clues that are needed to solve each crime are at their disposal, but it’ll take team work to figure out what exactly went down. And for the contestants who are stuck? Well, they’re at risk of being the next “victim” whose death the group will have to piece together.

“The one thing we found from [the success of] CSI is that we all want to be detectives,” WHODUNNIT? executive producer (and CSI creator) Anthony E. Zuiker told reporters. “So [in our group of contestants] we have a CSI fan, a mother of eight, a Homeland security lawyer, kind of all walks of life. We wanted to make sure they had some special skills in terms of some crime-solving background or lawyer or police to keep it balanced. But we wanted to make sure the audience saw themselves in the characters so they could play along as they were watching. That was kind of our main objective.”

“I am so in love with this cast…they are so delightful, great people,” Zuiker said. “Awesome sports…I root for all of them, because all of them are total sweethearts, and they really brought it. This show lives or dies in the casting, and everybody bought into it, emotionally invested into it…[they were isolated,] living in close quarters, and they can’t talk to each other for days upon days upon days — it’s like a 29-day shoot. It was very emotionally taxing for them to do it, but they all came to play.”

And for Zuiker, the experience of combing both scripted and unscripted elements for a series was a daunting challenge.

“We’re writing dialogue for the butler, but the rest [of what you see] is situational,” he explained. “It’s very strategic how we do it: we don’t want to have too much evidence; there’s like three pieces of evidence per area. You want to make sure you can find it easily and interpret it, but have it not be too hard where they miss it and you screw yourself because [if they missed elements] it would screw the whole true crime up. It was a delicate balance.”

“I was not prepared to be shooting scripts out every half an hour,” Zuiker continued. “This was like a newspaper: every time something would happen on the show, live…[we create the situation], but it’s all about human beings being human beings. As something would happen, it would effect dialogue…[I thought] ‘This is hard work! CSI is a breeze compared to this.’ I didn’t anticipate how on-the-fly the writing was. It was like watching a live newscast. It’s on the fly, big time. Long hours. So much fun. ABC just has a lot of trust [in us].”

Are you curious to see how real people react to trying to solve murders? (Let me tell you, some of those people are, um, characters. I hope the internet .gifs the heck out of this show.) Make sure to tune in for the series premiere of WHODUNNIT? this Sunday (June 23rd) at 9 PM on ABC.

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