Clue debuts tonight on The Hub at 8 p.m. Eastern.
For all the jokes that have been made about Hollywood spending ridiculous amounts of money on adaptations of such classic Hasbro properties as Battleship and Hungry Hungry Hippos – and, yes, I know the latter isn’t real (yet), but given Hollywood’s tendency to turn the unlikeliest of suspects into feature-length films, anything’s possible – the idea of offering a big-screen take on a board game was proven at least somewhat viable back in 1985, when Paramount pulled together a damned fine cast and brought us a movie version of Clue.
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a great movie, but any film that features Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, and Martin Mull is going to have at least a few laughs, and when you factor in Lesley Ann Warren at the height of her hotness, Colleen Camp in a French maid’s outfit, and Jane Wiedlin delivering a singing telegram…well, if nothing else, you’ve at least three good reasons to keep your eyes on the screen at all times.
The Hub’s TV miniseries adaptation of Clue has no such all-star cast, instead favoring a cast of teen actors to serve as modern-day equivalents of Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, and the other suspects. If the network’s presumption is that the name recognition of the game itself will be enough to intrigue viewers into tuning in…well, there’s probably something to be said for that theory, actually, and the studio undoubtedly ends up saving a certain amount of money on the back end as a result.
Still, they’re not exactly doing these teen actors any favors by offering up a scene early in the proceedings where one of the inevitable adult authority figures defines the youths by citing precisely which cliché they’re intended to represent:
- Dmitri (Stephan James), the jock
- Liz (Ana Golja), the flirt
- Agnes (Kendall Amyre Ferguson), the gossip: Agnes
- Whitney (Sarah Desjardins), the bleeding heart
- Seamus (Sterling Beaumon), the loser
Lest we forget, there’s also Lucas (Zach Mills), the nerd, but although he’s easily identifiable as such, he avoids getting specifically called out because it’s his dad – who, wouldn’t you know it, is also the principal – that’s doing the name-calling.
The miniseries kicks off at the New Yorker Hotel during an event designed to educate teens on various charitable causes, but the charities end up running a distant second to an attack on industrialist Adam Ellis (David Lewis), which takes place in one of the rooms and is witnessed through the window by the six teens, who are standing on the patio below. Unfortunately, they’re the only ones who actually see it happen, and when the room is searched and reveals no sign of a struggle, Principal Morgenstern takes the word of six disparate individuals – one of whom is his freaking son, and none of whom would seem to have any particular reason to lie about such a thing – and deems their six identical stories to be complete balderdash.
It’s a ridiculous thing for him to do, of course, but all things considered, it’s probably no more or less convenient than anything else that might occur in a series aimed at the ‘tween market, and it serves to unify the young’uns and send them on a quest to figure out just what the hell they witnessed. Sneaking into the room where the attack took place, it doesn’t take a great deal of investigation for Seamus to stumble upon a journal that the cops missed – you know how it is with nosy kids: they’re always showing up the police – and although the contents of the journal are written in code, Lucas works out the cipher, sending the group on the trail of an inheritance which involves secrets that “could either save the world or destroy it.” Oh, and did I mention that Nikola Tesla ties into this thing somehow? You can probably work out how if you take a gander at the Serbian-American scientist’s Wikipedia entry – he really did spend his last days in the New Yorker Hotel – but why spoil the fun for yourself?
If nothing else, you can’t say Clue isn’t at least trying to be intriguing, and it’s an effort that extends beyond the small screen and onto the internet, where the miniseries is fleshed out via an online platform which includes videos, games, virtual awards, and a sweepstakes which involves six character-themed prize packages. Also, it’s reasonable to assume that executive producer Raven Metzner has divined a bit of inside information on delivering a slowly unfolding mystery, having worked with J.J. Abrams on a couple of occasions (What About Brian? and Six Degrees).
Sure, Clue is kid stuff, the material arguably no deeper than The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Mysteries, but it looks good, moves quickly, and although I’ve yet to see the whole miniseries, I can at least confirm that it stays interesting throughout its first two episodes, which is a better endorsement than I can offer half of the new shows on The CW. Keeping your expectations in check, you might want to give it a go. If you aren’t at least amused by the end of the second episode – the first two installments air back to back tonight – then you’ve only lost an hour. But my guess is that you’ll be back for Episode 3.
Random quotes and observations:
- As a fan of TV murder mysteries, I couldn’t help but smirk at the sight of David Lewis as the apparent victim of Clue, as I remember him fondly from a conversation I had with him after his harpoon-induced death on CBS’s Harper’s Island.
- When Whitney suggests that “somebody has to do something,” an unimpressed Seamus asks, “What, do I look like Bono and Oprah’s love child to you?”
- The best line deliveries in the first two episodes belong to Gerard Plunkett, who Fringe fans may recognize as Senator James Van Horn. I’ve no doubt that most everyone in this show is having a good time, but you can all but hear the glee in Plunkett’s voice as he plays Randolph Whittaker, one of the resident bad guys of the miniseries. In the first episode, he tells one of his underlings, “We don’t want any loose ends: I want her brought to me immediately,” and in Episode 2, when offered a deal, he declines, sneering, “No, I think not. We play by my rules.” Oh, and if you’re looking for a reason to tune back in for Episode 3, the preview features Plunkett growling, “Nobody steals from Randolph Whittaker and gets away with it!”
- If there's one teenaged member of the cast who makes the most of saying the least, it's got to be Sarah Desjardins, who, in addition to looking more than a little bit like a young Jennifer Connelly, is forever smiling in the general direction of Lucas. You've got to like it when the cutest girl has a thing for the nerd…