Cluedo (Series Two)

CONTAINS SPOILERS

A second full series of Cluedo was broadcast in 1991. From this series onwards, every one of the six suspects would be the murderer once, and once only, and it would be the last time there was much of a change to the opening credits other than to show the new cast members. The Reverend Green’s poster now advertised the Grand Bazaar, and that remained unchanged in the further two series. They continued with what started in the Christmas special, with both teams being made up of two celebrities rather than a celebrity and a detective, which would also remain for the last two series.

This series was hosted by Chris Tarrant, who would later go on to say it was the worst show he ever did and that he hated making it as it took ages. It shows, he seems bored most of the time and spends an awful lot of time slating the show, commenting that the murder suspects are eliminated by default. It’s no surprise that this would be the only series he would do. Having a presenter who clearly dislikes the show makes it a bit vexing to watch occasionally, which is a shame really, as it has one of the best overall casts.

Professor Peter Plum (David McCallum) is here the standard stereotypical geek. This version of Professor Plum is one of the most uptight and socially awkward, and is a bit of a quack, as he says he got his professorship from a mail order catalogue.

Mrs. Elizabeth Peacock is once again a glamorous diva, and is here played by Rula Lenska. Much has been commented over the years on Rula Lenska’s massive permed hairdo. Her version of Mrs. Peacock is a bit more of a power dressing businesswoman than the others, and while most incarnations of Mrs. Peacock have been implied to be gold diggers, this version is by far the most open about it.

One of the most interesting members of the cast is Reverend Jonathan Green (Richard Wilson). This version is clearly deeply dodgy, and has no scruples whatsoever. He has no qualms about committing various sins, such as gambling, insurance fraud and promiscuity. He is such a sinister minister, in many episodes he was usually one of the first the contestants accused.

Mollie Sugden is also good as the housekeeper Mrs. Blanche White, and actually comes across as quite sympathetic in the episode where she is the murderer, ‘A Deadly Deal’. She kills investment broker Simon Charles. He’d ripped all six of the regulars off in a deal, but Mrs. White had put her life savings into it, and when she pleaded with him for it back he laughed at her saying he couldn’t be bothered with such a “piddling little amount”. Mrs. White is close to tears when she says “that piddling little amount was all I had in the world”.  That said, even when she isn’t the murderer she’s no innocent, stealing quite a lot of the best china and silverware from Arlington Grange.

Miss Vivienne Scarlett (Koo Stark) is a posh ice queen, all red nail varnish and dresses, and of course flirting with lots of men. She has a slightly vampire-like quality to her, which is fitting. Colonel Michael Mustard (Michael Jayston) is quietly pompous, wears his army uniform often, and is always jumping from side to side over the fine line between suave and smarmy.

This series is a bit more like a soap opera than the others. Indeed a standout episode is ‘Fatal Distraction’ where the murder victim is a soap actress named Marie Anne Kray, played by Sharon Maughan, who manages to chew more scenery than anyone else. She’s a drunken demanding diva who tries to come on to the men in the house and has a bitching exchange with Mrs. Peacock (she says to her “If you’re not careful you’re going to need another face lift!”).  She is last seen weeping over some cut-up photographs. She’s the sort of character that outside of soap operas (and TV shows such as this) would come across as completely insane.

The best episode though, like series one, is the finale. ‘The Bolivian Connection’ sees Mr. Jack Peacock return from the dead just as Mrs. Peacock is about to marry Colonel Mustard.  Jack had gone missing in Bolivia as part of a research team Professor Plum sent to find a miracle drug that would cure the common cold. As it turned out, the drug had been smuggled into the UK long ago, in the funeral urn that was said to contain Jack Peacock’s ashes. Upon discovering this, Professor Plum killed Jack with his own funeral urn, but it turned out that the “wonder drug” was just ground up asparin.

This episode was also something of a preview for series three, as Jack Peacock was played by Lewis Collins, who would be Colonel Mustard in the next series. One of the contestants was Richard Madely (along with Judy Finegan), and he would be the presenter of series 3 and 4.

I’d say this was one of the best series of Cluedo. It had the cast where everyone was reasonably good (in all the other series, the cast was uneven, some were good, some weren’t), and probably had the most coherent tone for the series. So while Chris Tarrant might not have liked making this series, I think its one of the most enjoyable to watch.

Edit – 16th June 2016. Clement Freud appeared in this series, and had been considered a memorable contestant for how he played the game, but that seems very insignificant now, after revelations of terrible crimes he has been accused of committing in real life.

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2 Responses to Cluedo (Series Two)

  1. Leo Parkes says:

    The second series of Cluedo is my favourite.

    They just seemed to get it right with this series, everything came together. The cast, as you say, is a particularly strong one. I do like David McCallum’s Prof Plum; he is quirky and almost schoolboy-like in his mischievousness and dismay. Rula Lenska as Mrs Peacock is also fantastic; that husky voice, the death stares and that wonderful crowning glory leave no doubt as to who rules the roost at Arlington Grange.

    Richard Wilson is a superb actor with a wonderful resonant voice. As displayed on ‘One Foot In The Grave’ he has an equal talent for comedy and drama, and this shows in his portrayal of Reverend Green. I feel his presence alone raises the calibre of the show. The choice of Mollie Sugden for Mrs White is also inspired. Her comic timing and northern tones are a welcome contrast to the upper class nature of many of the other characters. I love her studio comebacks!

    Koo Stark as Miss Scarlett is an interesting one. As mentioned, she is visually arresting: dark, beautiful, and almost vampiric. Character-wise she’s not the most stand-out of the series, but then I don’t think Scarlett ever is, nor needs to be. She’s glamorous and sinister, which is everything we expect of a femme fatale. Another sinister one is Michael Jayston’s Colonel Mustard. As with many of this cast, this is my favourite version of the character. He’s a slightly older Mustard, and so brings rather more gravitas to the proceedings than some of the other Mustards. And I like the murderous glint that comes into his eyes on many occasions!

    Some of the celebrity contestants are good value too; Matthew Kelly, Claire Rayner, Jim Bowen, Amanda Barrie and Frank Bough. Though Chris Tarrant’s enthusiasm may not have been up to scratch (you’re being paid Tarrant, sort yourself out), these guys in my opinion save the day.

    The style and feel of this series is very much to my taste. Cluedo will always be, first and foremost, fun, camp and certainly not to be taken too seriously. However you can still achieve this effect by playing it straight, and not sending/hamming it up to the point of farce (series 4). This series found the balance perfectly, with seasoned professionals, some genuinely engaging mysteries and a superb soundtrack. (Rula Lenska brandishing scissors/guns/knives wearing fabulous dresses and shooting death stares is some of the best TV you’ll ever see).

    If I had to make a criticism (and I do), it would simply be that the murder scenes, like in the Christmas special, are too short. I like to think I’m not too much of a bloodthirsty lot, but unless I actually see the victim about to fall prey to one of our murderous menagerie, I feel slightly short-changed. We do see Dave the hippy just before the moment of doom in ‘A Traveller’s Tale’, but he is the only one of our corpses who obliges. The opening and closing titles have been cut down to size as well, but as I think this makes way for more film content, I’ll let it go.

    Another point to remark on is Mrs Peacock. Despite being the grand dame of Arlington Grange and therefore the programme, and also being one of the more sinister characters of this year, she is only ever accused once during this series – the winning accusation in episode 4. So we never get to see Rula Lenska’s suspect card! I believe this has only happened one other time during the whole of Cluedo’s run – with Ian Lavender’s Professor Plum in the Christmas special (however I don’t really miss this as much as Mrs Peacock!).

    Overall, a hugely enjoyable series, in my opinion more confident and accomplished than the first season, and the reason I’m a fan after so many years.

    • fused says:

      David McCallum is my favourite of the Professor Plums. I’m a sucker for adorkable, and he is that a lot of the time. Michael Jayston is my favourite of the Colonel Mustards, I agree that he has more gravitas than the others.

      I think Richard Wilson might be my favourite of the Reverend Greens too. It’s between him and Robin Nedwell. They are polar opposites in a way, in that the series 1 Reverend Green is quite a nice person (and was never the killer), whereas the series 2 Reverend Green is sinister and villainous even in episodes where he isn’t the killer, but those sort of characters do make things more interesting. I agree entirely that Richard Wilson was a great addition to the cast.

      That’s another thing I never noticed, Mrs. Peacock was never accused other than the episode where she actually is the killer. Even then, she was only the second choice and after all the other options were eliminated. Perhaps it’s to do with how Rula Lenska played her. Her version of Mrs. Peacock is very charming and likeable. There’s also a feeling that she normally wouldn’t do anything as vulgar as murder, she has other ways to get what she wants. She wants to hold on to her power and status, but so would most people in her position. I don’t know, but I can see possibly why she wouldn’t be most people’s first choice to be the murderer.

      Series 1 is my favourite overall series, as I found that the most fun to watch, but Series 2 is my second favourite, and I think out of all of them it was the series that had the best idea of what it wanted to be and how to go about that.

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