Cluedo (Series Three)

CONTAINS SPOILERS

The third series in 1992 saw a third host, Richard Madely. The studio set was redesigned, and it looked a bit tacky to be honest, it was a bit like Blind Date‘s set. One difference between this series and the others was that at the end of each episode they offered a competition to win a ticket to a murder mystery weekend, which viewers could phone in for.

Christopher Biggins is one of the most remembered members of the cast in this series, his name seems to come up a lot during online discussions of the show. Some people misremember him as playing Professor Plum for some reason, but he in fact plays Reverend Jonathan Green, and the Biggins version of him is adorably camp. He is the most likeable character in this series, though this being Cluedo he’s not exactly a saint. He’s a gambler and a card sharp.

Professor Peter Plum was played in this series by Tom Baker, best known as the longest serving and most iconic Doctor in Doctor Who.  Tom Baker gets a lot of laughs in the studio. Funny as he is, this version of Professor Plum is one of the most malevolent. To say he’s an unethical scientist would be an understatement. He likes cruel animal testing and scientifically approves products he knows are unsafe for the public.

Still, beating him in the nastiness stakes is Colonel Michael Mustard (Lewis Collins). Colonel Mustard is always arrogant, but he is a real bastard in this series! A smug, callous foul tempered bully. With dyed black hair.

Mrs. Elizabeth Peacock is played by Susan George, and her version is the odd one out among the others. Perhaps after three high-glam divas in a row playing Mrs. Peacock they wanted to try something different. But the name “peacock” suggests extravagant colour and showiness, and Susan George’s version is the polar opposite of that. She doesn’t even wear blue, Mrs. Peacock’s colour, very much, she most often dresses plainly, in grey, black or white. She’s more of a graceful proper lady of the manor, which she is fine at playing, but she is fairly dull.

Lysette Anthony as Miss. Vivienne Scarlett is also a peculiar casting choice really. She’s pretty, but she’s an angelic porcelain doll sort of pretty, and she too doesn’t wear her character’s colour (red) much, more often wearing pastel pinks and greens. She only seems to get into the role when she is the killer, in ‘Deadly Dowry’. She owes money to a man named Clive, and he wants to marry her just to get her inheritance. She overhears Clive arrange a pool game with Colonel Mustard in the Billiard Room at 10pm. She fakes an illness saying she has to go to bed, and asks Colonel Mustard to tape a programme for her that finishes after News At Ten (VHS tapes! Having to record a programme when it was broadcast! Old TV shows often remind you how different things were in the past). Knowing that Clive will be in the Billiard Room, Colonel Mustard will be out of the way and that she has an alibi, Miss Scarlett goes to kill Clive. Susan George and Lysette Anthony do look similar enough to be believable as a biological mother and daughter, but… they’re supposed to be stepmother and stepdaughter.

Finally, there’s Pam Ferris as Mrs. Blanche White, who sadly is never given much to do. She does look very like Aunt Bessie, the logo from a certain popular brand of Yorkshire puddings.

The episode ‘Scared To Death’ is hilariously cheesy. Drink every time you see a horror movie cliche! Stock thunder clap sound effect, flashing lightning, gusts of wind blowing in leaves and candles out, lights flickering, billowing fog, organ music. Ruth Madoc plays the murder victim, a medium named Miss. Terry (geddit? Because it sounds a bit like “mystery!”).  I quite liked the crafty red herring in this episode though. The characters hear a noise, and they say they think it’s from the kitchen or the study. This led to contestants guessing both of these rooms as where the murder too place at first, but by the end we find out the murder took place in the library.

Other murder victims in this series include a multimillionaire named Max Gold (geddit? Because he’s got a lot of money!) who wants to turn Arlington Grange into a theme park. There’s also a vindictive nun named Sister Concepta, and a tabloid hack named David Stringer.

This series has its moments, but it is my least favourite. It’s the most tonally inconsistent. All the other series at least seemed to have a clear idea of what they wanted to be, this series is a bit more of mish-mash of stuff which doesn’t really gel. It zigzags all other the place from to hammier and cheesier than ever, to looking like it wants to be straight drama, to like a comic strip to dark and sinister, and it never quite hits the mark with any of them. Don’t get me wrong, it’s watchable, but it is a slightly annoying watch at times.

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2 Responses to Cluedo (Series Three)

  1. Leo Parkes says:

    I agree with quite a few of these comments!

    Much preferred the set design in series 2 (though I think the lighting differed in a couple of episodes?). On a slightly random note, I also miss the presence of the weapon selection displayed on a table; I feel like that connected the film action to the studio sequences. Richard Madeley is certainly not my favourite TV presenter, I find him annoyingly smug at times! However I don’t think he did too bad a job at presenting Cluedo, and he did seem to get into the spirit of things which is more than can be said for Chris Tarrant.

    I’m very fond of Christopher Biggins as Reverend Green. I think he’s another one who got right into the spirit of things, and he had a lot of fun in the studio coming up with amusing comebacks and double entendres.

    Tom Baker as Professor Plum is another who brings gravitas to the proceedings, and he is certainly a sinister character whom you could well believe had committed the crime! His silly staring during the motives summations annoyed me somewhat – as I mentioned with series 2, you can play it straight and still be fun.

    I rather like Lewis Collins as Colonel Mustard. Certainly he’s a cad and a bounder, but I think he’s got a fantastic voice for the part, and with Biggins and Baker camping it up, I feel Collins’ masculine presence evens the balance.

    Susan George’s Mrs Peacock is an interesting one. Even though I am a self-confessed fan of the coiffured, shoulder-padded divas that had defined the role previously, I quite like that they did something different. Cluedo was well established by this point, and I remember thinking that if they say this is Mrs Peacock, then this is Mrs Peacock! Her believability as a country house lady of the manor helps bring some credibility to a concept which requires much suspension of disbelief.

    I agree that Miss Scarlett as portrayed by Lysette Anthony doesn’t do much except brandish weapons and look pretty; I think Anthony was the youngest Scarlett and so hadn’t quite developed the femme fatale aura of say Koo Stark or Toyah Willcox. But again, I like the difference of a more youthful, wide-eyed, pretty young thing version of Scarlett, and this makes her ‘killer episode’ all the more interesting.

    Pam Ferris is my least favourite Mrs White, which is a shame as I like the actress. The toned down nature which seems to work for George and Anthony just doesn’t seem to hit the mark here. Maybe it’s an age thing? Pam Ferris is the youngest White (this is the only series where Mrs White is actually younger than Mrs Peacock), and she doesn’t have the psychotic nature of Liz Smith, the scatterbrained charm of Joan Sims or the comic timing of June Whitfield and Mollie Sugden. She does her best though.

    I suppose I can see your point about the up and down vibe of the series. It starts strongly with the ‘hunting’ episode, played quite straight and dark. Then we have the ‘haunted house’ one, totally hammed up and silly! Though I like the final sequence. The theme park episode is a return to the standard form, though I think the premise is slightly silly, then the nun episode which is ok but they seem to be going for physical comedy which doesn’t really work for me. The tabloid journalist episode is quite enjoyable with a genuinely odious victim, then we have the Simon Shepherd engagement episode which is one of my favourite episodes of the whole 25 episode run. I just think it’s put together very well, the lighting, the emergence of motives, the musical score the nuances in the performances. The series redeems itself with this last episode.

    And there is a return to a lengthier death scene! Haha totally ghoulish, but it just finishes the episodes off perfectly, it’s what we’re waiting for all episode, it’s the denouement. Special mentions must go to ‘A Hunting We Will Go’ and ‘Deadly Dowry’ for sheer psycho moments!

    Probably the least memorable of the Cluedo incarnations, but I still have a soft spot for series 3, not least because it’s the last series before the (in my opinion) travesty that was series 4! And the last to feature the superior incidental music score that had been used from episode 1.

    “Oh it’s England! Croquet on the lawn. Tea in silver teapots. Sherry before dinner. One simply has to maintain one’s standards…”

    Elizabeth Peacock.

    • fused says:

      I suppose they have to try and make them all as distinct from each other as they can. They usually go for a sort of three different generations thing with Scarlett (young), Peacock (middle-aged) and White (elderly). I find it interesting that Mrs. Peacock was a fairly old lady in the original board game drawings wearing a tiara. I vaguely remember a TV advert for the board game in the ’90s which portrayed Mrs. Peacock that way, I think she might have hid a spanner in a jar of flour, and the slogan was “all clues point to Cluedo”.

      There is a danger that Plum and Green can end up being too similar. Mustard tends to stand out as he’s the “manly” ex-military one. As with Mrs. Peacock, I find it quite interesting that Mustard appears a bit younger in the original board game drawings than he is often depicted. Maybe “colonel” brings up an image of an older man to people than it might have done in 1949.

      I forgot to mention it in the initial post, but the “country home” stuff in the series reminded me a bit of ‘Emmerdale’. Or was it still ‘Emmerdale Farm’ at this point?

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