This low-stakes game show is derivative and ghoulish, says Bruce Fretts

By Bruce Fretts
Updated August 03, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Murder in Small Town X: Fox

Murder In Small Town X

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Why ”Small Town X” is dying

America breathes a sigh of relief: X-Ray the Cabbie has been eliminated as a suspect! What, you haven’t been watching Fox’s new reality show, ”Murder in Small Town X”? Fear not, you aren’t alone. In its two weeks on the air, the show (airing Tuesdays, 9 p.m.) has been getting slaughtered in the ratings by reruns of ABC’s ”Dharma & Greg.”

At this point, ”Murder” seems destined to join the likes of ”Boot Camp” and ”Chains of Love” on the reality-show scrap heap of history. But what killed ”Murder”? Let’s examine the suspects:

The concept is needlessly complicated.
For everyone who thought ”The Mole” was a bit too easy to follow, here’s a show for you. Ten ”detectives” (contestants) are brought into a Maine hamlet populated by 15 ”suspects” (actors) in the killings of three members of the fictional Flint family. Real-life homicide investigator Gary Fredo, a dimpled Jeff Probst doppelganger, leads the players through a series of clues and communicates with the killer via email and two envelopes — one red, one black — that send one sleuth to his or her ”death” each week. Then there’s the ”lifeguard” (kinda like the ”head of household” on ”Big Brother 2”) who has immunity and decides which of the others … oh, never mind.

The show is derivative of too many different sources.
The grainy black-and-white video footage of potential victims lost in the woods comes straight out of ”The Blair Witch Project.” Menacing fisherman G.D. Thibodeaux feels like a carbon copy of the killer in ”I Know What You Did Last Summer.” And with its quirky population, Sunrise, Maine, might as well have been named ”Twin Peaks.”

The acting is amateurish at best.
Where did they find these no-names? Doing interactive mysteries at dinner theaters? None of them can even fake a convincing Maine accent. Even less believable are the players who have to pretend to be terrified that they could be ”killed” at any moment. We know it’s only a TV show, guys — give it a rest.

Call me crazy, but slayings aren’t exactly my idea of fun.
Sure, murders have been used as plot points in entertainment since the ancient Greeks, but when you put them into a game show format, it just seems creepy. Even if you know it’s all phony, there’s something distasteful about mixing snuff films with cash prizes (in this case, a relatively measly $250,000).

There are just too many damn reality shows on TV this summer.

Between ”Big Brother 2” (three times a week!), ”Spy TV,” ”Fear Factor,” and the 10th season of ”The Real World,” who has the time for one more dose of ”reality”? No wonder people are fleeing to ”Dharma & Greg” — there’s nothing real about that show.

What do you think of ”Murder in Small Town X”?

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Murder In Small Town X

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