Show of the Day: Murder in Small Town X

12 Aug

It was the year 2000, and reality competition shows were just beginning their hey day, ushered in by Survivor’s magical 1999 season.  Fox debuted what would turn out to be the only season of Murder in Small Town X.  Unlike straightforward reality competition like Survivor, Amazing Race and The Mole, Murder in Small Town X is harder to categorize.  Is it a reality a show?  Well kind of – there are a bunch of real life contestants competing over a prize.  But unlike your typical reality competition show, there’s a pre-written  dramatic plot – it plays like a murder mystery.

Basically, ten contestants are brought together as detectives to solve a series of fake murders in a fictionalMainesmall town.  Just about everyone in town was a suspect.  The contestants/investigators each week would be sent on various investigatory missions to learn more about the crimes – clearing suspects as they did it.  At the end of the first episode, the investi-testants (my quick, and albeit not great shorthand for investigator/contestants) are given a video from the killer, narrowing their suspect pool to 15, which are slowly eliminated over the course of the season by the players answering questions correctly, or because other suspects are murdered along the way.  At the end of every episode, two investi-testants would be chosen to investigate two separate leads.  One of these would result in an important clue while the other would result in being murdered by the villain and eliminated from the game.

The murder plot was oddly compelling, even game show aspect aside, as intricate as any Agatha Christie novel.  It all started, for the investi-testants, with the murder of a family known as the Flints, and continued with the murder of four of the 15 suspects.  It turned out that the story dated back to the 1940s, when the members of another local family, the Duchamps, were murdered on orders of a secret society made up of the big wigs in the town after the Duchamps discovered a secret illegal liquor smuggling operation being conducted by the society.  One of the family members survived the fire set to kill them, and this “Burnt Face Man” as he would become known left a number of clues for the investi-testants to find, videos for his son.  The “Burnt Face Man” killed one of the members of the secret society before guilt turned him to suicide, but his son turned out the be the killer, murdering still living members of the secret society and their descendants.  His son turned out the business partner of the patriarch of the family murdered at the beginning of the season.  I had to avoid a great deal of detail to sum up the story quickly, but if for some reason, you want more you can find unbelievably detailed recaps of each episode here.

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