Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Things I Watch On You Tube #1: Ellery Queen's Opening Credits/Theme

This show is yet another show I wish Universal would release on dvd. Written and produced by Levinson and Link (they also created the mighty "Columbo"*), "The Adventures Of Ellery Queen" starred Jim Hutton and David Wayne and was adapted from the mystery books of the same name. Their guest star list included Ray Milland, Ed McMahon, Dana Andrews, Tom Bosley, Bob Crane (make your jokes now... okay, that's enough), Rudy Vallee, Roddy McDowell, and Vincent Price!

I tend to like most whodunnits I watch (even "Monk", which I figure out the second a recognizable guest star appears. Remember "Monk" only has enough money for one or two "names", so the killer is almost always the one you know.), but one of my favorite things about the show is Hutton's portrayal of Queen as an absent-minded genius. This portrayal helps pull of one of my other favorite things, the challenge to the audience.

The books usually had a "challenge to the reader" in which the next to last chapter would end with Queen calling everyone together then the reader being asked who did it. Queen would follow this by explaining who the killer is and you could see how close you were. This conceit is in most minute mysteries now and Woody Allen parodied it in his "Match Wits With Inspector Ford" series of stories.

In the show, about forty-five minutes in, Hutton would usually smack his forehead, say something like "Of course!", then get his father Inspector Queen (Wayne) to call together all the suspects. When his dad had left the room, he would turn to the camera and say "Well, I think I know who did it... do you?". He would name all of the suspects, say some cryptic clue and then reassure you that you probably already have figured it out. The next scene would be him revealing who the killer is.

Hutton (Timothy's father) had such a charming, humble acting style that the challenge was always, to me, the best part of the show. He always played it as if he thinks he may have gotten it right, but that we the audience have had the solution all along. In other words, the audience was Ellery Queen's much smarter partner.

And, after watching USA Network's "Psych", it's starting to feel more true everyday.

*"The Mighty Columbo" was one of the worst comic book adaptations of a TV series ever... with the exception of the poorly done Jim Shooter adaptation of "Roots".

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