So slickly produced it’s easy to overlook just how inane the premise is, “Murder” enlists two teams of contestants to play at being crime-solvers in what’s clearly designed to approximate a real-life game of “CSI.” Using gruesome crime-scene re-creations and videotaped suspect interviews as “evidence,” Detective Tommy Le Noir walks the Sherlock wannabes through the process, with little more at stake than an at-home game of Clue, determining whether it was Col. Mustard in the bedroom with a knife.
In the premiere, the teams analyze the double murder of a married couple, with blood splattered all over the walls. Le Noir — blessed with natural TV chops and a tough-talking Texas drawl — presents them with some basic facts, points to a trio of potential killers and chides the participants for “tainting” the fake evidence, which has been strategically strewn about for them to find.
Although the only “prize” is a donation to a crime-victims charity as well as a few fleeting minutes of fame, the junior G-Men carry out their parts with deadly earnestness, as if this exercise was more than the equivalent of a staged treasure hunt. At times, they even squabble (though not very persuasively) among each other, building toward the catchphrase moment when Le Noir says, “Present your case,” then reveals what actually happened. Frankly, it’s more fun when Howie Mandel does it.
The fact that “Murder” sustains any interest at all largely has to do with the savvy way it’s cobbled together, melding wildly dramatic music with edited flashes of the grisly killing and mock crime scene, creating something akin to a horror movie.
The concept makes sense for a channel awash in “CSI” reruns, but once subjected to closer inspection, the series doesn’t hold up as anything more than a mindless time-killer.