Sleuth 101

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Sleuth 101
Created by Anthony Watt
Bruce Kane
Written by Anthony Watt & Brendan Luno
Directed by Jon Olb
Presented by Cal Wilson
Country of origin Australia
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 8 (list of episodes)
Running time approx 30 minutes
Original network ABC1
Picture format 16:9 576i
Original release 12 February – 11 April 2010

Sleuth 101 was an Australian comedy "improvisatory whodunit game show"[1] television series, broadcast on ABC1 in 2010. The series revolves around a murder-mystery that must be solved by a celebrity guest detective. Each episode features a guest detective (usually a comedian), four suspects, a crime scene, evidence and witness accounts - just like real detective work. The show is hosted by comedian Cal Wilson, who occasionally gives subtle hints towards the crime. Each week, the guest detective must solve the murder using his or her evidence.[2] There are some similarities to the 1970s British series Whodunnit!, the 1990s Australian television game show Cluedo, and the 2010s British series Armchair Detectives. A second series was originally being negotiated by the ABC, but later cancelled.



Sleuth 101 was created by series producer Anthony Watt and executive producer Bruce Kane, who were the team behind Spicks and Specks, for Mayhem TV. mUmBRELLA reports that they "noticed the emergence of similar programs, featuring panels and people sitting down [and] realised there was a need for something a little more ‘physical’ and decided to go beyond a traditional game show by incorporating a scripted narrative portion to its structure, as well as an element of improvisation."[3] On this point, Watt said "I was always a fan of mystery, so a whodunit kind of show suggested itself and we thought, how can we turn that into a game show?", and Kane added "The idea of using comedians was very attractive to us, to get people that we worked with on Spicks and Specks to solve the crime...Mystery tends to appeal to older audiences as well. In the same way that Spicks and Specks has never aimed at one demographic and grandparents watch it with their children, we’re looking for a similar kind of audience here".[3] Watt felt it was essential for the producers to find the right tone for the show; his vision was "to modernise the whodunit concept by incorporating elements of forensic science, but keeping it as a family-oriented PG program", noting "the 10-minute drama element is definitely on a comedy tone" despite dealing with "serious subjects". This tone had to match the look of the series, and be maintained through both the dramatised and studio segments. John Olb was hired to direct both aspects to help ensure continuity.[3] Watt said "It’s a whodunit show, but not as we know it. We’ve thrown in twists, turns, clues, red herrings and the best comic talent this country has seen. It’s ruthless, cold-blooded murder with jokes. Solve the crime or just kick back and laugh. Or both".[4] The show was described as "light entertainment" by Kane; "although shot in front of a live studio audience, it doesn’t feature audience participation and people can’t aspire to be contestants, a defining feature of the game genre. The incentive for audiences at home to watch, beyond the fantasy of participating in the show themselves, is the humour".[3] Due to ABC's editorial policies, game shows are not allowed to give prizes away. Kane said that because of this restriction, "people have to play it just for the laugh, and there are only so many of those shows you can make".[5]

Filming, writing, budget[edit]

The series began filming on September 21, 2009 in Melbourne, and featured both on-location and studio filming.[6] The series took nine weeks to shoot, with the crew filming two sets of two-day location shoots each week, followed by studio days the next week. Each episode took an average of three days to shoot. Dale Mark’s art department was in charge of the creation and recreation of the murder scenes. Dale Mark’s art department was in charge of the creation (on location) and recreation (in the live studio) of the murder scenes; Watt noted "They’re all interiors, due to the limiting nature of a whodunit with only four suspects, and the fact that we have to match the location in the studio".[3] The series' main writer is comedian Matt Parkinson, though Wilson was "given licence to tweak the script", commenting "I got hooked on alliteration in the summation part of the show, and that became part of that segment and then I just added little gags. It was great to feel such a part of the process."[7] Watt and Brendan Luno wrote the scripted segments were written over 16 weeks. Each episode of the first series presented a self-contained story set in contemporary setting, including a MasterChef parody, a recording studio, a gym, and an office.[3] To mUmbrella, Kane would not disclose the budget for Sleuth 101, but hoffered the following formula as a guide: "Half a drama shoot + half an episode of Spicks and Specks = the cost of Sleuth 101. 10 minutes worth of drama plus 20 minutes of light entertainment".[3]

Dealing with improvisation[edit]

Kane endeavored to prevent the show becoming a "series of gags: "The comedy has to be relevant to the plot and feel of the show. Some folk need assistance with that, and they often need to be briefed. That way, they’re working towards the whole show. And even if the guest comedian is not at all funny, we still have a good mystery show. That’s safe for us, because we know we always have something good in the background".[3] Cal noted that it didn't matter if guest detectives were correct or not as it's "hilarious" either way.[8] If they got stuck, she would give them leading clues such as "that piece of paper you picked up looks interesting"; in one instance "Frank Woodley was really quite hopeless at finding clues" so she resorted to using a hotter/colder system to guide him.[8] Watt said "The value is that you get to see people improvising. When you put comedians under pressure, trying to solve a crime, they come up with fantastic jokes. That to us is fascinating". Commenting on the unique position of watching fellow comedians in an unfamiliar, pressured situation[8] Cal said:

They were all pretty good at making stuff up. What I was really delighted by was that everyone had a different approach. Claire Hooper was really sharp on details; Adam Richard was my favourite because he was so outrageously bitchy. It was also lovely seeing people that I have absolute faith in comedy-wise just swim a bit harder because they were doing something that was outside their comfort zones. They all came up to me afterwards and said, 'Oh my god, that was really scary!' because they were doing two things: they were being funny and they were trying to solve a problem, so they were using double the brainpower. Some of them flew and other people fell over but it was great fun.[7][9][10]


ABC’s Amanda Duthie said, "We’re delighted to have Cal Wilson host Sleuth 101. She’s funny, smart and surprising and will be the perfect guide for these weekly tales of crime".[6]

The show follows in the tradition of murder mystery game shows, including Ian McFadyen’s Cluedo aired in 1992 on Nine, UK’s 1970s series Whodunnit?, and the 1950s game show To Tell the Truth.[6] It is "tailored in the good-natured vein of Spicks and Specks, Collectors and The Einstein Factor".[7] In an interview with Nova FM, Cal described the shows reminiscent of How to Host a Murder Party, "but not daggy".[8]

In early 2010, Kane told the magazine Encore that ABC saw the mystery/game show hybrid Sleuth 101 as a "highly ‘formattable’, sellable product", commenting "They’re very interested in this one; they seem to be keen to [sell the format]. We [Mayhem TV] control it in conjunction with the ABC, but they represent it". Though ABC had traditionally not used franchise-creating as a business strategy, Jane insisted "There’s no reluctance from them to do it, but it’s not something that they have done in a commercial sense. They seem to be keen to do it now, in recent times".[5] Plans ultimately fell through.

A second season was originally planned, but it was cancelled due to low viewing figures of the show.


After the guest detective is introduced, they watch prerecorded footage of the murder taking place and meeting the four suspects, and are then guided to a mock-up of the crime scene, where they scour for clues, which are then "sent to the lab" by Wilson. The detective then listens to the witness' accounts and then interrogates them. Wilson will jump in when she feels there is nothing more to tell, with some "lab results" from the clues the detective found. This will continue until all four suspects have been interrogated, when the detective then attempts to solve the crime. After successfully or unsuccessfully solving the crime, Wilson will point out the clues, and the show will end.[11] The game has no script, and relies on just witness statements, footage flashback and forensic evidence.[12]


This is a list of episodes from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's dark comedy miniseries, Sleuth 101, hosted by comedian Cal Wilson. The first series, consisting of eight episodes, ended on 11 April 2010.

Season Episodes Originally aired
Season premiere Season finale
1 8 12 February 2010 (2010-02-12) 11 April 2010 (2010-04-11)

Series 1[edit]

Episode Title Director(s) Writer(s) Original Air Date
1 "Dave O'Neil in Family Assorted" Jon Olb Anthony Watt & Brendan Luno 12 February 2010 (2010-02-12)
Bill Quinn didn't get sudoku books, power tools or even socks and jocks this year for Christmas. Instead, he was killed. Suffocated, precisely. With the pillow he was using to make his Santa suit a bit more "tummylicious". Enter, guest detective Dave O'Neil. An examination of the crime scene turns up a wombat farming prospectus, an empty glass of eggnog and a chocolate menu. Not much to go by, so Detective O'Neil decides to interrogate Bill's wife Marjorie, daughter Michelle, son Steve and daughter-in-law Ally. As it turns out, this doesn't help Dave in the slightest when the time comes to pinpoint the murderer - so using some crazy logic (that the most famous guest star is always the murderer), Dave accuses Marjorie as the killer...and, crazy though it sounds, he's right. Starring: Dave O'Neil as the detective, John Wood as Bill, Nicola Parry as Ally, Robyn Butler as Michelle, Dave Lawson as Steve and Denise Drysdale as Marjorie.
2 "Frank Woodley in Murder In A Sharp" Jon Olb Anthony Watt & Brendan Luno 19 February 2010 (2010-02-19)
Kyle Bowman is a rock god. He's got all the mannerisms of your typical rockstar: arrogance, an affair, and an ARIA stabbed through his body in his recording studio. Time for Frank Woodley to step in and solve the murder. With a scrap of paper, a mobile phone and an oversized earring presenting themselves at the crime scene, Frank steps into the interrogation room to meet Kyle's third wife Abby, record sales rep Jessica, personal bodyguard Ian and his bandmate Barry. With this, the earring turns out to belong to Abby, an affair with Lily Allen comes to light and plane tickets to Samoa are found. Not a whole lot to go by, but Frank has to pinpoint the killer, using crazy logic (again). Detective Woodley picks out bodyguard Ian as the killer, because he is the least likely, therefore the most likely. And just like Detective O'Neil, the logic prevails. Time for a scorecheck - crazy logic: 2, common sense: zero. Starring: Frank Woodley as the detective, Celia Pacquola as Abby, Leah Vandenberg as Jessica, Frankie J Holden as Kyle, Kevin Harrington as Barry and Nicholas Bell as Ian.
3 "Claire Hooper in Delete Cache" Jon Olb Anthony Watt & Brendan Luno 26 February 2010 (2010-02-26)
Gamers go nuts! Deletion strikes gaming company system administrator Cache, or Darren Gablonsky, collapses dead after drinking his regular black coffee. But which of his nerdy colleagues slipped away from Halo online for enough time to poison Cache? Luckily, detective Claire Hooper is on hand to solve the crime. The crime scene presents a small stick-it note, a half-eaten doughnut, a coffee mug and a biro pen, which should be enough to guide Detective Hooper, right? Wrong. Interrogations with the game lab's CEO Torben, designer Hermione, technical director Nazeem and accountant Gill may give Claire some hints, and it's time to show them. Maybe a possible online affair? Maybe a virus in a famous computer game? Or maybe a firing gone too far? Claire pinpoints Cache's girlfriend Hermione as the killer, with her motive being Cache cheating on her - sleeping with another game character. And Detective Hooper is correct - will the Sleuth 101 team ever get one up on these detectives? Starring: Claire Hooper as the detective, Samuel Johnson as Cache, Tommy Dasalo as Torben, Katrina Milosevic as Gill, Emily Taheny as Hermione and Nazeem Hussain as Nazeem.
4 "A Tan To Die For starring Adam Richard" Jon Olb Anthony Watt & Brendan Luno 5 March 2010 (2010-03-05)
Not many people die in a beauty salon. Even fewer die in a beauty salon on the eve of the happiest day of their lives. But unfortunately, Bridget Wilmott is one of them. She was crushed to death in the solarium she was using to make herself picture-perfect for her special day. But unfortunately for guest detective Adam Richard, there is no shortage of people who wanted to see Bridget dead - but which was it? The mother-in-law-to-be Pat, the maid of honour Jacqui, the hairdresser Annie or the salon owner Louise? When Detective Richard discovers a disposable camera, some screws, hydraulic fluid and some hair follicles, it seems like the case may be wrapped up pretty quickly - wrong. When it comes time to bring the murderer to justice, Detective Richard glosses over Annie's past relationship with Bridget's fiancee, giving her the motive, and takes her photographic alibi (which turns out to be bogus) to heart, giving her the opportunity. Detective Richard highlights Louise as the killer, but he's wrong. Starring: Adam Richard as the detective, Leah Vandenberg as Annie, Caroline Craig as Bridget, Kate Atkinson as Jacqui, Anne Phelan as Pat and Jacqueline Brennan as Louise.
5 "Peter Rowsthorn in Inside Chef" Jon Olb Anthony Watt & Brendan Luno 12 March 2010 (2010-03-12)
Really, celebrity chef Ramsay McGordon should've seen it coming. Judging a cooking program where the contestants are all convicted felons does not spell job of a lifetime. Rather, in Ramsay's case, it spells death. He keels over after tasting the final dish in the final of his popular cooking show. With such a crooked cast of cooks, detective Peter Rowsthorn has a tough one to crack. Examining the crime scene turns up a (unopened) vial of poison worn by the victim, a syringe, a USB key and two peas. And interrogations of the show's producer Stacy, convicted pickpocket Fingers, convicted hitman Harry and convicted poisoner Enid also yield no discernible results. So Detective Rowsthorn may have to resort to guesswork. What is it, 25% chance? That's enough, as Detective Rowsthorn picks Stacy as the killer, trying to stop McGordon reporting their affair to the media. Detectives: 4, Sleuth 101: 1. Starring Peter Rowsthorn as the detective, Nicola Parry as Stacy, Denise Scott as Enid, Tony Rickards as Fingers, Mark Mitchell as Ramsay and Steve Bastoni as Harry.
6 "Late And Live starring Julia Morris" Jon Olb Anthony Watt & Brendan Luno 26 March 2010 (2010-03-26)
Breaking news! The news reporter for radio station Noyz FM, Rachel Timms, has been murdered! A promising career for Timms was cut brutally short by a microphone cable, just before she was due to read the midnight Noyz Newz. It's the biggest story of the year...too bad she won't be reporting it. Guest detective Julia Morris has been thrown into the graveyard shift for this one...will the late hour faze our detective? Searching Timms' radio booth finds a speeding infringement notice, a water bottle, a news bulletin, some lozenge wrappers and a piece of "fluff". This leads to interrogations of the radio host, Johnny, the show manager Ann, the tech-head Nigel and the guest comedienne Judy. This means...nothing. Or does it? Maybe it means an accusation of Rachel's stalker, Nigel, from Detective Morris. However, she's wrong, for it was host Johnny Velvet who strangled Timms overe envy for a new TV position. Sleuth 101, 2, guest detectives, 4. Starring Julia Morris as the detective, Toby Truslove as Nigel, Kimberley Davies as Rachel, Paul McCarthy as Johnny, Colette Mann as Ann and Felicity Ward as Judy.
7 "Colin Lane in Performance Enhancing Death" Jon Olb Anthony Watt & Brendan Luno 4 April 2010 (2010-04-04)
Dan Kinsman. The Sleuth 101 equivalent of Ben Cousins. Reformed bad boy, been off the drugs for a while now. He's got a new team, the Western Dragons, and a new lease on life. Or so he did, until a tricked-up treadmill shocked him - literally. To solve this one, Detective Colin Lane will need to be paying attention. And at first, he does - he finds a journalist's business card, an envelope of photos, a bottle of Vitamin B pills and a piece of red wire. And when he interrogates Dan's coach Mick, his teammate Cary, his manager Robby and Cary's girl, Rebecca, he claims to have it all sorted out. Apparently, Cary killed him because Dan was in the way of Cary making it big in the footy world, and because he was having an affair with Rebecca. Ding! Correct. Starring Colin Lane as the detective, Francis Greenslade as Mick, Nick Russell as Cary, Emily Taheny as Rebecca, Blair McDonough as Dan and Alan Brough as Robby.
8 "Still Life starring Hamish Blake" Jon Olb Anthony Watt & Brendan Luno 11 April 2010 (2010-04-11)
Imagine this. A simple life-drawing class turns into a murder scene. The beautiful nude model turns out to be a wanted criminal, but by the time the cops get to the scene, she's already dead. Stabbed in the neck. Hamish Blake steps up to solve the crime, but spends a little too much time staring at the deceased's naked body. When he finally gets down to it, he finds two palette knives, a red spill, and a bank statement belonging to Nikki Gleason, the victim, and interrogates nun-turned-art-teacher Bea, married couple Ern and Jean, and art enthusiast/"sicko" Duncan. Detective Blake then discovers that Gleason was partly responsible for the murder and theft of Ern and Jean's son, and pins the murder on them. However, the old "switcheroo" trips him up: apparently, Bea O'Malley, the nun-turned-artist, is currently lying in the morgue, and Nikki Gleason, posed as an art student, stabbed O'Malley and took her identity before the cops arrived, after Bea's call to the cops, claiming that Nikki was on the premises. So, in the end: Sleuth 101: 3, detectives: 5. Starring: Hamish Blake as the detective, Heidi Arena as Nikki, posing as Bea, Tracy Harvey as Jean, Nick Farnell as Duncan, Nicholas Bell as Ern, Luke Ryan as the policeman and Annalise Braakensiek as Bea.

Critical reception[edit]

Upon the series' debut, The Sydney Morning Herald wrote "Wilson exudes the good-natured charm and quick wit that made her an audience favourite on Thank God You're Here and Dancing with the Stars. She even gets away with such daggy to-camera spiels as, Was it the self-unemployed son; the dowdy, dateless daughter; the menopausally moody missus or the domineering daughter-in-law? Do you have a hunch? Well, sit up properly then!".[7] By the series' end, SMH concluded "What seemed both a promising idea and a rather delightful nod to two genre predecessors - the 1970s mystery show Whodunit? and the 1990s board game spin-off Cluedo - seems to stumble and fall in the execution. It is one thing to try to reinvent a genre after two fairly excellent executions but to live up to neither, with the benefit of significantly higher production values than both, is a terrible shame. Sleuth 101 is sold as a murder mystery but, in practice, it's a poor cousin to Thank God You're Here, the improv game show on Seven (and before that Ten). It's jam-packed with familiar faces, such as comedian Frank Woodley, Kevin Harrington and Frankie J. Holden, but the range of performances - from buffoonish to solid but unremarkable - lets it down".[13][14] In a letter entitled "Case of the stolen timeslot", Ray Harrison wrote the following letter to The Age: "WHY all the whingeing about Sleuth 101? The description by Cindy Mann (Letters, 18/3) is correct. Collectors is OK but Sleuth 101 deserves far better than being buried on Sunday."[15]

The show has a user rating of 7.8 on based on 2 votes.[16]

Interactive game[edit]

On the Sleuth 101 website, an interactive murder mystery game tie-in was created, in which players have to solve 8 cases. The game is now inactive, though used to be located here. Each case had a different motive, and ranged from a retirement home, to a circus, to a church, to a book signing. Successfully solving the case gave the player clues for the upcoming episode of Sleuth 101.

DVD releases[edit]

Season Date Released # Of Episodes # Of Discs Special Features Classification
Series 1 1 April 2010 8 1 None PG - violence, drug references, coarse language

See also[edit]

  • Whodunnit!, British television series
  • Cluedo, Australian television game show
  • Cluedo, British television game show


External links[edit]