Two promising summer ABC reality series, Whodunnit and The Quest, only lived to see one season each. But YouTube Red’s new show Escape the Night with Joey Graceffa, which debuted this week, brings back elements of each series, along with challenges reminiscent of the escape room reality competition Race to Escape.
Oh, and yes, it also has elements of that murder-mystery classic, Clue.
In episode one, Escape the Night proves itself to be a lighthearted, campy show that’s finding its footing but shows a lot of promise in being a worthy successor to Whodunnit.
Graceffa acts as host, sort of, for a group of 10 YouTube stars, who are all in period 1920s dress and character for a dinner party. They’re in character, and some have clearly been given tasks and told what to do to advance the story. So, part of it is definitely scripted, and the producers are directing the cast in those moments.
But beyond that framework is the reality competition part—which, in future episodes, will include elimination challenges, from which one person won’t return. The episode one challenges start with clue-decoding, and move on to three separate challenges, all of which require different skill sets and are decently executed.
In episode one, at least, Escape the Night seems to have solved some of Whodunnit’s problems by dropping the misguided conceit of trying to figure out who did it. Instead, the contestants (and viewers) are told in episode one that it’s the house/something supernatural that’s responsible, so we can instead focus on the challenges. (Before that reveal, though, the YouTube stars start pointing fingers at each other, accusing each other of pretend murder.)
While there is a fictional wrapper around the challenges and an overarching mythology, it’s not quite as successful as The Quest in world-building, mostly because it asks the cast to act instead of dropping real people into a world with actors and letting the cast interact with that environment, as The Quest did so brilliantly.
Some of the YouTube stars really rise to the occasion, and episode one’s break-out cast member is GloZell Green, who’s committed to her character and reacts hilariously to what is happening around her. Some of her fellow contestants are over-acting and others can’t quite do the campy thing well, which is fine. What will really matter is their commitment to playing out the challenges in the environment, and we’ll see how that unfolds over the rest of the season.
The full cast consists of former The Amazing Race team member Joey Graceffa and:
- The Chair winner Shane Dawson
- Lele Pons
- Eva Gutowski
- Oli White
- GloZell Green
- Sierra Furtado
- Andrea Brooks
- Justine Ezarik
- Matt Haag
- Timothy DeLaGhetto
Watch episode 1 of Escape the Night, free
There will be 10 episodes total, with future episodes released every Wednesday, but only for YouTube Red subscribers. The first episode, however, is free: