Who Killed Santa? A Murderville Murder Mystery (2022)

Murderville is essentially a blend of a cop show parody, a gameshow, and an improv performance. The setup involves a scripted murder mystery in which a celebrity guest, playing the character assigned to solve the crime, is NOT shown the script or provided any sort of preparation. This guest host then needs to stumble through the story while the rest of the cast improvs around them.

The show typically uses only one guest, but this isn't a normal episode. For the Christmas special, we get two or three, depending on whether you count a brief surprise spot from Pete Davidson as a real guest. Jason Bateman is around from the start, with Maya Rudolph added about halfway through.

Guiding the guest star(s) is Will Arnett, playing Detective Terry Seattle, a parody of the typical hard-as-nails lead. Seattle has an ongoing subplot involving his ex-wife, who's also his boss, though this is less of a factor in this episode. Seattle gets a few scenes with side adventures in this episode. Arnett is funny, but honestly, I'd have preferred more time with the guests, as the real fun in the show is watching them try to navigate the genre tropes and break the scenes with improv. This is mainly an excuse for comedians to play around.

But there's also the game show element I mentioned earlier. The guests are presented with clues and taken to meet three suspects. Well, in this case Bateman meets all three, Rudolph meets the last two, and Davidson gets to interact with exactly none of them before being asked to identify the killer. To be fair, there is absolutely no prize or really even an incentive to get it right. Which is good, because - and this is not a spoiler for those of you trying to play along - all three guests fail.

In fact, they fail spectacularly, each identifying separate characters who *aren't* suspects in the killing. I suspect they were unclear on the rules of the game, which isn't too surprising, as those don't appear to have been described to them beforehand.

The "trainees" are shown a murder scene (in this case, one is even present for the murder), and provided with clues. They're then shown three suspects. The trick is, all of the suspects will, to some degree, work with some of the clues. Focusing on a single clue that seems like a perfect match is likely to lead to the wrong conclusion: the trick is to determine which suspect can't be eliminated. This is obvious after watching an episode or two, but of course, these were all filmed before any streamed. My guess is the contestants will do better if there's another season.

The special, as the name implies, features the death of Santa, or at least a character dressed as Santa, who's stabbed during a blackout with a sharpened candy cane. The murder takes place when Jason Bateman and Terry Seattle are already present as security. Naturally, they must then solve the crime and convince the kids St. Nick isn't dead. As you'd expect, it's all extremely silly - sillier, in fact than the regular show, which is a touch more committed to the conventions of the genre.

Santa is being played by an actor pretending to be a football star, so the suspects are a sports reporter who owed him money, an assistant he mistreated, and a ruthless business associate. There's also an added twist in the form of a mysterious accomplice chasing them around the building. Plus, there's a sequence in which Terry tries to re-enact the air duct sequence in Die Hard.

The Christmas elements are all superficial and present as a joke. This is making fun of conventional holiday entertainment, not trying to build emotional connections or deliver some kind of statement. I don't have any issue with using the holidays as a punchline, but I don't want anyone under the misconception that this is trying to be anything more.

Again, it's all very silly. I had fun watching this and eventually caught the rest of the season. It's entertaining, both as a comedic farce and as a game reminiscent of kids' detective books I read in the '80s. You can choose to play along or not: it does a good job ensuring you have enough information to solve the puzzle, assuming you understand the rules (which, again, the guests don't seem to, which kind of makes the whole thing even more fun).