Morbidly Beautiful

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A review of the new star-studded murder mystery podcast, Deadly Manners, starring Kristen Bell, Anna Chlumsky, and LeVar Burton

DEADLY MANNERS is a ten-episode murder mystery podcast in the style of 1940’s horror adventure serials.

Produced by the Paragon Collective (THE NO SLEEP PODCAST, DARKEST NIGHT), DEADLY MANNERS boasts an A-List cast, including Kristen Bell, Anna Chlumsky, and LeVar Burton. The creators were inspired by the campy comedy CLUE and, of course, the ultimate mystery writer Agatha Christie.

DEADLY MANNERS centers around the rich, sophisticated Billings family and their annual gala. One snowy night in 1954, Mrs. Billings plays host to a gaggle of her socialite friends. As the snowstorm worsens and the drinks keep pouring, tensions heighten. One of the guests is found dead. The storm traps all the guests in the house and cuts off all the phones. Will the killer be found? Will the Billings survive? Will the drinks hold out?

Kristen Bell (Photo Credit: Miguel Lopez)

If spine-tingling fear is what you’re looking for, this is not your podcast. DEADLY MANNERS (at least the first episode) has far more in common with DOWNTON ABBEY than DAWN OF THE DEAD.  For terror, you’d do a lot better to seek out EARBUD THEATER, or even The Paragon Collective’s earlier series, THE NO SLEEP PODCAST.

DEADLY MANNERS is more about hidden secrets, destructive desires, and deep-seated resentments that bubble up in the pressure of a party that goes on way too long.

Tim Simons

In its effort to recapture the nostalgia of the old-school radio plays, the characters are larger than life: archetypes rather than people. We have the philandering husband, the neurotic hostess, the shrill guest, and the drunken businessman.

LeVar Burton, as the narrator, was my personal favorite, shading his tones with a humor and indulgence that effortlessly carries us through the story. I want to make a blanket out of LeVar Burton’s voice.

LeVar Burton

Having only listened to the premiere episode, I can’t speak to how the mystery deepens and unfolds. It is my hope that the story either doubles down on the camp, becoming more wacky and fun, or shades its characters with more delicate hues, tempering the caricatures with a bit more depth. As it stands, DEADLY MANNERS is not quite one or the other, and suffers from that indecision.

However, with such a cast, I’m definitely willing to give the next episode or two a listen. As mystery writer G.K. Chesterton once wrote, the detective story is unique [in that] the reader is only happy if he feels a fool. And I’m very much hoping DEADLY MANNERS dazzles with a brilliant, innovative solution to a classic premise.

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