If you find yourself impatiently waiting for fall TV to arrive, here is something to get you through the dog days of August: it’s called Escape the Night, and it is reality TV escapism at its finest.
Now, if the names Murder in Small Town X, Whodunnit or The Quest don’t mean anything to you, then Escape the Night is probably not going to be your cup of tea. But if you totally figured out that Kathryn was the mole long before The Mole‘s first season finale aired, then this is right up your alley.
The YouTube Premium show comes from the mind of YouTube personality Joey Graceffa and director Adam Lawson, and the idea in Season 1 is that Graceffa invites 10 fellow YouTubers to a mansion for a 1920s-themed dinner party. Things quickly go awry when someone is poisoned at dinner and it turns into a murder mystery party. Observe:
Is it cheesy? At times, yes. But as the guests are bumped off one by one and the survivors are forced to solve puzzles and riddles to keep advancing in the game, it is a wildly entertaining ride that also manages to work in some legitimate scares. Plus, there’s a bit of a Survivor element to it because every time someone “dies,” it’s because the group voted two people into a life-or-death battle of wits, with the winner staying in the game and the loser shuffling off this mortal coil (though obviously not for real).
There is also an ongoing story arc about the evil the contestants must defeat in order to escape the mansion, with scripted flashbacks popping up to illustrate the various havoc the evil has wrought over the years. It adds a nice little serialized touch to the reality show.
Finally, as seen above, there is a behind-the-scenes featurette that reveals the incredible production value of the series. Each season was filmed at a different historical mansion in and around Los Angeles. Set-up typically began around noon each day and lasted five or six hours, then filming began at sunset and lasted through the night, often managing to film two episodes before the sun rose. What’s particularly interesting is that the majority of the series was filmed live — one take, no do-overs — because they wanted genuine reactions from the YouTube stars.
That means the magical props for each episode — secret rooms, trap doors, hidden keys, etc — all had to be set up before filming began and then they had to work perfectly because the producers only got one shot at most of the action. For as off-the-cuff as the “contestants” were, the behind-the-scenes arrangements were highly choreographed and it makes for a fast-paced, exciting 10 episodes. And since each episode runs just over 20 minutes (if you skip the previously-ons and end credits), each season is an easy one-night binge.
So if you’re a fan of the aforementioned reality shows, Escape the Night is not to be missed. The third season is currently airing, with the final three episodes dropping August 1st, 8th and 15th.