I did a double take in Barnes & Noble last Saturday. I was walking past the coffee shop, through the action figures, around the vinyl records, up the aisle of refrigerator magnets, and was glancing at the board games on my way to ask someone to help me find the books. That’s when I noticed a familiar game on the shelf. It was the classic role-playing whodunit, “Clue.”
I have fond memories of this British-inspired lark. Hyped up on a steady diet of mystery shows like “Magnum, P.I,” “Matlock” and “Murder, She Wrote” back in the 80s, I loved the chance to play amateur detective with “Clue.” You remember the premise: Mr. Boddy has been murdered, and it’s up to us to figure out if he was offed by Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick, or if, contrariwise, we could point the finger at Miss Scarlet, who left her incriminating lead pipe in the study.
But, of course, you can’t rule out the possibility that the culprit was Mr. Plum, monkeying around with the wrench in the cellar. We could go on, as there are another 321 possible combinations of suspect-weapon-and-crime-scene, but you get the idea.
The game had been introduced in the 1940s and reeked of Edwardian England, complete with monocles, mutton-chop whiskers and conservatories. It seemed like the kind of game Lord Mountbatten might have played over cucumber sandwiches after fox hunting with a Baronet. As a fan of all things British, I ate it up.
Back to Barnes & Noble. I was looking at the board game “Clue,” but the characters on the front were not Mr. Green or Mrs. Peacock. Instead I saw four old women — Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia. And the setting was no longer a posh Hampshire estate, but a condo in Miami. I thought, “Heavens to Murgatroyd! This is ‘Clue — The Golden Girls Edition.’”
No one who was conscious between 1985 and 1992 could have missed “The Golden Girls,” one of NBC’s highest-rated sitcoms ever. Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty had perfect chemistry as four widows sharing a condo in Florida and trading bawdy zingers week after week.
I watched it devotedly every Saturday night during high school and college, though I now wonder where I might be in life if I had freed up those seven years of Saturday evenings. Anyway, I’m a big fan, and if you’ll stop me in the hallway, I’ll gladly tell you about the time I got a letter from Betty White, who is still going strong at 96.
“Clue — The Golden Girls Edition” does not involve a murder. It centers on another capital offense: Who ate the last slice of cheesecake? Was it Dorothy in the kitchen? Or Blanche out on the lanai? As it turns out, this is one of over 30 different editions of the game available, including a Seinfeld rendition, a Simpsons version and a Harry Potter option (Did Hermione use a stupefy spell against Snape in the ballroom?).
In fact, the shelves at Barnes & Noble are full of old board games given a fresh pop-culture twist. Buyers can stock up on “Monopoly — Star Wars Edition,” “Bob’s Burgers and Jenga” and “Walking Dead Trivial Pursuit.” It seems that Hasbro and Parker Brothers are pulling out all the stops to compete for this share of the entertainment market.
The possibilities are endless. “Muppets Edition” — did Fozzie Bear off Gonzo in the dressing room with the whoopie cushion? “Marvel Avengers Edition” — will Thor finish Thanos with the sledgehammer on Earth? “Shakespeare Edition” — was King Lear zapped by Lady Macbeth on the balcony with the handkerchief? “Breakfast Edition” — did Tony the Tiger take out Count Chocula at the kitchen table with the marshmallow horseshoe?
I was certainly game for all this. But then I looked at the price tag. At $39.95, the “Golden Girls Clue” will have to find buyers with retirement income to burn.