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New Freeform series 'Guilt' is a silly, sexed-up murder mystery

Any excuse for a London vacation.

That appears to be the real primary motivation for the creators of, and potential audience for, the new Freeform series “Guilt,”  a silly and sexed-up murder mystery in which all manner of narrative flaws are “solved” with a quick cut to the London Eye or the Houses of Parliament.

With plot twists dependent on missing cellphones and the talismans of secret sex clubs, creators Kathryn Price and Nichole Millard appear to be hopefully following the Starbucks model for addictive seasonal offerings: Heavy on froth and “unexpected” ingredients, which here include visual references to “Eyes Wide Shut,” Billy Zane and at least one potential suspect who resides in Buckingham Palace.

But like many seasonal concoctions, it sounds tastier than it actually is.

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After a drunken night on the town, young Irishwoman Molly Ryan (Rebekah Wainwright) and her American roommate, Grace Atwood (Daisy Head) bring the party home to their flat. Grace heads up to the roof with her French boyfriend Luc (Zachary Fall) and Molly wanders around in a haze before getting brutally murdered by a person unknown.

Not surprisingly, Grace and Luc quickly become the primary suspects. But, as more than a few random scenes unfold and Grace’s sister Natalie (Emily Tremaine) — who just happens to be a lawyer! — rushes to her side, they are clearly not the only ones.

Molly had a few secrets, not to mention an obsessively devoted brother (Kevin Ryan) who doesn’t believe in British justice for Irish murder victims. And while Grace’s wealthy stepdad, James (the actress’ father and “Buffy” alum Anthony Stewart Head), quickly get her a killer attorney (Zane, stealing every scene he’s in), James is super-creepy and clearly hiding something.

And then there’s that secret high-price brothel in which the women swan around in masks and the young princeling is glimpsed mid-50 shades of sex play.

Crashing around in all this breathless blue fluff are a sympathetic Scotland Yard detective (Cristian Solimeno) and a hard-charging prosecuting attorney (Naomi Ryan) who have at least one secret of their own. (Go on, guess what it is.)

But “Guilt” revolves around Grace, often literally — far too many scenes are anchored by close-ups of her tear-stained and possibly duplicitous face — and two hours in, she is far more irritating than enigmatic.

Also the whole posh brothel thing is, at this point in television, a crashing bore. 

Still, aided by Zane and Anthony Head, both of whom are clearly having a great time, the twists may allow viewers to overlook the clunky dialogue and nonsensical plotting. And there’s something admirable about setting such a say-cheese-please murder mystery in the backyard of “Sherlock,” “Luther” and other high-minded British detective shows. Take that, you snobby Brits!

Oh, and I realize that many of you may be wondering how I have gotten this far without mentioning Amanda Knox; “Guilt” has been characterized  as “Amanda Knox-themed” from the moment Freeform picked it up.

Except that it isn’t.

Not to get all huffy about it but Amanda Knox is a woman who, having been accused of the 2007 murder of her roommate Meredith Kerchner in Perugia, Italy, was branded a psychopath and a pervert by the international press because she had the temerity to be sexually active. She and her boyfriend were wrongfully convicted and spent four years in prison until they were finally, definitively acquitted, during which time her parents bankrupted themselves on her behalf.

There is absolutely nothing delicious or addictive, fun or frothy about the Amanda Knox story, no underground sex clubs were lurking in her background, no rich but morally sketchy stepfather funded her defense The only possible way one could legitimately connect “Guilt” to Knox would be through the words “shameless exploitation,” and that just ruins the fun, doesn’t it?

So let’s all just accept the show for what it is — a soapy international murder mystery — and cut to a shot of Kensington Gardens.

Which really is beautiful this time of year.


Where: Freeform

When: 9 p.m. Monday

Rating: TV-14-DLSV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for suggestive dialogue, coarse language, sex and violence)


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