NEW YORK - From a bank of chairs in an NBC Universal control room, technician Antonella Caruso counted down as if she were anticipating a rocket booster's liftoff: "Nine, eight, seven, six ..."
It was a dress rehearsal for USA's plan to let viewers of "Psych" choose the ending of Wednesday's episode, celebrating the drama's 100th episode and culminating the network's two-year experiment at an exclusively fan-centered approach at marketing.
In the episode, Shawn (actor James Roday) and Gus (Dule Hill) try to solve a murder at a party hosted by an old rock star in a California mansion. There are five suspects: the groupie, the manager, the author, the host and, of course, the butler. During the show, the suspects are narrowed down to three and viewers are asked to vote on social media who they thought committed the crime. Three endings were filmed, each lasting three minutes, and the top vote-getter will be used.
The episode salutes the 1985 film "Clue" and features that film's actors Christopher Lloyd, Lesley Ann Warren and Martin Mull, along with guest shots from Garrett Morris and Curt Smith of Tears For Fears.
Depending on where you live, you could see a different ending. USA is conducting separate votes for the East and West coast airings of the show. (Viewers in other time zones will see the Eastern version at 10 p.m. Eastern.) They estimate tabulating 190,000 to 250,000 votes.
Viewer-selected endings aren't necessarily unique (CBS' "Hawaii Five-0" did one this year), but here fans will be updated a handful of times during the show on how the vote is going. That's where Caruso's practice came in; she was counting down to an insert of a vote tally.
"Psych" is in its seventh season, a point at which most shows are considered "mature" and are losing viewers, but it does have a relatively young, devoted audience and is USA's third most-popular original show behind "Burn Notice" and "Suits."