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TV's obsession with true crime is reaching breaking point

In Wang Nanfu’s documentary series Mind Over Murder, the town of Beatrice, Nebraska is still fighting with 1985 fight year old tragedy. Six people were convicted of raping and murdering a woman in 1980, but DNA evidence decades later exonerates them. The six-part HBO series chronicles the long-running miscarriage of justice, focusing on the town’s unique coping mechanism: local community theaters read court records and transcripts in stages. It tells its story in an allopathic way, and as one of the best TV shows of the year, it explores how our insatiable appetite for true crime (often presented in voyeuristic terms) can heal those most personally involved in tragedy. people, and our social trauma.

Countless examples of true crime content helping innocent people get away with it (The Thin Blue Line, serial) or against criminals (The Jinx, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark), you can convince yourself this is A genre devoted to the public good. This is presumably assuming you haven’t watched PeacockJoe vs. Carole, which was a completely unimaginative and unnecessary attempt to capitalize on the success ofTiger King, this unique phenomenon is so tenuous that Netflix has released multiple sequels that you probably didn’t know (or didn’t care) existed.

We’re at an inflection point, or at least a shaky one, for true crime on TV, and in this case, the genre’s numbers, popularity and Award recognition is not always in perfect sync.

On the one hand, check out this fall’s Emmys in the limited series/anthology category. There is definitely a definition of true crime that can include Dopesick, just the many deadly crimes that have been documented for a long time One of the (if not caused by Big Pharma or The Dropout), records are just Numerous (often not fatal) crimes sustained (and possibly caused) by big tech corporations – award-winning miniseries by Michael Keaton and Amanda Seyfried, respectively. The biggest prize, though, goes to Mike White’s HBO anthology The White Lotus Won, in a fictional murder upstaged by a suitcase shit crime, the only “truth” is that rich people are disgusting.

Emmy list has some true crime reps — Acting nominations for The Staircase, Under the Banner of Various nominations for Heaven – but easier to point to frustrated award aspirants, from the mocking Joe vs. Carole up front and the easily mocking Renée Zellweger Latex Showcase The Thing About Pam . Ryan Murphy’s Impeachment: American Crime Story , the sequel to two Emmy-winning juggernauts, is mostly creative art after the fact.

But don’t cry for Ryan Murphy! Because if one side is “lack of recent Emmy success” then the other side is the horribly titled Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story and generally titled warder. A few weeks later, Murphy was no longer the subject of “What did Netflix actually get for that mega-billion-dollar deal?” to “Dahmer and The Watcher were such a hit that they were actually going to be franchises because that’s what Ryan Murphy Did it and did it well.”

Monster is popular, but will that translate into awards contenders? Evan Peters is an Emmy winner no one can question the intensity he brings to the lead, while Niecy Nash is the best Monster the central character of the series has been well-received, perhaps the only one who lived up to the producers’ overt desire to do a series about real people affected by Dahmer’s crimes, not just a dumbass , squinting exploits. As for The Watcher, it seems like most people who reach the end of the series want to forget about it, rather than honor it.

Sigmund Freud never studied the therapeutic value of true crime, but he did write about Wiederholungszwang, or repetition compulsion, in which compulsion In schizophrenia, people have an unconscious tendency to repeat their most destructive or traumatic decisions. It’s a tactic Murphy has used throughout his career, and it’s one of the most common on television. (Not just in the true crime realm. How many scripts and documentaries about the Los Angeles Lakers does America need in 2022?)

At least with true crime, there’s a sense of success that perpetuates repetition and reinvention. The Staircase One of the greatest documentary series of all time? Why not try the scripted version! Tiger King Is this what everyone is talking about during the two weeks the world has been in lockdown? Let’s do a scripted series and a sequel in 2 years time! Dahmer word of mouth joins Netflix’s vast roster of serial killer shows. Two weeks later, there was another Dahmer documentary series set to premiere, but no direct contact.

and repetition can be platform independent. The recent unnecessary TV ouroboros poster boy is Jan Broberg’s weird story, the subject of Peacock’s super-long, well-acted A Friend of the Family , which isn’t directly based on Skye Bergman’s Netflix documentary Kidnapped in full view , even though the story is the same, Bergman is involved. Naturally, Peacock released a companion document, A Friend of the Family: True Evil. Remember Hulu’s Candy and Jessica Biel as 1980 ax murderer Candy Montgomery? Emmy voters did not. But get ready for HBO Max to Love and Death.

which means we only have a few years to stay away from Mind Over Murder: The Series , a scripted story about a filmmaker making a documentary about a community making a drama about the horrific tragedy that rocked a small Nebraska town.

This story first appeared in the November stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive this magazine, click here to subscribe .

2022

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