The latest offering in the vein of true crime TV will be none other than JonBenét Ramsey's case, it was announced Wednesday (August 10).
Debuting first as a Lifetime original movie, "Who Killed JonBenét?," on September 12, and then as a six-part CBS series, "The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey," later that week, the 1996 murder of 6-year-old Ramsey will be back on TV screens across the country. And it's exploitative AF.
Commercially speaking, both projects make a lot of sense. From "Making A Murderer," to "The People v. O.J. Simpson," to "The Jinx," true crime is obviously seeing a televised renaissance. In July, it was announced another famously unsolved murder case, that of Chandra Levy, would be coming to the silver screen as well. And before all these, it was the "Serial" podcasts in 2014 that paved the way toward adapting the genre (previously exemplified by programs like "Dateline") for the millennial generation.
Yet the reasoning behind highlighting these cases on TV is markedly different from the decision to resuscitate Ramsey's — namely, there IS a reason, beyond sheer morbid fascination.
"Serial" exposes disturbing flaws in the criminal justice system.
Quick disclaimer: "Serial," of course, is a podcast and not a TV show, but its popularity undoubtedly paved the way for true crime's resurgence.
Not only is it a groundbreaking feat of journalism, winning the 2014 Peabody Award for that reason, it's more so an examination of reasonable doubt in homicide trials than a telling of a crime itself.
And "Making A Murderer" makes a similar statement.
Beyond highlighting failure and corruption in the criminal justice system, the show is also an excellent educational resource for audiences to learn about still-pending litigation.
"The Jinx" is a portrait of an alleged serial killer whose wealth and power helped him evade justice — until now.
Famously, the docu-series' producers uncovered information leading to the arrest of its subject, 72-year-old Robert Durst, who'd previously evaded justice for his three alleged murders. His brother, Douglas, even thanked the show, telling the New York Times, “I no longer am looking over my shoulder. I’m very grateful to 'The Jinx' for having brought this about.”
Clearly, by helping to expose a still-living killer and bring truth to the world, this show's impact extended beyond ratings.
Meanwhile, "The People v. O.J. Simpson" was a reflection on so much more than murder.
The Ryan Murphy-produced series took the case/historical phenomenon and re-examined it through a fresh lens, highlighting the roles race, class, and sexism played in its outcome.