Unsolved Mysteries (Netflix) – streaming review

It may have been decades since its last outing, but we’ve never forgotten one of our favourites, Unsolved Mysteries.  Popular in the late night market with those who liked to combine their conspiracy theorist TV viewing with their interest in true crime stories, Unsolved Mysteries was one of those fascinating but creepy TV shows that achieved cult status as the years went on.

The original Unsolved Mysteries featured the stern but conspiratorial narrator (Robert Stack) who always somehow managed to leave viewers with the idea that double checking the locks that night when they bring in the cat might be in their best interests. Netflix has wisely not copied the original series to rote, instead dropping the intrusive single host format and producing an updated and sophisticated true crime series which is more documentary in style than splashy sensationalist.

Unsolved Mysteries 2020 features varied cases of murders and disappearances episodically relayed by the families and survivors, original investigators, journalists, and witnesses. The line-up of cases is varied, so whatever your niche true crime interest is, you are guaranteed to recognize at least a couple of these stories from your online wanderings.

Re-enactment montages placed alongside the excerpts of original crime scene footage are both seamless and pertinent, with the usage of the originals thankfully noted on screen so it’s known when the viewer is seeing exactly what the originally responders encountered. Timelines and maps are included also so armchair detectives should be able to hit various subreddits afterwards and feel well informed before launching in with their thoughts.

Unsolved Mysteries 2020 is of course a far more polished production than its predecessor, though still not adverse to including more teary anecdotes of the deceased than is probably necessary.  Another regular play is the filming of various persons as they plod pointlessly about the original crime scenes, or perhaps as they stand still and stare moodily up into the sky.

With the huge upshift of interest in true crime that has been supported in no small part by the growing popularity of (roughly a billion) podcasts on the subject, it is definitely timely that Unsolved Mysteries appears once again on our screens.  There is only so much that can be summarized in a one hour television documentary so it’s not a gripe that some more obvious conclusions and intriguing pieces of information are not included – that’s for you to chase up afterwards, should the urge compel.

Unsolved Mysteries, the re-boot, is a ten part series streaming now on Netflix.

Andy Thompson

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