True-Crime Shows That Are Anything But Dateline
Playboy Magazine US|April 2016

We’re more fascinated with true crime than ever before. But what are we really looking for?

Katie Walsh

It has been a banner couple of years for true-crime creeps. We’re accustomed to bingeing on Investigation Discovery with the curtains closed, but the rise of what could be called “prestige true crime” on cable, streaming networks and the podcastosphere has allowed us to come out of the closet. Being fascinated with murder is beyond trendy; it’s highbrow, crowned with the laurels of NPR, HBO and Netflix. You can hardly go online without brushing past a think piece on Serial host Sarah Koenig’s introspective slant on investigative journalism, an update on the trial of Robert Durst, whose bathroom bombshell capped off the final episode of The Jinx, or a Making a Murderer subreddit dedicated to Steven Avery’s court documents.

But is all prestige true crime created equal? We now live in the world of “Fancy Dateline,” where the line between art and exploitation can get blurry. Case in point: The Jinx began as a fascinating portrayal of a New York real estate scion who escaped retribution for this numerous suspected crimes, but the latter half of the season devolved into director Andrew Jarecki’s dogged pursuit of a confession. And for all The Jinx’s pedigree and elevated production values, its format—stern male host, cheesy reenactments—soon took on a familiar network glare.

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