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20 True Crime Shows to Watch After Netflix’s Tiger King

on March 31, 2020, 4:00am
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McMillion$

Available on: HBO

Facts of the Case: We all knew in the back of our minds that the McDonald’s Monopoly game was just a marketing gimmick, and that we’d never see a dime of that grand-prize money. But as James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte show us over the six episodes of HBO’s most recent high-concept true crime doc, the truth was even stranger. Instead, we get to see how the game was rigged by a group of mob-connected guys who worked for the security company for the marketing agency that ran the promotion, which gives us a droll look into the competing personalities and deeply absurd machinations behind one of the oddest grifts in American history.


Free Meek

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

Facts of the Case: Meek Mill’s journey from young, rising rap star to incarcerated felon and criminal justice advocate is the subject of Patrick Reardon’s five-part series, which is less down-and-dirty whodunit than it is a passionate plea for probation reform. Mill’s story is echoed in the lives of a lot of young, black men, trapped in the unfair, Kafkaesque iniquities of the criminal justice system; just as his star is rising, the quirks of a probation system fully unprepared to handle a case like his fairly keeps rearing their ugly head. The doc rarely veers into the outright conspiratorial, but instead lays out the facts of how young black men are disenfranchised in American life and builds a strong case for reform.


Unabomber: In His Own Words

Available on: Netflix

Facts of the Case: Ted Kaczynski’s manifesto infamously laid out the groundwork for his ideology, one which led him to kill three people and injure 23 others as the Unabomber over more than 17 years. But as Netflix’s four-part series Unabomber: In His Own Words lays out the man’s life and murderous philosophies, there’s a bit more beneath the surface than one might imagine. Mick Grogan illustrates Kaczynski’s life as a series of familiar benchmarks — abusive family, rejection by women, radicalization — while also contributing excerpts from a rare interview (the only one he ever gave) and a Harvard University experiment from the ’50s in which he participated, which the doc argues helped forge his sociopathy.


The Most Dangerous Animal of All

Available on: FX

Facts of the Case: What if your dad was the Zodiac Killer? And what if that was the only way you’d ever get to know him? FX’s four-part miniseries, based on the book by Gary Stewart, follows Stewart’s search for his biological father, who abandoned him as a baby. But more than a search for closure and identity, Stewart’s investigation becomes a quixotic quest for the most infamous killer in American history, which Ross M. Dinerstein and Kief Davidson turn into a glance at Stewart himself. It’s a powerful story about skepticism and hope, and a heart-breaking way to use true-crime to examine familial loss and one man’s existential grief. We know that Stewart’s dad can’t possibly be the Zodiac Killer — he’s not Ted Cruz, after all — but what that journey reveals about Stewart is riveting.


The Keepers

Available on: Netflix

Facts of the Case: Before The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez, Brian Knappenberger cut his teeth on this superb miniseries about the 1969 murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik in a sleepy Baltimore suburb and the way the murder rippled throughout Archbishop Keough High School and the surrounding neighborhood. Not only do we get a sympathetic portrait of a victim who had a tremendous impact on her community, but The Keepers also shines a light on religious hypocrisy and the abuses of power that reside therein.


Lorena

Available on: Amazon Prime Video

Facts of the Case: Lorena Bobbitt was a punchline for most of the ’90s — a woman scorned who cut off her abusive husband’s penis and threw it out the window of a moving car. But in the post-#MeToo world, it was high time to reexamine Bobbitt’s story, Joshua Rofé reminding us of the bitter truths of Bobbitt’s life and the way the media ran away with the more sensationalist parts of her story. Instead of a hysterical woman who went too far, we see a woman subjected to domestic abuse and marital rape, whose immigration status played a vital part in the media’s treatment of her. It’s a sobering overview of a tale we got far too many sick giggles from at the time, giving us a side of the story that got lost in all the tabloid sleaze that surrounded it.


The Murder of Laci Peterson

Available on: Hulu

Facts of the Case: The Scott Peterson case was one of the mid-aughts’ most sensational news stories, but The Murder of Laci Peterson posits a number of alternate theories as to what truly happened to Laci Peterson in 2002. Chief among them is that Scott Peterson was himself railroaded, pushed into a position of guilt by a police department eager to peg him for the murder. Whether you believe that or not, the results are intriguingly told, even as the show veers into sensationalism in its own right at times.


The Family

Available on: Netflix

Facts of the Case: Not all true crime shows are about murder; Netflix’s 2019 miniseries details the extent to which a mysterious religious organization known as the Fellowship has its claws into every aspect of American life and political power. Jesse Moss’ five episodes connect the Fellowship to a number of the world’s most brutal dictators and autocrats, from Muammar Qaddafi to (predictably) Donald Trump. In a world where conspiracy theories reign supreme, and various corners of the Internet are obsessed with Q or the Deep State, it’s this kind of theocratic capitalism that rings far more true.


The Confession Killer

Available on: Netflix

Facts of the Case: Here’s an intriguing premise for a true-crime show: what if the guy didn’t do it? That’s the lynchpin behind The Confession Killer, which recounts the story of Henry Lee Lucas, a man who confessed to dozens, if not hundreds, of crimes throughout the latter half of the 20th century. Here’s the kicker, though: no one actually bothered to check if he was telling the truth. Robert Kenner and Taki Oldham’s five-part series unveils the massive miscarriage of justice that came from combining one gullible, attention-starved man with a law enforcement system more concerned with closing cases than solving them … and the many killers they may have let run wild when they weren’t looking.


Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes

Available on: Netflix

Facts of the Case: Shortly before they released the Zac Efron-led biopic Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, Netflix put out a vastly superior four-part miniseries that does more to get us into the mind of a madman than both seasons of Mindhunter. Compiled from hours of interviews with the man himself, Conversations with a Killer gives us the most unfiltered, uncut exposure to Bundy’s motives, philosophies, and personality than ever before. Sure, it may feel a little voyeuristic, a little glorifying of a man who killed dozens of people. But in the world of true crime, that’s a bargain you have to strike if you want to watch almost any of it.

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