“Unsolved Mysteries” was the first of its kind.
The iconic mystery docuseries, which debuted in 1987, enlisted help from viewers in solving cold cases and tracking missing people. Netflix released a reboot with original show co-creator Terry Dunn Meurer and producers of “Stranger Things” at the helm.
“Unsolved Mysteries” delves into missing people, murders and unidentified flying objects with interviews from journalists, detectives and family.
A hairdresser goes missing from her salon; a family disappears; a man is lost after a party in the country. These are some of the stories among the six released in early July.
Compared to the old-school version, the reenactments here are definitely of 2020. There are visually stunning angles and effects, a real consideration for cinematography and what can be done in post-production.
In the first episode, “Mystery on the Rooftop,” director Marcus A. Clarke delves into the death of Rey Rivera, using graphics to demonstrate various theories. It really aids the storytelling.
In “Missing Witness,” there are sweeping aerial shots of the southeast U.S. that really put you into the desolate setting of the victims, reinforcing an isolation and an over-reliance on familial toxicity.
The show retraces footsteps, revisits crime scenes with archived news footage, old photos and recordings.
But, there’s no host.
“Unsolved” and its original host Robert Stack are nearly synonymous, as is the series theme song, but show creators decided no one could fill those shoes.
The result is they let the people share their stories, which is a good idea in theory, but not quite in practice here.
Each 40- to 50-minute episode focuses on one case, unlike the original’s two to three stories per show, and it gets long-winded.
Multiple sources share the same perspective, the same retelling of an evening, the same evidence. Sometimes there are anecdotes shared that don’t drive the story forward at all, but instead feel like an intentional, empty time-filler.
These redundancies are the result of poor editing. It affects the pacing — and in some cases, the serenity of this viewer. Also, at times, the camera runs so long, what’s captured feels a bit exploitative — and in some cases, performative — from those on screen. (See: “Missing Witness.”)
That said, you can tell these sources trust their filmmakers, the best throwback of all.
The show’s directors and writers are careful and thorough in who they interview, and when they’re not, (see: “No Ride Home”), the absence adds to the storytelling and potential context of a crime.
There are some improvements and some hangups, but overall, this reboot is an engrossing and worthy docuseries. It incites your inner sleuth — and may conjure memories of hitting the streets on your bike as a kid, determined to track criminals and solve crimes. (Or, was that just me?)
There six episodes so far, and more scheduled for release later this year. Viewers around the globe are no doubt waiting with baited breath, as is this reviewer.
Season 1, six episodes
Time: up to 52 minutes
Now showing: Netflix