True Crime A To Z: U

Welcome to Best Evidence’s crime-alphabet project! Not sure what this is? Start at the beginning! And don’t be afraid to fill in our blanks...

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Not much variety OR surprise here, I reckon. It’s pretty much the granddaddy of corny TV true crime; the scorching exposé that confirmed Merritt Wever’s genius; and that crazy guy in a Montana shack. But the angel Moroni sneaks in there too, as he tends to do.

Margaret Howie: “An Unbelievable Story of Rape”/”Anatomy of Doubt”/Unbelievable (2015, 2019). If you’re familiar with the case behind Unbelievable, you know that it was broken by two detectives collaborating across departments. The backstory to how the story was told was similarly about collaboration, between The Marshall Project, ProPublica, and This American Life. This came out of necessity: two different journalists realised they were reporting on the same story at once, and decided to work together instead of trying to outdo each other. It’s a lesson in how good teamwork can be. The resulting story of how a young woman was arrested for a fake rape claim and was later proved to be a victim of a serial rapist is horrifying, and gripping. It came out the same year as Spotlight, another examination of who gets to be believed, and how journalism can help — or hinder — justice in sexual assault cases. 

Kevin Smokler: Unsolved Mysteries. The theme music. Corny graphics. Re-enactments. Robert Stack in a trench coat. UM didn't age as well as Mr. Stack but its method of examining a crime without a solution, presenting evidence, inviting your participation and circling back when an answer emerged drafted the blueprints for City Confidential, Cold Case Files, Serial and much of the moment we're in now.

SDB: Unsolved Mysteries. For all the reasons Kevin listed, and for providing first-date conversation so singular that, reader, I married the undercover cop from S02E16.

Just for purposes of clarity, that’s Dan on the left. …Marriage material aside (hee), UM has made the transition to the streaming era pretty well; it’s still cheesy AF, but the ability to skip entire segments that aren’t of interest (for me it’s UFO shit) has served its legacy well. (Honorable mentions: Unbelievable; Unsolved (the Biggie/Tupac series); the Unabomber.)

Susan Howard: Unsolved Mysteries. A 1990s staple that served as a gateway for a generation of true-crime enthusiasts. (Honorable mentions: Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer; Unbelievable; the Unabomber.)

True Crime A To Z is available to all subscribers…and we’d love your feedback! Comment on our picks, and tell an interested friend!

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