True crime is everywhere these days. It’s an unofficial obsession with the Americas, and in the age of endless streaming options, there’s no shortage of movies, TV shows, and documentaries that document, recreate, or parody horrific murders or shocking stories of abuse.
Entering the already overcrowded genre is Based on a true story, which, ironically, isn’t based on any true story, but is instead a wholly fictionalized account of two desperate podcasters who find themselves knee-deep in a murder case. You’re probably wondering, do we need another true crime show? and if you’re not, you should be. But from its first episode to its shocking finale, Based on a true story stands out from the rest of the pack. Hidden beneath its sunny California graphics and scathing jokes is an edgy satire on the real crime industry and how we, as consumers of entertainment fueled by real-life stories of suffering and death, might be just as guilty as the criminals. behind those gruesome acts. .
Based on a true story it has an intriguing premise
Based on a true story | Official trailer | Original peacock
Based on a true story has a, pardon the pun, killer hook: a desperate couple recruits a serial killer, the Westside Ripper, to help them succeed in the cutthroat world of the true crime podcast. The couple in question, Ava and Nathan Bartlett, might seem unsympathetic, as they are sometimes selfish, too career-oriented and desperate to be accepted by their happier, wealthier friends.
To the show’s credit, it doesn’t do much to idealize them. Yet the Bartletts are always recognizable; you understand their wishes for a better life. Ava, who is about to give birth to her first child, naturally wants to do better at her job as a real estate agent to ensure a future for her growing family. Nathan just wants to keep his job teaching tennis at a posh Southern California country club, and he feels it slip through his fingers when a younger, hungry rival takes it from him. The Bartletts’ quiet desperation stakes a quest for a better life that virtually anyone can understand. Who doesn’t want to improve their life? And to get it, what would you do to get it? The Bartletts answer these questions with acts that increasingly test their morality and cause the audience to question as well.
Both Kaley Cuoco and Chris Messina are amazing as the leads of the shows
The show wouldn’t work if we didn’t buy into who these characters are and understand their motivations, so that’s a good thing Based on a true story cast two of the best TV actors around for the lead roles. As Ava, Kaley Cuoco continues her impressive evolution as a comedian who is ultimately drawn to roles with an edge to them. The public could always remember her as The Big Bang Theoryis Penny, but with her starring role as Cassie in the HBO Max series The flight attendant and now like Ava, she’s grown into an actress who isn’t afraid to embody messy and unsympathetic characters.
Similarly, Chris Messina’s Nathan is far from the lovable grouchy doctor he played The Mindy Project. Under his guise as a docile, middle-class husband from the suburbs, Nathan possesses an untapped desire for violence that doesn’t make him much different from the killer he’s investigating. It’s that delicate balancing act between being attractive and being willing to display revolting behavior that makes both Cuoco and Messina so good at Based on a true storyand that’s what helps make the show plausible and entertaining.
Tom Bateman shines as one of the suspects
If you haven’t heard of Tom Bateman, don’t worry, neither have I before watching this show. Think of him as Andrew Garfield’s sexier and more sinister younger brother. Bateman plays Matt, a divorced plumber who befriends the Bartletts when he fixes his leaking toilet. Because this is a mystery show, he is inevitably seen as one of the suspects and, like his more famous co-stars, must be believable as both a romantic interest and a cold-blooded killer.
The fact that it is successful is a testament to Bateman’s uncanny ability to be both charming and dangerous at the same time. There is a scene that occurs later in the show when Matt has to seduce a woman at a real crime convention in Las Vegas and intimidate her enough to expose her as a fraud who lied about surviving an assassination attempt by the Westside Ripper. I can’t think of many established actors, let alone relatively new ones like Bateman, who could pull off that scene, but Bateman does it with such brilliance that you walk away impressed. If there’s any justice in the world, Bateman would be a star after this show. He is That Well.
The satire on the real crime industry is both funny and brutal
Self Based on a true storyIt’s premise sounds familiar, that’s because it shares a similar storyline to one of the most popular shows on TV. Yet while Only homicides in the building aims for a cozy Agatha Christie-style thriller in each of its two seasons, Based on a true story it aims to be much more biting in its satire on the real crime industry. It directly engages the audience in the crimes they love to watch, read, or hear about, and questions the value of entertainment in a genre that depends on the real-life suffering of its victims.
This is no more apparent than in the show’s fourth and fifth episodes, titled The Survivor and Ted Bundy Bottle Opener, which take place at a fictional Crime Con in neon-lit Las Vegas. It’s here where Based on a true storys intentions are laid bare, with satirical jabs at the relentless merchandising of serial killers like Ted Bundy and the vilification of podcasters like My favorite murderthey are Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. As Matt Batemans points out in Episode 5, an entire industry relies on a constant stream of new content to stay profitable, and this realization drives the Westside Ripper to continue to shed blood to stay relevant (and make money in the process). The show says that it is not only the killer who is responsible for these heinous acts, but also the voracious audience who want to hear and read about them. It’s a stinging, unexpected and more than welcome indictment in a genre that needs a good kick in the pants.
Is it worth watching Based on a true story?
YES. The first season consists of eight episodes, with each episode clocking in at around 30 minutes, which is just enough time to build the plot, provide adequate character development for the protagonists and the large supporting cast, and move the narration at a brisk pace. Each episode ends with an effective cliffhanger that makes you want to watch the next episode as soon as possible.
More importantly, the performances of Cuoco, Messina and Bateman, combined with the excellent satire on true crime and the genuinely intriguing murder mystery that unfolds throughout the first season, make Based on a true story the perfect summer viewing not to be missed. It’s funny and creepy at the same time, and it’s a real standout in the Peak TV era of seemingly endless content.
All eight episodes of Based on true stories first season are now available to stream on Peacock.
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