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Netflix's Unsolved Mysteries is a kind of cynical nostalgia out of sync with today’s sensibilities

  • There's something deeply suspicious about Netflix's reboot of the classic mystery series, something that makes it feel "precision-engineered for a 2020 audience—long-form, detailed, and bingeable—but devoid of all the flair and atmosphere that made the original seem untrue and yet interesting to watch," says Josephine Livingstone. She adds: "The show’s chemistry—its balance of light and dark, schlock and the human heart—is just plain strange, as if some robot at Netflix HQ were commissioned to create the most engaging possible TV show but had his empathy screw left loose. Being unable to choose one documentary approach and stick with it, the new Unsolved Mysteries turns out to be a curiously soulless product that will leave viewers suspecting that one of their basest instincts (voyeurism) has been exploited in the name of one of their noblest (the desire to solve crimes, after all, is also an instinct toward justice). There’s nothing more ethical or truthful about this show compared to its predecessor—its production is simply 'truthier' in style. We’re all smarter, more suspicious consumers of true crime than we were five years ago; we know now that DNA testing is a highly politicized technology, for example, and that Netflix will happily play fast and loose with the facts if it rakes in more viewers. In today’s world, where cold case files are more likely to lead to a conversation critiquing the criminal justice system than a tangent on alien abductions, Unsolved Mysteries smacks of yesterday’s news."

    TOPICS: Unsolved Mysteries, Netflix