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11 Riveting True Crime Programs You Can Watch Right Now

by | November 8, 2016 | Comments

The only thing these shows are guilty of is being so criminally watchable. While it’s clear that not all of these hour-long investigative series are considered “prestige” TV, you’d be lying if you said you haven’t curled up on the couch on a Sunday afternoon and binged a few hours of corny reenactments and disturbing crime documentaries. Is it slightly icky to find entertainment value in stories of murder and mayhem? Yes. But is it also helpful to be better informed about stranger danger? Also yes.

With A&E’s next entry into the genre, The Killing Season ― which, OK, you can’t watch right now, but is premiering this week ― Rotten Tomatoes has rounded up 11 currently airing true-crime options worth a look.


1. The Killing Season | A&E (2016)

thekillingseason2

You won’t learn the identity of the storied Long Island Serial Killer in The Killing Season (premiering Nov. 12 at 9 p.m. ET) from Executive Producer Alex Gibney, but you will find out why he hasn’t been found. An exposé of police corruption and multi-case conspiracies, the series follows documentarians Joshua Zeman (Cropsey) and Rachel Mills, who dive in to discover why the brutal 2010–11 deaths of 10 sex workers (and other murder and missing person cases like it) go unsolved today. Plus they debunk widely cited theories surrounding the murders, cutting deep and getting us closer to the truth.


2. Making a Murderer 84% | Netflix (2015)

Making a Murderer (Netflix)

Has any other true-crime docuseries captured the cultural zeitgeist quite like Netflix’s red-hot Making a Murderer? Just about everyone relished the opportunity to play detective last winter in the much-debated case of Steven Avery, the alleged (and convicted) murderer of photographer Teresa Halbach. Look for the sequel installment, currently in production.


3. The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst 95% | HBO (2015)

The Jinx (HBO)

This HBO miniseries is unlike any documentary crime series before it in that it sits its main murderous subject down and in the end, gets him to confess. That subject would be 73-year-old Robert Durst, American real estate heir and primary suspect in a trio of early-aught homicides. The final product is edge-of-your-seat riveting.


4. Killing Fields | Discovery Channel (2016)

Killing Fields (Discovery)

“Anywhere in Louisiana, there’s a place to dump a body.” Killing Fields quote properly sets the scene for Discovery’s six-episode series set in a small town outside of Baton Rouge. It follows Detective Rodie Sanchez, who comes out of retirement for a reopened ’97 homicide case that appears to be linked with several other unsolved murders in the Louisiana bayous — aka the Killing Fields.


5. True Nightmares | Investigation Discovery (2015–Present)

truenightmares

If you’re hooked to the true-crime genre for corny melodrama and reenactments, True Nightmares is the show for you. Menacing magician Todd Robinson is on board as the series’ host and narrator, and watching him revisit the true-life mysteries and gruesome murders that give the show its namesake is as deliciously camp as it is nightmarish.


6. Frontline | PBS (1983–Present)

Frontline, Death in St. Augustine (PBS)

There’s a reason Frontline has been on air for over two decades: It has everything. With in-depth documentaries on American politics, international relations, human interest stories, and more, there’s something for everyone. The program also offers a number of engrossing true-crime TV docs. Don’t miss “Death in St. Augustine,” which revisits the suicide of Michelle O’Connell; “The Confessions,” which investigates the Norfolk Four; and “Law and Disorder,” which explores abuse of power within the New Orleans Police Department.


7. Snapped | Oxygen (2004–Present)

Snapped: murder defendants Erik (R) and Lyle Menendez (MIKE NELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

This episodic docuseries stars murderous women who snap and profiles high-profile crimes like the 1994 case of brothers Erik and Lyle Menendez, convicted of killing their wealthy parents. The Oxygen outing interviews friends, family, and law enforcement involved in murder cases to recreate the crime with can’t-look-away intrigue. Its pulpy formula of felonious wives and mothers has kept Snapped going 12 years strong.


8. Death Row Stories | CNN (2014–Present)

Death Row Stories on CNN (Benjamin Lowy/Getty Images)

CNN’s advocacy-minded investigation series has a leg up on TV contemporaries thanks to involvement from Robert Redford (producer via Sundance Productions) and Susan Sarandon (narrator). Sarandon is a particularly nice touch, as she steps back into her Dead Man Walking shoes. Here, weekly stories showcase convicted murderers waiting their lives out on death row, while also examining the political and moral implications of the death penalty.


9. Lockup | MSNBC (2005–Present)

Lockup (MSNBC)

While acclaimed new documentaries like 13th and scripted dramas like Orange Is the New Black unflinchingly delineate what life is like behind bars, Lockup has been doing it for 200 episodes and counting — and it’s built a franchise along the way with Lockup: Raw, Lockup: World Tour, Lockup: Extended Stay, Lockup: Special Investigation, and Life After Lockup.


10. The First 48 | A&E (2004–Present)

the First 48 (A&E)

The first two days into any homicide case are not just the most emotionally exhausting; they’re also the most important from an investigator’s standpoint. This longtime hit series on A&E documents those times with those survived by the victim and the case’s main investigative players.


11. Married With Secrets | Investigation Discovery (2016–)

Married With Secrets (ID)

If you’re prone to trust issues with your significant other, ID’s new eight-part series may not be great for your state of mind, but it sure makes for great TV. Digging up stories of seemingly perfect husbands and wives and the secrets that tear them apart (think: money-hungry love triangles and doctors with a penchant for prostitutes), it proves one case after another that love is indeed a battlefield.

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