Got a Crime-Drama Habit? Try These 6 Series Based on True Events

by | November 3, 2016 | Comments

Who Killed JonBenét? (Lifetime)

If you’re a fan of true-crime drama, Lifetime’s made-for-TV movie Who Killed JonBenét?, premiering November 5, is one of several TV outings this season about the tragic death of the child pageant queen.

It’s also part of a resurgence in the genre. In fact, 2016 has been the year of the crime docudrama series. And 2017 is shaping up just as nicely.

Emmys-sweeping FX series The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story is greatly to thank for that. While real-life crime stories have long held allure for Hollywood creatives, never before has an entry in the genre ascended to the level of prestige achieved by the decorated miniseries about the trial of former football hero O.J. Simpson for the murders of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman.

American Crime Story’s success has paved the way for a number of projects now in the primetime pipeline, including a Fox 21 TV adaptation of award-winning podcast “Serial”; a nonfiction anthology scripted series from Dick Wolf, Law & Order: True Crime; and TNT’s Finding Chandra, which follows 24-year-old Chandra Levy’s 2001 disappearance and death.

Want to get in on the true-crime hype? Here are six notable series inspired by real crimes, real people, and real consequences. While the bulk of these programs take sizable creative liberties, each is a gripping account of the stories behind the headlines of today and yesteryear.

1. American Crime Story 92% (FX)


The debut season of American Crime Story reimagines one of the best known court cases in American history and peels back its many layers. Think you know Marcia Clark, Robert Shapiro, and Christopher Darden — or even O.J. Simpson? Think again. This 10-episode season lays the surprises on thick and does justice to the trial in a way the 1995 television event never could. Season 1 starred Cuba Gooding Jr., Sarah Paulson, Courtney B. VanceJohn Travolta, and more. Next year’s season 2 offering will take a bite of something bigger: Hurricane Katrina.

2. Aquarius 56% (NBC)

Aquarius: Grey Damon and David Duchovny (NBC)

Though it received mixed reviews, this David Duchovny–starrer tracking the early cult-leader makings of murderer Charles Manson and the LAPD detective hot on his trail packs a punch with kills and thrills.

3. Orange Is the New Black 89% (Netflix)


Showrunner Jenji Kohan’s Netflix series is a case study on how to ground a series in fact while expanding it for the sake of entertainment. Provocative and boundary-pushing, the series based on Piper Kerman’s bestselling memoir, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, boasts one of the most colorful and beloved ensembles on TV with the rich and unexpected narrative turns to match.

4. Boardwalk Empire 92% (HBO)

Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Steve Buscemi took home the 2011 best actor Golden Globe for his bone-deep portrayal of real-life crooked Atlantic City politician Enoch L. Johnson (here named Enoch “Nucky” Thompson). His performance in this Prohibition-era crime noir is reason enough to revisit it.

5. The Secret (ITV)

James Nesbitt in The Secret (ITV)

Here’s one you may not have heard of: Based on journalist Deric Henderson’s Let This Be Our Secret about an affair that led to the 1991 murders of Lesley Howell and Constable Trevor Buchanan in Northern Ireland, this U.K. miniseries stars Irish actor James Nesbitt as Colin Howell, the dentist-turned-murderer. Genevieve O’Reilly stars as his lover and accomplice, Hazel Buchanan.

6. Narcos 89% (Netflix)

Like Boardwalk Empire, Narcos takes a closer look at a formidable and feared crime figure — in this case, Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar (played by Wagner Moura). Season 2 just premiered to rave reviews in September and is available for binging.

Tag Cloud

television 20th Century Fox Drama technology Music talk show Oscars vampires CBS social media what to watch Reality Competition Pirates Toys TIFF USA Network 2015 anime war Best and Worst Rom-Com composers DirecTV Sundance Walt Disney Pictures Quiz Sony Pictures El Rey Rock President Super Bowl Winners Mary Tyler Moore unscripted TCA 2017 MSNBC TV Epix Britbox Paramount Network Marvel CW Seed 45 binge cooking Spike Nominations Bravo YouTube Red Freeform Shondaland Nickelodeon Summer streaming Sundance Now CMT Ovation FX based on movie Cartoon Network finale Universal Watching Series PaleyFest DC streaming service SundanceTV First Look sitcom mutant Showtime harry potter Writers Guild of America Dark Horse Comics crime Video Games Western robots The Arrangement Star Trek crime drama Kids & Family Trivia Animation crime thriller cats Masterpiece Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt BBC America VICE Ellie Kemper Marathons zombies Fantasy Nat Geo BET Pixar See It Skip It dc serial killer adventure Action Comic Book Paramount Amazon dceu A&E Superheroe Apple TCM medical drama 2017 American Society of Cinematographers San Diego Comic-Con Disney DC Comics blaxploitation Crackle Shudder History Spring TV Box Office X-Men boxoffice Columbia Pictures Lionsgate Trailer psycho politics Photos E3 RT History Musicals TruTV Opinion LGBTQ Grammys GoT New York Comic Con doctor who Netflix TLC 21st Century Fox ESPN Sneak Peek Disney Channel discovery PBS ABC Family dramedy Warner Bros. Polls and Games Esquire NBC Thanksgiving thriller Premiere Dates Christmas Horror ratings spy thriller sports zombie NYCC SXSW FXX Comics on TV Ghostbusters Musical Food Network 24 frames hist supernatural Syfy TCA Countdown Biopics golden globes Reality SDCC Certified Fresh GLAAD Star Wars Mindy Kaling comiccon Logo VH1 Infographic Tomatazos E! Podcast Comedy Pop ITV biography Calendar OWN Cosplay Holidays Extras Valentine's Day AMC political drama Creative Arts Emmys DC Universe Election jamie lee curtis crossover MTV CNN Tumblr TBS Emmys National Geographic Year in Review BBC Winter TV docudrama Teen Superheroes IFC Films period drama WGN Acorn TV Comedy Central USA Set visit justice league Lifetime IFC Fox News cinemax GIFs cults 007 CBS All Access travel Adult Swim cops festivals singing competition TV Land Red Carpet romance YouTube Premium science fiction FOX TNT 2016 Schedule police drama HBO YA Sci-Fi Lucasfilm Fall TV Chilling Adventures of Sabrina APB Mystery The CW Martial Arts Song of Ice and Fire ABC Character Guide Interview diversity historical drama aliens transformers Starz Country Rocky Hulu Awards