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 77% (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

Extras Biopics Disney Channel CMT Rock Freeform Comedy Comics on TV Star Wars cooking DC streaming service Mystery Lionsgate award winner zombie festivals spider-man war PaleyFest Sci-Fi Best and Worst Rom-Com Watching Series adventure NYCC Dark Horse Comics Interview Fox News hist psycho USA Network X-Men Masterpiece Hulu TCA discovery HBO Photos YouTube Red Disney Music crime E! Showtime anime Sony Pictures TLC Nickelodeon Election Logo Calendar social media Winners WGN Syfy crime thriller Thanksgiving Mindy Kaling Lucasfilm Epix Rocky Horror Holidays Year in Review Martial Arts The Arrangement SundanceTV Red Carpet biography 45 dceu docudrama doctor who police drama Mary Poppins Returns Musical ESPN 2019 historical drama TNT ITV Shondaland President Cosplay technology Marathons Black Mirror Western IFC Films Schedule Universal 21st Century Fox 24 frames Awards crime drama romance VICE Sundance Opinion Certified Fresh facebook dc blaxploitation Grammys Bravo period drama CNN Spring TV Summer Sneak Peek finale Acorn TV TV Netflix New York Comic Con streaming serial killer GLAAD BBC America American Society of Cinematographers Ghostbusters talk show Sundance Now Animation Mary Tyler Moore medical drama thriller ratings History Tumblr Pop Trivia CW Seed Chilling Adventures of Sabrina golden globes ABC 2015 VH1 based on movie dramedy BET Song of Ice and Fire diversity Apple supernatural zombies jamie lee curtis NBC LGBTQ Character Guide Walt Disney Pictures Paramount IFC spy thriller comiccon AMC TBS politics San Diego Comic-Con FOX ABC Family sitcom A&E Trophy Talk National Geographic Emmys Esquire Trailer Nominations sports Infographic Box Office Cartoon Network 007 OWN SDCC DC Comics cats CBS All Access RT History composers Reality Writers Guild of America Comedy Central Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt BBC what to watch Valentine's Day Shudder Crackle Pixar MSNBC cops Fall TV YA 20th Century Fox science fiction transformers First Look TCM Tomatazos television DC Universe Superheroe PBS cults Premiere Dates 2016 Starz boxoffice Pirates Amazon comic Awards Tour YouTube Premium robots TV Land El Rey Kids & Family See It Skip It Star Trek Toys Food Network 2017 Ellie Kemper 2018 Oscars miniseries SXSW Musicals Columbia Pictures Warner Bros. CBS Marvel Adult Swim Country green book travel Christmas Superheroes Lifetime justice league Paramount Network GIFs aliens FXX TruTV The CW crossover Reality Competition political drama Polls and Games Teen Fantasy FX E3 USA Spike vampires APB GoT TCA 2017 Ovation Comic Book Creative Arts Emmys Nat Geo binge Set visit TIFF harry potter singing competition Podcast cinemax Countdown Video Games Britbox MTV DirecTV Drama Mary poppins unscripted Quiz Winter TV Super Bowl mutant Action