True Crime Docuseries ‘CTRL+ALT+DESIRE’ to Stream on Paramount+ April 16

The three-part true crime docuseries “CTRL+ALT+DESIRE” will premiere exclusively on Paramount+ beginning April 16.

Following director Colin Archdeacon’s years-long investigation of the shocking killings that rocked a quiet Florida town, “CTRL+ALT+DESIRE” opens a dark door to the case of Grant Amato, a 29-year-old Florida man accused of murdering his own family execution style for the love of a cam girl.

Unraveling Amato’s story — one that sits squarely at the intersection of technology and loneliness — “CTRL+ALT+DESIRE” exposes a chilling tale of addiction, deceit and online obsession. Amato’s life descended into chaos when he stumbled into the world of live-stream cam models and immediately fell head over heels in love with Silvie, a Bulgarian cam girl. The series taps into four years of prison phone calls recorded from a contraband cell phone and clues scattered across Florida, Eastern Europe and the deep web to reveal a story far more complex than expected.

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Highly educated and charismatic, Amato didn’t fit the typical profile of a federal inmate, but a series of professional missteps steered him down a rabbit hole of depression, isolation and financial ruin. In a desperate bid to hold Silvie’s attention, Amato reinvented himself online, crafting a confident “big spender” alter ego by stealing $200,000 from his family in the months leading up to the murders. But when his fixation with Silvie grew, his alternate reality spiraled.

 

Max Original Documentary Series ‘The Truth About Jim’ Debuts on Max Feb. 15

The Max original four-part documentary series “The Truth About Jim,” from Investigation Discovery (ID), debuts Feb. 15 on Max.

In the series, directed by Skye Borgman (“Unsolved Mysteries,” “Trial by Media”) and produced by Imagine Documentaries, amateur investigator Sierra Barter confronts a traumatic past and secrets that have plagued her family for generations. Sierra, her mother Shannon, and her grandmother Judy bravely pursue the truth about a mystery that could change their lives forever — was Jim Mordecai, their husband, stepfather, and step-grandfather a notorious serial killer?

In “Episode 1: Digging Up The Past,” Sierra Barter begins investigating her step-grandfather Jim by reaching out to family members, some of whom she had not spoken to in years. By interviewing Jim’s ex-wives, children, and stepchildren, Sierra begins to put together a horrifying image of the man her step-grandfather was and the terror that he inflicted on his own family.

“Episode 2: Eight Murdered Girls” finds that Jim Mordecai was a revered teacher to most, but to others, he was a monster. Sierra looks deep within herself and questions if Jim’s crimes may have escalated. A curious family heirloom launches Sierra down a rabbit hole where a series of unsolved murders has her asking if Jim could be the killer.

In “Episode 3: The Devil and Jim Mordecai,” Sierra’s uncle shares a disturbing story further implicating Jim, and a private investigator urges Sierra to find evidence. After Sierra searches through family storage, she learns the truth about a night that changed her family forever, and in turn, takes her investigation into a different direction.

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In “Episode 4: Out of the Shadows,” with the help of cutting edge technology, Sierra is able to build a DNA profile of Jim. Armed with the evidence she needs, Sierra hands her files over to law enforcement hoping to convince them to investigate and help her family step out from Jim’s shadow.

Four New True Crime Docu-series From ABC News Studios Headed for Hulu

ABC News Studios has announced the debut of four new true crime docu-series, all bound for streaming service Hulu this summer: “The Ashley Madison Affair,” “Betrayal: The Perfect Husband,” “Mother Undercover” and “Demons and Saviors.”

“The Ashley Madison Affair,” which debuts July 7, is a three-part miniseries exploring the rise and fall of the notorious dating platform Ashley Madison, which catered to extramarital affairs. The series tells the story of an attempted blackmail by a group of hackers, a data breach, and the catastrophic fallout. “The Ashley Madison Affair” is produced by Wall to Wall Media and ABC News Studios.

“Betrayal: The Perfect Husband,” which launches July 11, is another three-part miniseries about a love story between Jen Faison and her college sweetheart, high school teacher Spencer Herron, which implodes one spring afternoon when it is revealed that Herron’s life was a web of lies, affairs and criminal sexual assault. The program features interviews with multiple women who say they were involved with Herron and the one student who put an end to the twisted teacher’s reign of sexual improprieties. “Betrayal: The Perfect Husband” is produced by Glass Entertainment and ABC News Studios. 

“Mother Undercover,” debuting July 27, is a four-part series about four courageous mothers on a mission to save or get justice for their children. Across four episodes, audiences will witness the extraordinary lengths mothers will go to protect their children. In incidents of murder, international kidnapping, mass suicide and judicial corruption, these four mothers transform into undercover detectives, mounting covert operations and taking matters into their own hands. “Mother Undercover” is produced by Pioneer Productions and ABC News Studios. 

Lastly, “Demons and Saviors,” bowing Aug. 3, is a three-part series about Christina Boyer, a woman convicted of murdering her 3-year-old daughter. Thirty years into a life sentence, Boyer still proclaims her innocence. The series follows a group of amateur sleuths who have become consumed by their obsession to exonerate her. “Demons and Saviors” is produced by Latchkey Films and ABC News Studios.

ABC News Studios is led by Mike Kelley. Reena Mehta is the SVP of streaming and digital content.

Screen Media to Bow ‘Maggie Moore(s)’ in Theaters and On Demand June 16

Screen Media, a Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment company, will release the true-crime-inspired thriller Maggie Moore(s) in theaters and on demand June 16.

Directed by John Slattery and written by Paul Bernbaum, the film reunites Slattery with his Emmy-winning “Mad Men” co-star Jon Hamm (Top Gun: Maverick, Confess, Fletch). Maggie Moore(s) also stars Emmy winner Tina Fey (Date Night, “30 Rock”), Emmy nominee Nick Mohammed (“Ted Lasso”), Micah Stock (Kindred), Mary Holland (Happiest Season) and Happy Anderson (“Mindhunter”).

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In the film, when two women with the same name are murdered days apart, small-town police chief Jordan Sanders (Hamm) finds himself wading through an unlikely collection of cheating husbands, lonely hearts, nosy neighbors and contract killers in an effort to put the pieces of the case, and his life, together. The film is inspired by actual events.

 

FilmRise, Woodcut Plan Two More True Crime Co-Productions

FilmRise, the New York-based film and television studio and streaming network, has announced the expansion of its relationship with U.K. true crime TV producer Woodcut Media with two new co-productions, resulting in more than 30 hours of content. 

They include a second season order of “Murdered at First Sight” and the eighth season of “World’s Most Evil Killers.”

Each series will be distributed by FilmRise on broadcast, pay-TV and streaming platforms in North America, except for “World’s Most Evil Killers,” which is distributed by FilmRise in the United States only, with U.K. rights for season one.

“Murdered at First Sight” tells the first-hand stories of some of the most complex and hard-to-solve murder cases where the victim had never met the perpetrator before. 

“World’s Most Evil Killers” brings viewers up close and personal to the real stories of prolific killers. Each episode includes first-hand accounts, interviews, archival footage, re-enactments and an in-depth analysis of each subject. The program has focused on Jeffrey Dahmer, Ed Gein, Fred and Rose West, Ted Bundy, and Richard Ramirez, among others.

The two companies’ collaboration began in 2020 with FilmRise’s licensing of the first four seasons and the co-commission of seasons five, six and seven of “World’s Most Evil Killers” plus the new 2022 series “Murdered at First Sight,” alongside Sky Crime.

“Having FilmRise on-board as a co-production partner for these series expands our ability to create programming that is in high demand for true-crime enthusiasts,” said Kate Beal, founder and CEO of Woodcut Media, in a statement. “Our initial collaboration with them proved incredibly fruitful and we are excited to be working with FilmRise to further consolidate our position as a leading provider of true-crime TV.”

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“We have seen tremendous interest and a continual increase in viewership with each new season of ‘World’s Most Evil Killers,’ our initial true crime collaboration with Woodcut Media,” Max Einhorn, FilmRise SVP of acquisitions and co-productions, said in a statement. “It has been delightful building our relationship with Kate and her talented team. Growing a fruitful partnership with Woodcut is a perfect example of how FilmRise likes to work with other independents. We build value for each other’s businesses.”

Season One of ‘Paul T. Goldman’ Due on Digital April 17

Season one of “Paul T. Goldman,” from the director of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm and the producers of The Disaster Artist, arrives on digital April 17 from Lionsgate.

The uniquely told true crime documentary miniseries follows Paul T. Goldman, a wronged man. The  series mixes fact with fiction to tell a bizarre yet incredible story of a man whose world is turned upside-down when he finds out that his wife has been living a secret double life. His efforts to uncover the truth thrust him into a labyrinth of fraud, deception and criminality that transform him, in his words, “from wimp to warrior.”

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In addition to Goldman, the series features Melinda McGraw (The Dark Knight, TV’s “Charmed,” “Mad Men”), W. Earl Brown (TV’s “Deadwood,” “Preacher,” The Unforgivable), Christopher Stanley (TV’s “Mad Men,” “Waco,” “American Horror Story”) and Michael Dempsey (TV’s “The Patient,” “The Connors,” “Killer Therapy”).

True Crime Story ‘Love & Death’ Headed to HBO Max April 27

The seven-episode Max original limited series “Love & Death,” starring Elizabeth Olsen and Jesse Plemons, debuts with three episodes on April 27, followed by one episode weekly through May 25, HBO Max announced.

The show is an official selection of the 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival.

The drama, written by David E. Kelley and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter, tells the true story of Candy and Pat Montgomery and Betty and Allan Gore — two churchgoing couples enjoying their smalltown Texas life until an extramarital affair leads somebody to pick up an axe.

In addition to Olsen and Plemons, the cast includes Lily Rabe, Patrick Fugit, Krysten Ritter, Tom Pelphrey,  Keir Gilchrist and Elizabeth Marvel.

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Hulu previously streamed the limited series “Candy,” about the same true crime story, starring Jessica Biel.

 

Talent Talk: ‘On the Case With Paula Zahn’ Producer Scott Weinberger on True Crime Show’s 25th Season

ID’s signature newsmagazine “On the Case With Paula Zahn” celebrated a milestone with its 25th season (350th episode) debut Sept. 4 on both ID and streaming service Discovery+.

All new episodes are available to stream the same day on Discovery+ with past seasons available to binge.

Led by Emmy Award-winning journalist Paula Zahn, “On the Case” features storytelling and interviews that go beyond the headlines to reveal first-person accounts and expert insights of those connected to murder cases. In the 350th episode, “From Zero to Murder,” police investigating the brutal murder of a young woman ask themselves a chilling question: was the ambush-style shooting that ended Alisha Canales-McGuire’s life actually a terrifying case of mistaken identity?

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Producer Scott Weinberger discussed the series’ popularity and the appeal of true crime with Media Play News.

MPN: Why do you think “On the Case” has maintained an audience for more than a decade?

Weinberger: Paula brought a loyal audience to “OTC,” as a highly credible and compassionate journalist.

The show’s focus has always been honoring the victims in these tragic cases, and that message could not be clearer to her viewers. Paula and our team at Weinberger Media make sure “OTC’s” storytelling reflects the hard work put in by the dedicated professionals who untangle these complex investigations and strive to bring justice.

MPN: What is most shocking about the story in the debut episode of the 25th season (the 350th episode)?

Weinberger: Our premiere episode of our 25th season tells a story of a young mother gunned down in her Everett Washington home. As police being to dig into the details, they learn it was a case of mistaken identity. The real intended victim is a shocker.

MPN: What can viewers expect from the episodes to come in the 25th season?

Weinberger: More of true “OTC” storytelling, including cases where “OTC’s” loyal audience can step in and assist investigators in bringing justice for a family.

MPN: “On the Case” is also streaming on Discovery+ and streaming services have been a hotbed of true crime series, with series like yours sort of the “OG” of true crime. Why do you think crime stories are so popular at the moment?

Weinberger: Viewers love to see the process, the behind-the-scenes mindset that investigators go through to unravel a murder mystery. Very often, true to life events are later used on many Hollywood scripted TV dramas, but these stories are very real and tragic.

Editor’s Note: Media Play News publisher and editorial director Thomas K. Arnold is featured in Episode 10, Season 24, “Eyes in the Darkness,” which first aired on May 1, 2022. The case follows the 1980 murder of a young San Diego County college student, Michelle Wyatt, which remained unsolved until detectives finally found the killer more than 40 years later through genetic genealogy. Arnold covered the case in the San Diego Reader.

FilmRise Co-Producing ‘The Interrogation Room’ Hosted by Vivica A. Fox

FilmRise, a New York-based film and television studio and streaming network, and Zig Zag Productions, a U.K. independent television production company, have announced the co-production of “The Interrogation Room,” hosted by Vivica A. Fox.  

FilmRise is at MIPCOM shopping the title as an original and/or exclusive for broadcasters and streamers in the United States. 

In the series, Fox, known for her performances in the box office hits Kill Bill and Independence Day, allows viewers to step inside the interrogation room alongside world-class experts who will examine the tell-tale signs a suspect is lying while revealing the master techniques that result in an all-important confession.

“This series shows what really goes on inside the interrogation room, firsthand,” Fox said in a statement. “I have long been a fan of true-crime and have been particularly fascinated by the techniques law enforcement utilize in trying to elicit a confession. I know crime show enthusiasts like me and even aspiring law enforcement officers are going to love this show.”

“‘The Interrogation Room’ will arrest viewers by taking them behind the scenes of interrogations, breaking down how detectives uncover the truth through interviews with suspects,” Max Einhorn, SVP of acquisitions and co-productions for FilmRise, said in a statement. “Combine that with the star power of host Vivica A. Fox, we know ‘The Interrogation Room’ will serve multiple audience verticals and be a must watch for fans of true crime, a genre in which FilmRise has increasing resonance and recognition, both as a studio and streaming network.”

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“Partnering with FilmRise on this co-production ensures not only our continuation and commitment to high quality programming, but also creates a wide net of distribution, reaching true crime fans in numerous territories, and in a variety of ways,” Danny Fenton, CEO of Zig Zag Productions, said in a statement. “We are excited to offer this series to those audiences that subscribe to their platforms, and those that prefer to watch their programs for free.”

“The Interrogation Room” Hosted by Vivica A. Fox is expected to launch in early 2023. 

Under the Banner of Heaven

STREAMING REVIEW: 

Hulu;
Drama;
Not rated.
Stars Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Wyatt Russell, Denise Gough, Billy Howle.

Based on the best-selling nonfiction book by Jon Krakauer, this story about actual murders is told through the eyes of a fictional devout detective (Andrew Garfield) whose faith is tested as he investigates the crime’s connection to a well-known Utah family’s spiral into Mormon fundamentalism and distrust in the government.

Beginning with dull, desaturated tones, the series starts like a horror film, as dark clouds and a fallen bird’s wing enter the screen. The camera moves to a happy family scene as Detective Jeb Pyre (Garfield) plays with his daughters under the ominous sky. A call sends him to the aftermath of a bloody attack, which the viewer only glimpses. From the expression on Pyre’s face, viewers imagine the massacre he sees. Outside, Pyre finds a blood-soaked man. That man assists him in uncovering the mystery of the murder, as well as certain uncomfortable truths about his faith illustrated in period flashbacks involving its founding fathers.

Punctuated by historical reenactments, the seven-episode series unwraps the events leading up to and resulting from the 1984 murder of Brenda Lafferty and her infant daughter. We meet the Lafferty brood as Brenda becomes involved with and eventually marries one of six sons in the devoutly Mormon clan — a sort of LDS Kennedys, she explains to her family. But the loving facade of the Laffertys soon falls away under the economic pressure of a recession and the strict dictates of an overbearing father. Religion becomes a justification for flouting the law, abuse, misogyny — and ultimately murder.

Brenda’s husband (played by Billy Howle) is a (possibly unreliable) narrator of the story, pointing out to Pyre, “Our faith breeds dangerous men.” He relates many of the historical tales that show the violent and vacillating doctrines of revered Mormons such as Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, linking their teachings to the actions of his family. But while Mormonism is implicated, the series effectively portrays how men can use any religious teachings — Mormon or other — to rationalize their own selfish desires. Sam Worthington, as Ron Lafferty, and Wyatt Russell, as Dan Lafferty, skillfully portray the transformation of two brothers who lose their moral compass as they twist religious history to make sense of misfortune and fit their aims. Playing two other brothers, Seth Numrich and Rory Culkin — in a particularly creepy turn — also bring this family descent into antisocial behavior to life.

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Daisy Edgar-Jones plays Brenda, the moral anchor, a devout Mormon showing the Laffertys’ apostasy in sharp relief. Likable, loving and helpful, she acts with righteous vigor, supported by the church, in the face of the “evil” infecting the clan — showing a bravery that ultimately ends in her death and that of her 15-month-old daughter.

Gil Birmingham’s wry turn as Pyre’s gum-chewing Native American detective sidekick Bill is a welcome relief. As a secular observer, he’s got many of the most clever lines, and Birmingham delivers them with an understated aplomb.

But Denise Gough, as Ron’s wife Dianna, who is also hunted by her husband and his family, delivers the most cutting lines, a condemnation of what would now be called “toxic masculinity.” “Do you step on women’s necks because it make you feel taller? Because your mother told you you were a chosen one? That our country is to blame for your failings?” she says to one of the clan. “Well, it’s a lie. You are not special. You are not chosen. You and your brothers simply failed. You are a small, weak child of a man.”

Indeed, the weakening of faith is the ultimate message of the series, which ends with the capture of the murderers by a shaken Pyre. True crime buffs may find the final episode a bit unsatisfying, as there is no court scene or slamming of the jail doors on the two culprits. What happens to the men who perpetrate the murders is left to further investigation by viewers. Their guilt is unquestioned, but at the conclusion Pyre, it seems, continues to secretly question his faith.