Headline News Network’s (HLN) Unmasking a Killer is two episodes in to a five part series on the Golden State Killer that terrorized California in the 1970’s and 80’s. There’s a lot of buzz around the Golden State Killer, new books (including Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark), several new series, etc. I have to admit, I knew very little about these cases until the last year. As a true crime author you tend to be heads-down on certain cases and only have cursory knowledge of others. It’s a matter of maintaining focus. All this means is I cannot tell you how comprehensive this show’s coverage of the cases are.
I saw some of the Golden State Killer series on ID Discovery on these cases and wasn’t dazzled with their presentation or format. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t seem to flow very well. Not so with HLN’s Unmaking a Killer. Two episodes in and I am hooked. To me, it is all about the packaging of a good true crime on TV. The HLN series talks to some of the victims, but really engages law enforcement who worked the cases. The reenactment elements are short visuals, not overboard like you see on some series. I like hearing from the people that worked the cases on my true crime TV, because they often offer details you haven’t heard before.
As someone who knew little about these crimes, Unmasking has done a great job of taking me on a journey as to how the East Area Rapist (EAR) and the Original Night Stalker (ONS) are actually one-in-the-same. The second episode takes you through the MO of the EAR – what were his signature actions, how he stalked his victims carefully, etc. In a visual checklist on the screen, you really get a sense as to how this horrific criminal meticulously worked. Unlike most criminals, the East Area Rapist would call some of his victims’ years after the crime, to continue to torment them. This is not your typical serial killer or rapist. This sick bastard is diabolical.
I got hooked. In fairness, it is hard for a true crime series to compel me to watch. This is one I make sure I follow. It is on Sunday nights and has disturbed two Sunday’s worth of sleep so far. Well done HLN! Combined with the Patty Hearst series on sister station CNN, it is clear that CNN/HLN are dipping their toes into the true crime market. Does this mean another true crime network is not far off? I tend not to think of HLN as a true crime channel, despite the series Forensic Files. We may have to rethink that now that they are putting out quality shows like Unmasking a Killer.
So far, this is what I call, reflective true crime…a retelling of the crimes and investigations. There’s no heady promise to unearth new evidence, not yet. This is opposed to the investigative true crime series, like the History Channel’s Zodiac, where the investigators are pursuing new leads and doing new(ish) investigative work.
I recommend you DVR or On-Demand watch this series! They even have a follow-on podcast after each episode. #truecrime