“Based on real facts”: 5 true crime dramas, a genre that fascinates us

Small selection of series more or less freely adapted from news items, belonging to the surprisingly popular genre of true crime drama.

In the Outstanding Miniseries category, four of the five 2022 Emmy nominees are based on true events. excepted The white lotus, others (Dopesick, Pam & Tommy, The Staircase and Inventing Anna) relate more or less freely real cases; they are true crime dramas, a genre that is undeniably very successful.

The phenomenon is not new: great writers have been inspired by news items (Gustave Flaubert with Madame Bovary, Francois Mauriac with Thérèse Desqueyroux Where Truman Capote and his In cold blood.), the cinema took hold of the subject from its beginnings (George Méliès in 1899 with The Dreyfus Affair where the M the cursed by Fritz Lang inspired by The Vampire of Düsseldorf) and the series have naturally taken the same path.

People smarter than us (psychologists, criminologists, etc.) seek to understand the appeal of gender and offer several explanations: a cathartic outlet allowing us to ward off our fears behind our screen; illustration of the anxieties and values ​​specific to our society; diving into the darker sides of humanity as we try to understand – even if at times incomprehensible – the motivation behind these acts. More prosaically, they are also often good stories, capable of keeping us going. We have already mentioned The girl from Plainville, Doctor Death, Landscapers or By order of God ; here are other recent series, based on real events.

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Tokyo vice (Coming soon on MyCanal)

In the early 1990s, the American Jake Adelstein (Ansel Elgort) was the first Westerner hired by the famous Japanese newspaper Meicho Shimbun. He discovers the basics of journalistic work, the demands of the professional environment in Japan, relations with the police… But while investigating a mysterious death, he enters the underworld of the yakuza. As he digs into his subject, he gets dangerously close to one of the leaders of the most powerful criminal organization in Japan…

Freely inspired by the autobiography of journalist Jake Adelstein, adapted by Michael Mann (who directs several episodes), the series follows this young American journalist who discovers Japanese society with its codes, its requirements… and its criminality. A breathtaking dive into the world of crime, links between the press and the police, into the world of clubs and prostitution, into that of organized crime and the yakuza. Despite some flaws, it’s an excellent series, full of suspense and tension.

Black bird (Apple TV)

Sentenced to ten years in prison for drug trafficking, Jimmy Keene (Taron Egerton) is contacted by the FBI who offers him a deal: if he wants to be released, he will have to be transferred to a maximum security prison accommodating criminals considered to be mentally disturbed, in order to obtain the confessions of an alleged serial killer, Larry D. Hall (amazing Paul Hauser) who would have murdered a dozen young girls. Jimmy accepts and tries to get closer to his fellow prisoner, despite the danger posed by the other prisoners and the risk of being discovered as an infiltrator…

blackbird, signed by the great Dennis Lehane, is a dark, violent, disturbing series, carried by the duo Egerton / Hauser. While following the investigation led by a stubborn cop (Greg Kinnear) and an FBI agent (Sepideh Moafi), we constantly tremble for Jimmy, locked up in this prison for dangerous prisoners and who tries to make Larry, a misogynistic character, speak. perverted and sick (and suspected serial killer.) The tension is permanent, stifling and even sometimes difficult to take. Despite some lengths, black bird is a strong series mindhunterwhich haunts you all the more as it is taken from a true story (we remind you that this is the theme, huh…) .

Clark (Netflix)

In the 1970s, Sweden’s most notorious criminal was Clark Oloffson (Bill Skarsgård, as brilliant as he was fired up). A petty offender subscribed to detention centers for minors, he will quickly get down to business with thefts and robberies. Charming, endowed with an oversized ego and an incredible ability to get back on his feet, he will lead a dangerous, chaotic but frantic and exhilarating life… between two stays in prison, from which he always manages to escape.

The totally crazy life of Clark Olofsson perfectly illustrates the maxim according to which reality is greater than fiction. Thefts, bank robberies, hostage-taking (he is at the origin of the famous “Stockholm syndrome”), assaults, escapes, drug trafficking… In Sweden from the 1970s to the 1980s, this guy nevertheless forged an almost glamorous image of a popular hero, thanks to his charisma and humor. To illustrate the life of someone who defines himself as a mixture of “ Pippi Longstocking and Al Capone », the series adopts an eccentric tone of burlesque comedy with grotesque sequences, explosive staging, hilarious and even surreal scenes. However, the portrait avoids falling into hagiography thanks to an extremely skilful conclusion. An amazing series, which is worth the detour.

The thing about Pam (Salto)

On December 27, 2011, Betsy Faria (Katy Mixon) was found at her home in Missouri, savagely stabbed with fifty-five stab wounds. Arrested for the murder, her husband Russ (Glenn Flesher) proclaims his innocence when everyone accuses him. Starting with the testimony of Betsy’s best friend who took her home the night of her death: the kind neighbor Pam Hupp (Renée Zellweger). Nice, really? This housewife without history and appreciated by all may well be hiding her game…

The Thing About Pam seizes on a sordid news item and retraces the investigation, the interrogations and the trial(s) while highlighting the dysfunctions of the judicial system which almost led to the fiasco. The series is sufficiently intriguing for us to cling on despite major blunders. In particular, the choice to make this dark story a kind of Desperate Housewives, mixing thriller, drama and comedy with all the codes of Marc Cherry’s series. To see all the same, at least for an excellent Renée Zellweger in the role of Pam.

Oussekine (Disney+)

On the night of December 5, 1986 in Paris, young Malik Oussekine (Sayyid El Alami) quietly returns home. But as student protests escalate in the neighborhood, he is chased by police acrobats who track him down to a building lobby and beat him to death. Plunged in distress and incomprehension, the members of his family will be swept away in a media, political and judicial tsunami as they fight to obtain justice, for Malik.

More than a news item, it is a drama that marked French society and whose traces are still vivid today. In four episodes, Oussekine approaches this affair by placing himself not on the legal side, but on that of the family. She then delivers a moving intimate story. If we discover the events of the fateful night (the scene is trying), we follow above all the fight of the Oussekine, determined to get justice for Malik. But we are also told the story and the journey of the family, between Algeria and France at the time of decolonization. In the background is the France of the 80s with its political landscape, student demonstrations, police brutality, ordinary racism. A story that is all the stronger since, twenty-two years later, the situation at the time still resonates with ours.

“Based on real facts”: 5 true crime dramas, a genre that fascinates us