Based on a True Story Review 2023 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online
What happens when a suburban couple facing bankruptcy and stressing over marital issues finds out they know a serial killer? Created by Craig Rosenberg, Peacock’s Based on a True Story tries to answer this question with a thriller-comedy that deconstructs the American dream and people’s irrational obsession with serial killers. The result is a brilliant take on true crime in which Tom Bateman’s lovable criminal shows how there’s an unnerving connection between celebrity culture and serial killers. Add the always-reliable Kaley Cuoco and Chris Messina to the mix, and we get an unexpected TV show that’s utterly delicious to watch.
It’s hard to dispute that the United States suffers from a strange addiction to true crime. The average US citizen can name multiple serial killers by memory, and Hollywood never stops regurgitating new movies and TV shows about the country’s deadliest killers. And since, more often than not, these productions are tremendously successful, it makes sense for studios to keep tapping into this profitable source. The weirdest aspect of this phenomenon is that people are not only attracted to serial killers due to morbid curiosity, but there seems to be an actual celebration of these twisted people’s actions. After all, while every country has troubles with serial killers, nowhere besides America do murderers become celebrities, gathering legions of fans who celebrate the wickedness of their acts.
Based on a True Story’s Ava Bartlett (Cuoco) is one of these true crime fanatics. Seven months pregnant and stuck in a passionless marriage, Ava searches for the excitement she’s missing in her life in blood-soaked podcasts filled with mystery and danger. So, when opportunity knocks at her door, and she discovers the true identity of a vicious serial killer, she wants to create her own podcast by interviewing the Westside Ripper in the flesh. Ava’s husband, Nathan (Messina), doesn’t take too long to board the program. While Nathan is not a true crime aficionado, the podcast represents the opportunity to make serious money, which he thinks he needs to keep supporting his family. As a former tennis player who had to retire after an injury, he can no longer achieve his goal of having a mansion in the suburbs and impressing his wealthy friends. And, for some reason, downgrading his life makes Nathan feel less of a man.
Together, Ava and Nathan represent the failure of the American Dream, the delusional belief that hard work ensures success and that playing house with your loved one and a child can fulfill any emotional need. Cuoco and Messina do a fantastic job showing their characters’ frustrations and repressed rage, constantly thwarted by fate and incapable of “winning at life” – a preposterous idea that sets unobtainable goals. Based on a True Story’s writing also does a beautiful job of exploring the hurt Ava and Nathan carry inside, which draws them dangerously closer to Matt. That’s where the series shines the most as it shows how serial killers’ most distressing traits are exaggerations of things we find in people pursuing the American dream.
Unfortunately for the Bartletts, their plan goes a little too well since Matt (Bateman) aka the Westside Ripper, dives into the podcast project with the same energy he slays innocent women. For Matt, the podcast is the opportunity to feed his ego and prove he can evade authorities even while confessing his crimes to an audience of millions. Through the podcast, he also develops his brand by explaining the spine-chilling details of his methods and reasonings. While there’s something in every serial killer’s brain pushing them to murder other people, the whole true crime culture also leads these sick individuals to commit their crimes publicly, challenging law enforcers to prove their intellectual superiority. So, making a podcast helps Matt get the fame he desires.
While the writing of Based on a True Story doesn’t shy from discussing how the American dream is disturbingly intertwined with serial killer culture, the series wouldn’t be as effective without Bateman. With sharp eyes and an inviting smile on his face, Bateman plays a serial killer who’s simultaneously charming and threatening, capable of instilling fear while he draws the attention of anyone in the room. It’s an enthralling performance that gives Matt the layers the character needs to act both as a villain and a hero in the story. Because while Matt’s killings are repulsive to the Bartletts, his ambition also motivates them to pursue their dream of buying the happiness they lost so long ago.
Based on a True Story can get bloody when it needs to, perfectly emulating slasher tropes to show how deadly Matt really is. Still, the series is primarily focused on the complicated relationship between the killer and the Bartletts, poking fun at how similar a serial killer can be to a desperate couple who refuses to abandon the American dream, even if it means bending the law so much they become more and more like the monster they hoped to use to feed their greed. And while the Bartletts’ surreal situation can be hilarious to watch, Bateman’s sharp performance always reminds the audience the stakes are real in Based on a True Story, and there’s no way the Bartletts will get the happy ending they think they are entitled of.
For most of its eight-episode run, Based on a True Story graciously explore the turmoil in the Bartletts’ lives while they get irredeemably entangled with Matt and the podcast. Since Based on a True Story is about unfulfilled desires, though, showrunner Rosenberg includes unexpected scenes that lead the story to surprising paths, only for the audience to eventually realize they are nothing but a fantasy.
Sometimes, these detours add to the series’ themes, as they give us a glimpse at each of the Bartletts’ sexual frustrations and fears. This deep dive sheds some light in the darkest corners of their minds to reveal how the constraints of monogamy and mediocrity make them angry and resentful. These small fantasies also allow us to understand that the line separating the Bartletts from Matt is that the serial killer refuses to contain his urge. By doing this, Based on a True Story forces the audience to question what they yearn for and how society’s expectations stop us from getting everything we want.
Nevertheless, some small fantasies are introduced to pretend the series has twisted in a surprising direction, without adding much to character development. When this happens, it’s like Based on a True Story is trying to give viewers a dose of mystery Rosenberg thinks they need to remain engaged in a thriller series. What’s more, these fake twists can actually be distracting since what matters the most in Based on a True Story is the internal conflict of each character, not how crazy the story can get. With true crime being as widespread as it is, however, Based on a True Story offers a fun deconstruction of the genre that also forces the audience to question their own attraction to serial killers.