How True Crime Story: It Couldn’t Happen Here Appeals to Armchair Detectives


Among true crime enthusiasts, there is always some debate about which type of series is best.

Some prefer programs that revisit solved cases and show how they were solved in new or more in-depth ways, like the Hulu miniseries Under the Bridge.

Others like to watch shows that examine injustices relating to wrongful convictions or unsolved crimes. One such show is SundanceTV’s True Crime Story: It Couldn’t Happen Here.

Many true crime enthusiasts are interested in the genre because they want to try solving cases themselves. The unsolved is often more appealing than the solved.

True Crime Story: It Couldn’t Happen Here scratches that particular itch for armchair detectives in several ways.

The Premise

The series focuses on the many crimes committed in small-town America and the difficulties associated with solving them.

The purpose is to highlight small-town cases that have slipped through the judicial cracks.

Sometimes, small-town politics play considerable roles in crime investigations with disastrous results like ignored evidence and wrongful convictions.

Each episode follows Hillarie Burton Morgan as she explores common reasons for investigative oversights and mistakes, such as prejudice, lack of resources, general police corruption, false leads, and jury bias.

The Small Town Element

The words “small town” cause almost any true crime enthusiast to want to tune in.

Everyone wants to watch how crime investigations are conducted in small towns because such crimes can happen anywhere. Viewers in small towns relate to the victims and their families, as well as to the wrongfully accused.

A second reason for the appeal of that one little phrase is that small towns often have intricate dynamics. Small-town politics are inherently intriguing to the masses. Watching them play out is much like watching a soap opera.

The Murder Factor

Shows focusing specifically on murder investigations, like True Crime Story: It Couldn’t Happen Here, tend to have almost automatic audiences. They have an added level of appeal compared to those that focus on other types of crimes, such as fraud or theft.

Murder cases simply have a way of sucking people in, especially people who live where the murders take place. They all want to help solve crimes quickly so that life can return to normal and their communities feel safe again.

Unfortunately, the desire to solve murder cases quickly can lead to complications during investigations, especially in small towns. All it takes is one incorrect tip for the wrong person to be accused and often convicted.

Although such complications are horrible for victims, families, and the wrongfully convicted, they make good television. Armchair detectives love to learn about them and try to puzzle them out. It’s an excellent way for them to exercise their minds.

Serving Justice

Few things rile true crime lovers up more than feeling like justice hasn’t been served.

Every It Couldn’t Happen Here episode attempts to answer that question in one way or another.

An excellent example occurred in the first episode of the series when the wrongful conviction of a man in Adel, Georgia, was explored. Devonia Inman was convicted of murder in 1998 and released in 2021.

Of course, getting wrongfully convicted individuals released is only one part of the problem. Detectives then have to work on actually solving the crimes.

The Predictable Nature of the Show

TCS does not use a new concept or format. Many shows have explored small-town cases and potential wrongful convictions in a similar way before.

Reasonable Doubt and Cold Justice are two shows that follow individuals traveling around the country reexamining older cases, whether completely cold or potentially focused on the wrong suspects.

That said, being a cookie-cutter show can be a good thing. The types of cases covered are like comfort food to true crime fanatics. Much like potato chips or popcorn, there can never be too many.

Does True Crime Story Check All the Armchair Detective Boxes?

The series appeals well to armchair detectives and is worth watching for all the reasons above. However, it doesn’t check every single armchair detective box there is to check. A key element it lacks is proper evidence investigation.

Other true crime hits like Cold Justice and Reasonable Doubt follow the journeys of experts ranging from lawyers and ex-cops to crime scene analysts. Those experts revisit crimes by focusing on critical details like restaging crime scenes in detail and reexamining evidence in new ways.

Viewers who want to see that level of analysis in True Crime Story will be disappointed because the show does not include elements of crime scene reconstruction or in-depth physical evidence examination. Instead, it relies mainly on discussions and witness interviews.

What True Crime Fans Have to Say About the Series

Since SundanceTV released It Couldn’t Happen Here, reactions to it have been relatively positive. The only complaint is regarding Hillarie Burton Morgan’s presence as a so-called “advocate” for the families on the show.

Hillarie, also an executive producer for the program, is an actress known for appearing on shows like One Tree Hill. She is not a lawyer, cop, or crime scene analyst. Fans have noted that she adds nothing essential and could easily be removed or replaced. Some have even said the show would be better without her.

Granted, she does show genuine interest in each case and empathy for those she meets. However, she is out of place compared to other true crime series figureheads with legal and journalistic backgrounds.

Despite the odd choice of star, TCS illuminates the struggles of small-town families seeking justice well. That’s something every true crime TV enthusiast wants to see.

Jessica Kosinski is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow her on X.

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