Culture Crash 19-50: Netflix Miniseries Based On True Stories


Neither “When They See Us” or “Unbelievable” are easy to watch or comfortable by any means. Both of the shows broke my heart and both of them infuriated me. Every once in a while, though, it can be helpful to take a hard look at society and its problems, and both of the shows deliver in spades to that end.



Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture – what’s new and old in entertainment.

In the age of peak TV, there is something to watch for everyone. Thanks to premium channels and subscription services, gone are the days of every show needing to appease advertisers and worry about sweeps weeks, which means that, more than ever before, television writers are free to make the product they truly want. 

This year, that freedom in creation led to two Netflix series based on true stories that are sobering looks at the society we live in and the justice system that all Americans remain subject.

The first of these shows is called “When They See Us.” From director Ava DuVernay, the show tells the horrifying story of the Exonerated Five, formerly known as the Central Park Five, a group of teenagers who were falsely imprisoned for murder in New York City’s Central Park in 1989. The deeply empathetic show is led by a group of all-star young actors and it offers an unflinching look at a broken process in action.

The second of these shows is called “Unbelievable.” Based on a story from ProPublica and The Marshall Project, “Unbelievable” tells the story of two rape investigations: One that ends quickly with the victim being pressured into recanting her accusation, and another that spans the bulk of the season’s duration, and shows two investigators truly willing to give a case their all in search of the truth. Led by Kaitlyn Dever, Toni Collette and Merritt Wever, “Unbelievable” is a show that prioritizes the stories of victims and shows what pursuing the truth takes and what it costs.

Neither “When They See Us” or “Unbelievable” are easy to watch or comfortable by any means. Both of the shows broke my heart and both of them infuriated me. Every once in a while, though, it can be helpful to take a hard look at society and its problems, and both of the shows deliver in spades to that end.

“When They See Us” and “Unbelievable” are both streaming on Netflix.

I’m Evan Rook. 


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