• Written by Rick Ellis
  • Category: 2017 TV Reviews

Review: 'Evil Lives Here'

While they are a staple of cable television (including Investigation Discovery), I am not a huge fan of the "crime re-creation" genre of TV. Most times the resulting program is just a well-edited mish-mash of interviews & "new" footage that tells the story of the crime without giving the viewer any sort of emotional connection to the crime or its victims. In particular, the short interview snippets with friends & familiar are usually just long enough to impart the facts without providing any real sense of what the loss means to those closest to the victim.

One of the reasons I enjoyed "Evil Lives Here" during its first season is that it manages to get past the usual limitations of the genre to provide some emotional and often heart-wrenching stories of loss and betrayal. That's certainly the case on the season two premiere episode of the show, which focuses on the story of Paul Keller, a serial arsonist who was responsible for setting over a hundred fires in and around Everett, Washington in 1992-1993. For the first time in nearly 25 years, his parents spoke publicly about his life and how they came to the decision to turn him into police once they discovered his secret.

It's easy to second-guess some of the decisions made by parents George and Margaret, but their discussions about his life and early behavior are both chilling and heartbreaking. They recount his attempts to kill or injure his siblings and George in particular talks about his inability to comprehend the depth of his son's problems.

While the show does include the requisite re-enactments of the case, it's the interviews with the parents that really live an impact. Watching the elderly George sobbing uncontrollably about his son's crimes is nearly impossible to watch. These are some very raw, real interviews and it's an example of the emotions that are often less evident in less shows.

The story is a compelling one, enough to already have been covered in at least one other ID show, as well as in a made-for-Lifetime movie starring Neil Patrick Harris. But none of the other shows created as many memorable moments as these heartbreaking interviews.

Sure, people familiar with the case can quibble about a few of the details discussed in the episode, including the fact Paul was once fired from a booking job after his desk "mysteriously" caught on fire. But from what I can tell, this episode does a pretty solid job of accurately telling the cored facts of the case while allowing the parents a lot of time to share their memories of what it was like living with a loved one who turned out to be such a monster.

That personal insight about a case is the reason why season one of "Evil Lives Here" was so compelling and why it is one of the best shows on the network.

  • Written by Rick Ellis
  • Category: 2017 TV Reviews

TV Reviews: 'Murder Chose Me'

On the surface, every show on the Investigation Discovery channel is essentially the same program: some sort of reenactment of a crime, told through a mix narration, interviews and reenacted footage. But one of the interesting things for me in 2016 was watching as the network began trying to find new ways to tell those stories. Trying to figure out how to breathe more creativity into a genre that in the wrong hands can be predictable and boring.

While "Murder Chose Me" doesn't officially premiere until January 15th, it's one of the shows the network sneak previewed on New Year's Day. And based on the pilot, it provides a new interesting creative tweak of the genre. Even of it isn't always successful.

The title of the show is uncharacteristically vague for the network, with "Murder Chose Me" almost sounding like a series devoted to victims who had always believed they were going to die. In reality. the show centers around Shreveport, La. detective Rod Demery, who spent 14 years as a homicide detective. He managed to get a confession and conviction on 100% of the cases in which he was a lead detective, so he obviously has some serious investigative skills. Demery is also a good focus for a show, since his brooding, moody on-camera demeanor works well with this type of show.

In fact, the producers seem to have decided to use Demery's personality as the creative inspiration for the tone of the show. "Murder Chose Me" is filled with dark, moody tracking shots and plenty of shots featuring Demery staring thoughtfully into the distance. Combined with a slightly more theatrical look to the recreations, the show pushes more into the arena of being a scripted series based on a real life story.

Weirdly, the weakest part of the premiere episode was the case itself. Without giving anything away, the episode has Demery solving the case pretty much by just talking to a couple of the most obvious suspects and then getting a confession. I suspect the real-life investigation was a lot more complex, but that doesn't come across in the episode.

I'm interested in seeing more of "Murder Chose Me" to see if the producers are able to find a consistent tone for the show and if future episodes included cases that are a bit more surprising. Still, the show is a nice addition to the network and the tweaks in the format make me more optimistic about the creative future of the network.

"Murder Chose Me" officially premieres on Wednesday, January 15th, at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.