Review: ‘On the Case With Paula Zahn’

Turns out Dostoevsky was really on to something with "Crime and Punishment."

Turns out Dostoevsky was really on to something with “Crime and Punishment.” Viewers still can’t get enough, even with 24-hour news networks and an endless number of shows depicting every step of the criminal and legal process. Into this glut steps news vet Paula Zahn, with a personal approach to the genre that gets her subjects to open up. Compared with other Investigation Discovery shows such as “Wicked Attraction” (romances gone wrong) and “Most Evil” (think Manson, Dahmer), Zahn brings a lighter, more sisterly, Oprah-like style to the proceedings.

From a collage of family photos to its startlingly frank interviews with close friends and relatives, “On the Case” goes inside each story. Premiere episode (13 have been ordered) features a typically salacious tale: A teenage girl is befriended by an attractive young teacher. She’s later found strangled in the woods. He’s seen line dancing at a local bar a short time after.

The events are recounted through interviews and actual police video, including the interrogation and confession, as well as a graphic body-recovery search. Despite the proliferation of crime shows, the footage is still shocking. It also provides the show with its most surprising twist.

The influence of reality and entertainment-news is apparent, with shaky camera reenactments and scream-overs that detract from its otherwise professional manner. Show moves at a nice pace, divulging intriguing tidbits without endless teasers and the usual repetition (read, “Dateline”) that pads other such shows.

Unsettlingly, the mother of the alleged criminal in this particular case talks without a shred of irony or emotion about what a great son she has, despite all evidence to the contrary. She also keeps primping her hair.

On the Case With Paula Zahn

Investigation Discovery, Sun. Oct. 18, 10 p.m.


Produced by Scott Sternberg Prods. and Weinberger Media. Executive producers, Sternberg, Scott Weinberger, Paula Zahn, Diana Sperrazza; co-executive producer, Larry Israel; producers, Judy Artime, Kevin Huffman, Stephen Narisi, Emily Smolar.


Camera, Sal Manguarnera Jr; managing editor, Daniel Bregman; editors, Alan Bivona, Jody Leggio, Dan Katz, Mike Sheehan; music, Trey Gunn. Running time: 60 MIN.


Host: Paula Zahn.

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  1. Karien Steyn says:

    We enjoy the series, but why on earth does Paula have to narrate in such an unnatural way? Why the masculine, hard and patronizing, stilted manner? Why not speak naturally and flowing? And the sudden little mannerisms with her mouth (between sentences and after having asked questions to the interviewee is really unbecoming and irritating. She is such an attractive woman, but the above is really putting us off watching the program further.

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