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.