Investigation Discovery is nothing if not opportunistic, distilling the 10 hours that Netflix devoted to “Making a Murderer” into a one-hour edition of “Front Page With Keith Morrison,” subtitled “Steven Avery: Innocent or Guilty?” While a big step up from Nancy Grace’s incoherent, foaming-at-the-mouth HLN special, the documentary covers a lot of ground without bringing much new to the story, other than unleashing “Dateline NBC’s” Morrison on it, and the ghoulish demeanor that has made his true-crime reporting so ripe for satire.
Aside from recapping Avery’s tale – how he was exonerated on rape charges after 18 years in jail, and subsequently convicted of a brutal murder – the hour basically boils down to a back and forth between two attorneys involved in the second trial: prosecutor Ken Kratz (who declined to participate in “Making a Murderer,” but has been defending himself elsewhere since its December debut), and Avery defense lawyer Jerry Buting. (Notably, both are also featured in “Dateline NBC’s” separate take on the case, “The State of Wisconsin Vs. Steven A. Avery,” which features interviews with many of the same people and is scheduled for Jan. 29.)
In perhaps the newsiest part of the ID special, the last third or so delves into the aftermath of Netflix’s series, with Kratz outlining what he considered oversights and omissions that tip the scales toward a misperception that Avery was railroaded. Buting, for his part, pretty effortlessly refutes most of those, and also discusses who might have killed photographer Teresa Halbach if Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, didn’t.
Still, at the risk of spoiling things – or merely sparing those who might be expecting an answer to the subtitle’s question in an hour’s time – it’s unlikely anyone who has watched “Making a Murderer” will extract much that’s fresh or opinion-changing here. And while the hour is even-handed, its central conclusion boils down to Buting’s observation that with Avery getting a new lawyer, there is surely more to come.
Of course, the whole point of these programs from NBC News’ Peacock Prods. – a genre which ID has dubbed “instamentaries,” thanks to their ability to respond quickly to a story making headlines – is to get there fast and first, way before something like “Law & Order” can. And in that respect, it’s hard to think of anything more ripe for further analysis than the Avery case, which has become a near-obsession for many who raced through it.
What ID has delivered, though, is, in literary terms, the abridged version of “Making a Murderer,” with a brief epilogue tacked on. And if the original contained the twists and turns often associated with a great novel, then think of this as either a public service for those who don’t have the time or inclination to read it or, less charitably, “Making a Murderer” for Dummies.