You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Final Witness

There's something stomach-churning about "Final Witness," an ABC docudrama produced by ABC News alum Rudy Bednar, which extensively uses actors to replicate grisly crimes, and features the murder victims "narrating" their stories (hence the title), much like the novel-turned-movie "The Lovely Bones."

The promiscuous use of dramatic reenactments in pseudo-documentaries, via channels like Investigation Discovery and TruTV — and even the news — is a team of runaway horses that have long since left the barn. Even so, there’s something stomach-churning about “Final Witness,” an ABC docudrama produced by ABC News alum Rudy Bednar, which extensively uses actors to replicate grisly crimes, and features the murder victims “narrating” their stories (hence the title), much like the novel-turned-movie “The Lovely Bones.” It’s a skeletal construct, all right, but there’s nothing lovely about it.

The premiere (which actually aired on the network as a backdoor pilot in late 2010) details the 2008 murders of a Texas family, with the killers torching the house to obscure the crime. It’s all pretty standard fare — the kind of stuff newsmags like “48 Hours Mystery” feast upon — except for the narration by the wife, Penny, who dispenses wisdom from the great beyond.

“If you follow your heart without God, you can lose your way,” she says, talking about her daughter’s boyfriend, later introducing a segment with, “My boys and I had been dead and buried for six months.”

The mix of acted-out scenes with interviews of actual participants, from law-enforcement authorities to friends and family, is familiar, if regularly abused. “Final Witness” augments it not just with extensive reenactments but a punishing, relentless rock score, as if “20/20” were being funneled through an episode of “Miami Vice.”

This is, quite simply, another tumbling step down the ladder that has seen news-like programming bastardized to satisfy the itch once scratched by fact-based TV movies — just as lurid and sensational, but faster and cheaper, distilling these sordid tales to 40-some-odd minutes. Although this has become commonplace, ABC’s attempt to one-up the field with this summer filler (promoted during the NBA Finals) is, to say the last, disheartening.

“I’ve done all my forgivin’,” the dead Penny tells us as we learn more about how and why the crime was committed.

That forgiving spirit is considerably better than “Final Witness” deserves.

Final Witness

ABC, Wed. June 27, 10 p.m.

Production: Produced for by Lincoln Square Prods. Executive producers, Rudy Bednar, Christine Connor; senior producers, Adam Feinstein, Ann Reynolds; series producer, Lee Beckett; director, Feinstein; writers, Bednar, Connor, Reynolds.

Crew: Camera, Andreas Burgess, Khalid Mohtaseb. 60 MIN.

More TV

  • Katherine Ryan Says Boyfriend Saved Her

    Katherine Ryan Says Boyfriend Saved Her Netflix Scripts in Fight With Burglar

    London-based comedian, actor and writer Katherine Ryan says her boyfriend fought off a masked burglar and saved a laptop that contained scripts from her upcoming Netflix show, “The Duchess.” Sharing details on Instagram over the weekend, Ryan said her partner, Bobby Kootstra, tackled the intruder. “This is why I love Bobby K.,” Ryan wrote. “He [...]

  • Meghan Duchess of Sussex during a

    Candid ITV, ABC Doc on Prince Harry, Meghan Markle Scores International Deals

    Prince Harry and Meghan Markle open up on the stress of living in the spotlight in a candid documentary that is scoring more international deals. “Harry and Meghan: An African Journey” was broadcast Sunday on ITV in the U.K. and  will go out on ABC in the U.S. on Wednesday night. Produced by ITN Productions [...]

  • Bristol, CT - July 26, 2018

    Mina Kimes Helps ESPN Kick Off 'Daily' Podcast

    Mina Kimes is preparing to take ESPN into a new frontier. The sports-media giant has launched a “SportsCenter” for Snapchat and tested baseball telecasts for kids. Now it’s hoping to set up shop in another media venue. Starting tomorrow, the Disney-backed company launches “ESPN Daily,” a weekday morning podcast that aims to tap its vast [...]

  • MIA Wrap

    Rome MIA Market Wraps With Stronger U.S. Presence, Boosts Italy's Industry Standing

    Rome’s MIA market for TV series, feature films and documentaries wrapped positively Sunday with organizers boasting a bump in attendance just as some 2,500 executives departed in an upbeat mood after four days of dealmaking and presentations of mostly European fresh product, which elevated Italy’s global standing in the industry, especially within the TV sector. [...]

  • Content-is-King

    Top TV Execs Tackle New Distribution Landscape in Rome

    ROME – In an increasingly complex TV market, with a host of new big-ticket streaming services preparing to enter an already crowded arena, both buyers and sellers are rethinking some of the fundamentals of the TV business as they grapple with the best way to reach global audiences. A host of top producers, network executives, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content