Always preoccupied with slain spouses, the latest edition of “48 Hours” contains a genuine Hollywood twist. Subtitled “Prison Diaries,” the CBS News program revisits the case of Bruce Beresford-Redman, the former “Survivor” producer who is still on trial in Mexico for the 2010 murder of his wife, Monica.
Having profiled the case two years ago, the update hinges on CBS News providing Beresford-Redman a small camera with which to keep a video diary in prison, an overcrowded facility where the inmates can move about with some latitude within in the fenced-in gates.
The producer – who continues to maintain his innocence, although his wife’s family thinks otherwise – describes his incarceration as “dehumanizing,” sharing a cell meant for three prisoners with 10 or more, while illustrating the filth and occasional violence that surrounds him.
It is, by any measure, harrowing stuff, if not all that different from the prison documentaries that overtake MSNBC’s lineup every weekend. And while correspondent Troy Roberts and his team have failed to advance the facts of the case in any significant way, they have provided the producer a forum to discuss his plight, while exposing the horrid prison conditions and interminable delays in the Mexican court system.
Clearly, Beresford-Redman hopes the video, shot over several months, will elicit sympathy. His late wife’s family also has expressed concerns in that regard, asking CBS not to air the broadcast.
The network responded with a statement saying it made repeated requests to interview Monica’s relatives, and has “fairly represented their position.” Yet because Beresford-Redman’s first-person account so dominates the hour, it can’t help but tip the scales in his direction, even if he’s not always a particularly convincing spokesman on his own behalf.
The circumstantial evidence looked bad initially. Beresford-Redman admitted to his wife that he was having an affair with a co-worker not long before the family vacationed in Cancun, and he returned to the U.S. after her death via an unorthodox route. There were also scratches on his hands and neck. (In an interview, he explains how he got the cuts, and maintains he simply wanted to get home to be with his young kids, who had already lost their mother.)
Still, according to Roberts’ reporting, some of the physical evidence has been mishandled or contaminated, and several witnesses have been unreliable.
Whatever the status is of the case against Beresford-Redman, the hour’s main enticement is clearly to offer a glimpse of life inside the prison, which looks both hellish and strange. The program doesn’t address why Beresford-Redman was allowed to document his stay (which he claims has made him a target within the facility), but a CBS spokesman said the network received permission from authorities.
The lingering questions raised over the course of the telecast will likely leave many viewers of two minds about what really happened – and a queasy feeling no matter which way the case is resolved.
“Reality television, even at its best – it’s a world that’s created,” Beresford-Redman says. “Being here is real.”
While that confession about reality TV is hardly shocking, it’s about the only undisputed news to come from this “48 Hours.”
“48 Hours: Prison Diaries” airs Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. on CBS.