×

‘48 Hours’ Harnesses Social Media to Launch Cold Case Franchise

CBS’ long-running newsmagazine “48 Hours” is trying a new variation on its true-crime theme with this week’s telecast focusing on a unsolved murder in Florida.

48 Hours: Cold Case: Who Killed Amy Gellert” adds a touch of “America’s Most Wanted” in that it will lay out all the existing evidence and details about multiple suspects, and ask viewers to come forward via a tip line with information they might have to help law enforcement crack the case.

Susan Zirinsky, senior exec producer and the longtime steward of “48 Hours,” said the hope is to produce three “Cold Case” episodes a year starting next fall. The plan is to use social media platforms to further spread the word about the case in the hopes that someone who knows something will finally come forward.

“48 Hours” already has a sizable online following through its “Crimesider” website and via Twitter and other platforms, which Zirinsky and her team have stoked by live-tweeting every episode and seeding digital platforms with extra material.

“We are live on social media every week,” Zirinsky told Variety. “The conversations we have (with viewers) are fantastic.”

In fact, it was the depth of the engagement that “48 Hours” team has with the public that made Zirinsky realize they could harness that communication to possibly help law enforcement.

Over the years, producers have often noted how emotionally connected law enforcement officials become to solving cold cases. The sense of being “haunted” by the desire to see justice done for a victim is big part of most cold-case stories, she said.

“This is not about us trying to do the cops’ job,” Zirinsky said. “This is about giving a voice to the families of the victims and the investigators in these cold cases who have never given up.”

Saturday’s edition has been reported for months by correspondent Erin Moriarty (pictured). Gellert was a 21-year-old woman stabbed in 1994 by a masked man as she tried to enter her parents’  home. The man had been holding her mother and stepfather hostage. Police have long focused on multiple suspects but have never had enough evidence to charge anyone with the crime.

“Somebody out there knows something,” Zirinsky said. “Somebody has a guilty conscience and maybe seeing this report can shake things loose. … If we can do something with our broadcast that helps that — that is enormously gratifying to us.”

The cold-case focus is one of several elements that “48 Hours” has added in recent years to keep the newsmag fresh. It also has the “Live to Tell” series recounting stories of those who survived or witnessed brutal crimes.

“Our niche that we evolved to many years ago is law and justice,” Zirinsky said of “48 Hours.” “I’m always looking for anything I can do to enhance and evolve that brand that is distinctive.”

 

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • T.J. Dillashaw, right, kicks Cody Garbrandt

    Disney Plans UFC Broadcast for FX

    UFC matches will return to FX  – but not on a permanent basis. ESPN has been showing preliminary bouts to UFC pay-per-view events for the last while on ESPN and ESPN2, and then showing the main card on its ESPN+ subscription video service. In September, the early lineup will air on FX, which the UFC [...]

  • George RR Martin

    George R.R. Martin Says HBO's 'Game of Thrones' Ending Won't Influence Future Novels

    Geroge R.R. Martin is sticking to his original plan when it comes to the future of “Game of Thrones.” In an interview with The Observer, Martin claimed that HBO’s controversial ending for the series would have no affect on the endings of the last two novels. “No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t change anything at all,” [...]

  • Listen: 'Pennyworth' Producer Talks Delving into

    Listen: 'Pennyworth' Executive Producer Talks Delving into Alfred's Backstory

    Bruno Heller may have served as an executive producer on the Batman-inspired series “Gotham” for the past five years, but it’s actually real-life people (not superheroes) that intrigue the producer the most. It’s for that exact reason that Heller’s newest series finds him exploring the origin stories of Batman’s butler Alfred in the Epix drama [...]

  • "Trust Issues" - Dylan and Lizzie

    'Instinct' Canceled After Two Seasons

    CBS has canceled “Instinct” after two seasons. Series creator Michael Rauch announced the cancellation Friday on Twitter, writing, “I’m very sad to relay the news that @instinctcbs won’t be renewed for a 3rd season. We will double up this Sunday and our season/series finale will be Aug 25.” Rauch also thanked series stars Alan Cumming [...]

  • Maisel Day

    My Mostly OK Maisel Day (Column)

    When Amazon announced its first-ever Maisel Day, I was intrigued. For one day, Aug. 15, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” fans and Angelenos (fangelenos?) could hit up various restaurants, theaters and retailers throughout Los Angeles for special deals, all at 1959 prices. Among the gems: $2.50 makeovers, $0.99 pastrami sandwiches and $0.30 for a gallon of [...]

  • Nordisk Film & TV Fond Announces

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond Backs Joachim Trier, Ole Bornedal, Yellow Bird

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond has announced three features, two series and a documentary set to receive $1.4m in financing, as well as distribution, dubbing and cultural initiative support recipients. Doing so, it highlights some of the key titles moving forward in the Nordic region. Already backed by the Danish Film Institute’s largest ever grant [...]

  • TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley' Final

    TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley's' Final Season Sets October Premiere Date

    In today’s roundup, “Silicon Valley” returns to HBO on Oct. 27 and Quibi greenlights a new cooking competition show “Dismantled.” DATES The fifth season of Netflix‘s “Peaky Blinders” will premiere on the streamer Oct. 4. The newest season will continue to follow one gangster family in the lawless streets of Birmingham, UK during the midst [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content