×

TV Review: ‘Barbara Walters Presents American Scandals’

With:
Host: Barbara Walters

Barbara Walters clearly isn’t ready to retire, and Investigation Discovery is nothing if not resourceful when it comes to trading off the equity built up by TV news folk. So close on the heels of “Killer Instinct With Chris Hansen” comes “Barbara Walters Presents American Scandals,” a pretty enterprising and ingenious way of repurposing the former ABC News star’s old “get” interviews, in slightly repackaged and updated form. Beginning with JonBenet Ramsey and moving on to O.J. Simpson, the Menendez brothers and Robert Blake, it’s the cable-TV equivalent of using every part of the chicken.

Produced by Lincoln Square Prods. – the more entertainment-oriented production arm of ABC News (although that distinction means less with each passing day) – “American Scandals” makes liberal use of Walters’ hard-earned reputation for landing interviews with high-profile subjects, most of which happened long enough ago as to feel minty fresh all over again. Still, the 86-year-old newswoman isn’t phoning it in, not only providing on-camera memories and intros but going out and revisiting some of those involved.

In the case of the premiere, devoted to the 1996 Colorado murder of pageant tyke Ramsey, Walters catches up with her father, John Ramsey, who along with the girl’s late mother, Patsy, became a suspect in the eyes of the Boulder police. In perhaps the most interesting side note, the documentary suggests that coverage of the killing remained local before the release of pageant photos and video of the slain girl, which were sold to the tabloids and promptly propelled the case into becoming a national story.

The episode also details how the Ramseys seemingly invited suspicion due to their reluctance to speak to the authorities, with author-producer Lawrence Schiller noting that after your child’s murder, “Why wouldn’t you want to cooperate with the police?” “Scandals” also builds a case that local cops botched the investigation, made all the more sobering by the fact that the murder remains unsolved.

Beyond the subjects already mentioned, “American Scandals” has a nine-week run that reads like a who’s who of “Stories that inspired TV movies,” revisiting the lurid tales of Jean Harris, who killed diet doctor Herman Tarnower; Mary Kay Letourneau, who famously slept with her teenage student; Mark David Chapman, John Lennon’s killer; Kimberly Mays, one of two Florida babies who were switched at birth; and disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker.

All told, the series will hardly win any points for originality, but it does offer an object lesson in how to make some noise – without spending very much – amid the din of channels crying for attention. And not incidentally, it’s a reminder that even in the less-crowded, not-too-distant past, when it came to wading elbow-deep into the muck of salacious news, Walters knew how to wallow in it with the best of them.

Popular on Variety

TV Review: 'Barbara Walters Presents American Scandals'

(Series; Investigation Discovery, Mon. Nov. 2, 10 p.m.)

Production: Produced by Lincoln Square Prods.

Crew: Executive producers, John R. Green, Diana Sperrazza; co-executive producer, David Perozzi; senior editorial producer, Katie Thomson; writer, Peri Muldofsky. 60 MIN.

Cast: Host: Barbara Walters

More TV

  • AMERICAN HORROR STORY: 1984 -- Pictured:

    'American Horror Story' Recap: Welcome to 'Camp Redwood'

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the season premiere of “American Horror Story: 1984” entitled “Camp Redwood.” Welcome back to “American Horror Story,” which in its ninth season travels back in time to the 1970s and 1980s to play in the slasher genre. Only one episode into the season, it already [...]

  • Connie Britton BlogHer Summit

    Connie Britton on ‘Friday Night Lights’ Remake: ‘You Need to Let it Go’

    Connie Britton opened up at a fireside chat Wednesday at the #BlogHer19 Creators Summit in Brooklyn by talking about one of her most beloved roles — Tami Taylor in the fan favorite series “Friday Night Lights.” When asked if a remake of the sports cult film and Emmy-winning TV show is in the works she [...]

  • Bob IgerSimon Weisenthal Gala honoring Bob

    Bob Iger Would Have Combined Disney With Apple if Steve Jobs Were Still Alive

    Disney and Apple are both launching their own streaming services come November, but Disney CEO Bob Iger says the two companies weren’t always on competing paths. In an excerpt from his autobiography published Wednesday in “Vanity Fair,” Iger revealed that Disney and Apple likely would have merged if Steve Jobs hadn’t died in 2011. “I [...]

  • The Mentalist

    #NotWorthLess: 'I Was Great and Deserve to Be Paid the Same'

    Women writers, producers and assistants across Twitter turned the hashtag #NotWorthLess into a trend Wednesday, shining a light on issues of pay inequality in the entertainment business. Sparked by screenwriter Adele Lim’s recent decision to walk away from the “Crazy Rich Asians” sequel in protest of being paid less than her male co-writer, dozens of [...]

  • does self-described "family brands" business Hasbro

    With Hasbro Acquisition, Is eOne Planning to Offload Family-Unfriendly Properties?

    Hasbro’s $4 billion acquisition of eOne in August instantly put the Canadian toy giant in the league of major entertainment and content companies thanks to eOne’s arsenal of IP assets in music, television and film. But does the self-described “family brands” business that’s home to The Game of Life and My Little Pony align with [...]

  • Mariah Carey Tracee Ellis Ross

    Mariah Carey, Tracee Ellis Ross Celebrate Biracial Heritage at “Mixed-ish” Premiere

    Mariah Carey and Tracee Ellis Ross embraced their “ish” at Tuesday night’s series premiere event for ABC’s “Mixed-ish” by reflecting on how their biracial identity makes working on the new show even more personal. “I’m just so thankful that this show exists,” Carey told the assembled crowd during a Q&A with series creator Kenya Barris. [...]

  • THE BACHELORETTE - "The Bachelorette: Season

    'The Bachelor': ABC Reality Boss Talks Ratings Success, Diversity Backlash

    Last night, Peter Weber was unveiled, perhaps unsurprisingly, as the next Bachelor during the season finale of “Bachelor in Paradise.” Weber’s selection coincided with a season-high rating for “Paradise,” and caps a solid ratings summer for the “Bachelor” franchise. As ratings have been in decline across the board this summer, “The Bachelorette” and “Bachelor in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content