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Based On A True Story


‘…sticks the landing in terms of offering a twisty-turny narrative that’s firmly embedded in the on-going financial panic that most ordinary people are currently experiencing on a day to day basis…’

New on Peacock in the US, Based On a True Story is a blackly comic drama that manages to duck most of the established if not done-to-death serial killer clichés and come up with something, dare we say it, new? In a streaming world where aping movies to diminishing effect seems to be something of a keynote strategy, this eight episode story comes from exec producers Craig Rosenberg and Jason Bateman, and manages the trick of staying credible while navigating some tight narrative hairpins; there’s tonnes that I can’t tell you due to spoilers, but let’s start with relating what you need to know on a need to know basis; if you like the wicked feel of Gone Girl or thrillers by The Coen Brothers, a healthy dose of Based on a True Story should hit the right spot for you.

The Big Bang Theory and The Flight Attendant star Kaley Cuoco stars as Ava Bartlett; she’s heavily pregnant as the show opens, and about to take delivery of an unwanted financial bombshell; her husband Nathan (Chris Messina), an ex tennis pro who once beat Roger Federer on court, has just lost his LA coaching job, leaving their domestic finances teetering on the edge of a cliff. Adding insult to injury, a domestic plumbing crisis brings a new and mysterious figure into Ava and Nathan’s life; Matt Pierce (Tom Bateman) arrives to fix the toilet, but why has he got all those scratches on his arms? Ava is a huge fan of the current fashion for true crime podcasts, and wonders if Matt might just be the Westside killer; if he is, there might just be an income stream opening up, but their route to financial safety proves to be a dangerous one…

Having set out to review the first couple of episodes, I ended up guzzling the lot; Based on a True Story sticks the landing in terms of offering a twisty-turny narrative that’s firmly embedded in the on-going financial panic that most ordinary people are currently experiencing on a day to day basis. Tom Bateman does well with a deliberately ambiguous character, Messina also find previously unseen gears as an anxious but practically minded husband who is anything but a dork. But the big draw here is Cuoco, miles away from The Big Bang’s sweet Penny, but playing a tough-minded, determined but somewhat naïve character whose quick judgements tend to unravel in spectacular fashion.

There’s also a key role here for Stranger Things star Natalia Dyer, but the nature of her character will have to remain under wraps for now; revealing where Based on a True Story is going would spoil the surprises. But this is a tv show well worth the effort to catch; when so many programmes go for spectacle rather than plot or character development, Based On a True Story works with difficult, daring material, and explores it in a way that’s firmly indexed to today’s world. With internet sleuths coming a cropper when they get involved with actual criminals, this is a compellingly more-ish programme that should be catnip to audiences starved of relatable shows. Violent, shocking and ingenious, Based on a True Story should go straight onto your watch-list; just don’t even think about trying any of this at home…

Based On A True Story will premiere with all eight episodes on Thursday, June 8, 2023, only on Peacock.  Thanks to Peacock for advance access to this series.


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  1. You know, since you’ve read a script before, I think that qualifies you to write one. I’m envisioning a 22 episode tv show called Leave it to Bunty, where an adorable 40 year old has adventures in the grocery stores, that are haunted. And his 3 best friends always have to bail him out of trouble. And the closer is them always saying something like “Oh Bunty, will you never learn?” as they smile beautifully at the audience.

    We can even be totally subversive and cast this Coco chick you mention here. But she’ll have to cough up a big fat gold dump truck if she wants the part, that’s my only requirement.

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