‘A Crime to Remember,’ and to watch
There's a sense of authenticity in the retelling of these murders
November 8, 2013
TV works slowly. For example, some copycat shows set in the “Mad Men” era — the pre-drugs and pre-sexual-revolution ’50s and ’60s — have taken so long to come out that even “Mad Men” has moved on from the “Mad Men” era.
The latest “Mad Men”-inspired series is an Investigation Discovery true-murder show, “A Crime to Remember,” which in its first season will cover six once-notorious cases from about a half century ago. The storytelling is done through the usual mix of interviews and re-enactments, with perhaps greater attention paid to period clothes and décor, but the lapse in time allows for some insights into changes in our society. Most true-crime shows are interesting; this one lets us enjoy the story without feeling purely morbid.
The premiere episode, airing next Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 10 p.m., retells the story of Alice Crimmins, a Queens, N.Y., woman whose two children, aged 4 and 5, were taken from their bedroom and murdered in 1965. Separated from her husband, Eddie, Alice seems to have attracted the suspicion of police detectives because of her flashy makeup, her two boyfriends and her job as a cocktail waitress.
The commentators, including a reporter who covered the case and another who wrote a book about it, stress that the NYPD was dominated at the time by conservative Irish Catholics who wouldn’t approve of a mother who went out at night. The detectives seem to have bent the rules to get evidence.
For example, the medical examiner, who first said he was unable to pinpoint the time of the children’s death, changed his story when it could be used to attack Alice’s version of events.
More incredibly, the detectives were able to put pressure on one of Alice’s boyfriends, a married man, when they learned that he was also dating a male transvestite. He claimed under oath that the one time Alice said something self-incriminating was one of the rare instances when he wasn’t wearing a wire.
A story like this tells itself, but the episode puts in some extra effort. The re-enactments are less cheesy than usual, and the actress playing Alice is plausible both visually and in her acting.
The main narration, however, is problematic. A female voice says, “I lived a couple doors down” from Alice at the time, but it’s soon clear that the voice is, at best, a composite of Alice’s neighbors, read by an actress.
With all the coverage that this case received, it would have been easy to get real quotations from actual neighbors that would have been more trustworthy and more enlightening.
Still, viewers will be hooked right away and will probably stick around till the end. It’s no fault of the show’s creators that the conclusion is inconclusive. That’s real life.
Other stories to be covered in the first season include a 1963 double homicide in New York that became known as “the Career-Girl Murders,” the hunt for an early serial killer and a famous high-society manslaughter.
If “A Crime to Remember” can keep delivering the big picture, it will be a show to watch.
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