DISCLAIMER: This review of Based on a True Story contains minor spoilers. Proceed at your peril. 

Is there anything more potent in this country than the true crime craze? Since the advent of podcasts, we’ve become collectively obsessed with murder. Well, more like the mystery behind it. Who doesn’t love a good whodunit? Peacock’s latest dark comedic thriller, Based on a True Story, endeavors to capitalize on the true crime hype by satirizing it. However, I wouldn’t categorize this series as a whodunit. In fact, the mystery aspect of solving a murder doesn’t exist here. 

I read one review earlier that made the inevitable comparison to Only Murders in the Building. Upon watching the pilot, that was my knee-jerk comparison, too. But besides the true crime and podcast elements, the shows aren’t that similar. 

Ava and Nathan sit in a booth at a diner while looking confused in Based on a True Story.

BASED ON A TRUE STORY — “Who’s Next “Episode 103 — Pictured: (l-r) Kaley Cuoco as Ava, Chris Messina as Nathan — (Photo by: PEACOCK)

Here’s a brief breakdown of Based on a True Story‘s premise: A married realtor (Kaley Cuoco) and former tennis star (Chris Messina) residing in West LA decide to spice up their marriage by interviewing a serial killer known as the “West Side Ripper.” The show also stars Tom Bateman, Priscilla Quintana and Liana Liberato. It’s the brainchild of Craig Rosenberg, a writer and producer for The Boys. The ultraviolence from The Boys decisively influences what we see onscreen. 

RELATED: Catch up on Charlie Cale’s adventures with our Poker Face recaps!

While the plot isn’t innovative, Based on a True Story attempts to put its own spin on well-worn territory. Sometimes an unoriginal narrative can maintain intrigue if the performances are compelling and the writers inject some kind of twist to make it their own. Based on a True Story starts strongly but eventually loses steam toward the finale. That said, the actors carry the disjointed season on their backs. 

Cuoco and Messina are no strangers to comedy, and they do great work here. Their dynamic is reminiscent of Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant in Santa Clarita Diet (a delightful series canceled too soon), and not because two hapless salt-and-pepper DILFs are in perpetual panic mode while their levelheaded boss wives take the reins (although that contributes to their similarities). They play off each other well. There are a handful of moments where they made me laugh out loud. 

Ava and Nathan stand behind Matt, who leads them to a secret location in broad daylight in Based on a True Story.

BASED ON A TRUE STORY — “Who’s Next” Episode 103 — Pictured: (l-r) Kaley Cuoco as Ava, Tom Bateman as Matt, Chris Messina as Nathan — (Photo by: Elizabeth Morris/PEACOCK)

These two boast solid chemistry even as the story explores their characters’ respective inner turmoil and their threadbare marriage. Unfortunately, their marital conflict isn’t as fleshed out as I’d hoped. The series also integrates fantasy elements into the narrative, with moments where it’s difficult to discern what’s real and what’s imaginative. There’s a particularly hilarious scene told from a dog’s perspective that hits all the right comedic buttons. However, some of these fantasy beats don’t quite serve the plot and feel extraneous. 

RELATED: Refresh your Arconiac knowledge with our Only Murders in the Building recaps!

Speaking of extraneous, I feel duty-bound to warn you about a scene containing unnecessary animal cruelty. It’s gratuitous. I assume the writers included it to fuel the subsequent narrative beats, but it’s not needed even from that context. There was no trigger warning for us screener watchers, so just a heads up. 

Back to the actors — Tom Bateman took me by surprise. He’s charming and layered and runs the gamut of performance versatility. Priscilla Quintana is a scene stealer who deftly displays her comedic chops. She’s a strong support system for Cuoco and Messina. 

Ruby sits at a dinner table while looking irritated in Based on a True Story.

BASED ON A TRUE STORY — “Love You, Buzzfeed “Episode 106 — Pictured: Priscilla Quintana as Ruby — (Photo by: PEACOCK)

Based on a True Story pokes fun at our obsession with true crime and is clearly a satire, but other than that, I’m unsure what else it’s trying to say. It doesn’t go much deeper than that by way of social commentary. Don’t idolize serial killers, I guess? If we saw more of the flip side of that, perhaps the families of the victims of the West Side Ripper, it would feel more balanced. However, Ava (Cuoco) and Nathan’s (Messina) world is so insular that we only see their perspective. Ava, in particular, is a true crime fanatic. 

RELATED: Geek Girl Authority Crush of the Week: Harley Quinn

Overall, Based on a True Story doesn’t maintain consistent quality throughout the season, but it’s worth watching. It’s incredibly easy to binge, and except for the 45-minute pilot, the other seven episodes are 30 minutes or less. I wonder if a 10-episode season would’ve better served the narrative. Despite the somewhat lukewarm cliffhanger in the season finale (personally, I feel the show could’ve gone a different route to raise the stakes), I’d tune in for a second season. Maybe it can avoid a sophomore slump. 

At its core (as evident by the fantasy breaks), this series is about two people in a marriage slump, desperate to revitalize that bond. They’ll do anything — even interview a serial killer — to breathe new life into their union. 

Matt smiles while standing on the beach and wearing a surf suit in Based on a True Story.

BASED ON A TRUE STORY — “BDE” Episode 102 — Pictured: Tom Bateman as Matt — (Photo by: PEACOCK)

If anything, tune in for the terrific performances (Messina’s charisma knows no bounds) and some fun comedic moments. Additionally, there are a few twists (among the predictable beats). It’s lighthearted, easily digestible summer fare, more fluff than substance. If that’s your bag, then Based on a True Story is for you. 

Based on a True Story streams all eight episodes on Thursday, June 8, 2023, on Peacock

The Best True Crime Shows on Netflix

Melody McCune
Follow me!
Latest posts by Melody McCune (see all)