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‘Unsolved Mysteries’ (Netflix) review: The Netflix revival is a worthy successor to the iconic series

No Robert Stack but at least it has the same theme song.

Audiences have become more accepting of reboots and revivals over the years. As they have become a more ubiquitous part of entertainment, eager viewers are more apt to look forward to their debut. Despite this changing opinion, it is always difficult to reboot a beloved property. Especially when the original does not only have a large fanbase but is also a trailblazer for an entire genre that remains popular today.

Unsolved Mysteries from Netflix has a large shadow looming over it. The original helped set the template for many of the true crime documentaries that so many fans enjoy today. From the memorable theme song to Robert Stack’s great narration, Unsolved Mysteries seemed like one of those shows that seemed best left to people’s fond memories. Still, Netflix, creators Terry Dunn Meurer and John Cosgrove, and Stranger Things production company 21 Laps Entertainment decided it was worth the risk.

When it comes to reboots, it is always best to not compare the new entry to the source material. This normally proves to be impossible, but it also is the reason for part of the disappointment in the new takes. Unsolved Mysteries has over a decade of history across various forms. It also is familiar to those who never watched the original.

The two biggest questions regarding the original series are answered immediately. The Netflix revival does use the same theme song. Songs in television shows are very important as they set the mood and put viewers in the right mood. Unsolved Mysteries has one of the best ever. The new show also does not try to replace the host most associated with the show. Stack was a singular personality and the Netflix version probably does the right thing in not having a host at all.

But what about the show itself?

Even though the new Unsolved Mysteries deals with many of the same themes as the first version, it has a different feel to it. The true crime genre has changed greatly since the show debuted in 1987. Netflix’s series has a darker tone to it. While both shows deal with serious issues along with the UFOs, the first six episodes of the 2020 version have less of a supernatural feel to them. The new series is more like Cold Case Files than Sightings.

Which is not to say the Netflix version is not as good as its predecessor. It is more about it being a different show. There is still the call to action for viewers at the end, dramatizations, and interviews. Unsolved Mysteries now has a more modern slant to it. When the show debuted in the late 1980s, there was more mystery. Urban legends like the Bermuda Triangle and various ghost stories still could be true. Modern science and technology have since debunked the more fantastic elements that were once on the show.

(It should be noted that one of the first six episodes is about a UFO sighting.)

Unsolved Mysteries also has more of an international flair to it. The original series would have the occasional story that would place in other parts of the world. The Netflix version seems more committed to this conceit. One episode involving a French couple is entirely in their native language. (That is another new wrinkle in the show. Instead of a number of segments, each episode deals with one incident.)

In this age of remakes and sequels decades after the fact, it is hard not to be hesitant about the latest offerings. This is especially true when the source material provided many fond memories. Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries revival does the original series justice. The new show will be familiar to those who loved the original while putting a modern spin on the show that will make it just as engaging for today’s streaming culture.

 

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