Unsolved Mysteries is an American mystery documentary television show. It is created by John Cosgrove and Terry Dunn Meurer. Documenting cold cases and paranormal phenomena, it began as a series of seven specials. It is presented by Raymond Burr, Karl Malden, and Robert Stack, beginning on NBC on January 20, 1987, becoming a full-fledged series on October 5, 1988, hosted by Stack. After nine seasons on NBC, the series moved to CBS for its 10th season on November 13, 1997. After adding Virginia Madsen as a co-host during season 11 failed to boost slipping ratings, CBS canceled the series after only a two-season, 12-episode run on June 11, 1999. The series was revived by Lifetime in 2000, with season 12 beginning on July 2, 2001. Unsolved Mysteries aired 103 episodes on Lifetime, before ending on September 20, 2002, an end that coincided with Stack’s illness and eventual death.
After a six-year absence, the series was resurrected by Spike in 2007 and began airing on October 13, 2008. This new, revived version was hosted by veteran actor Dennis Farina, who mainly tied together repackaged segments from the original episodes. Farina hosted 175 episodes before the series ended again on April 27, 2010. Cosgrove-Meurer Productions maintains a website for the show, featuring popular accounts and ongoing cold cases (murder or missing persons), with a link to an online form should a viewer have information on an unsolved crime. As of 2017, the show maintains a YouTube page where viewers can submit their own mysteries. If accepted, Unsolved Mysteries posts a video of the viewer describing the mystery.
That same year, FilmRise acquired worldwide digital distribution rights to the series and announced its intent to release updated versions of its episodes. These shows are currently streaming on Amazon Prime, Tubi TV, and on its own dedicated channel on Pluto TV in the United States and the United Kingdom. Since February 2017, the Spike episodes have been officially posted on YouTube, split into eight seasons. In July 2017, the series began streaming on Hulu in the United States. Between February and March 2019, FilmRise began posting digitally restored and re-edited episodes, hosted by Stack, on YouTube.
On June 22, 2018, Terror Vision Records released the official soundtrack for the series. In 2017, the show’s creators expressed interest in reviving the series. On January 18, 2019, Netflix picked up a reboot of the series. The show’s fifteenth season premiered on July 1, 2020.
Unsolved Mysteries on NBC:
The show first aired on NBC from 1987 to 1997. The pilot episode was hosted by actor Raymond Burr. Karl Malden and Robert Stack were also hired to host further specials. When the series became a full-fledged television program in 1988, Stack became the full-time host. Unsolved Mysteries was also one of the few prime-time shows of its era to appeal to fans of the supernatural and used effective special effects to enhance tales of the unexplained.
In 1992, NBC aired a short-lived dramatized court show spin-off program called Final Appeal: From the Files of Unsolved Mysteries, also hosted by Stack. The premise of this program was to try to give the unjustly accused a final appeal of help, with the debut episode taking an in-depth look at the Jeffrey MacDonald case. The program was canceled after only a few episodes due to poor ratings.
Unsolved Mysteries on CBS:
The ratings for Unsolved Mysteries’ had been steadily declining ever since it was moved from its original Wednesday evening timeslot to Friday evenings in the fall of 1994. At the end of the 1996–97 season, it was canceled by NBC. Upon the cancelation from NBC, CBS picked up the series for a tenth season. The first episode aired in November of 1997 as an Unsolved Mysteries special. When CBS canceled its Block Party line-up with shows such as Family Matters and Step By Step in the spring of 1998, the network moved the show to its Friday 9:00 p.m timeslot. During the show’s run on CBS, the series was limited to only six-episode seasons and was airing only on a sporadic schedule.
When the series returned for its abbreviated 11th season in the spring of 1999, Stack was joined by actress Virginia Madsen for hosting duties in an attempt to boost its female audience. But the effort failed, and CBS canceled the show soon afterward. Later cable reruns of segments originally narrated by Madsen were re-dubbed with Stack’s voice.
Unsolved Mysteries on Lifetime Television:
Lifetime Television, which had been airing re-runs of the NBC episodes since the early 1990s, began airing new episodes in 2001. Consisting of a mixture of new and old cases, these episodes were produced between 2001 and 2002 and usually aired on weekdays between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. The program ceased producing new episodes when Stack was diagnosed with prostate cancer in late 2002. He died of heart failure in May 2003.
After Stack’s death, old episodes continued to run in syndication on several television networks in the U.S., Canada, and Australia.
During some shows, callers gave tips to the telecenter. When the show was in active production, the number was displayed on the bottom of the screen at the end of each segment. When the show left active production following Stack’s death and went into reruns, the number was removed and replaced with a P.O. box address.
Unsolved Mysteries on Spike TV:
According to Broadcasting & Cable, in 2007, HBO Distribution announced plans to bring back Unsolved Mysteries when the cable channel Lifetime’s contract expired in 2008. The show featured a new set, a new logo, new music, and updates on old cases. In addition, actor Dennis Farina became the new host, as Stack had died five years earlier. The show debuted on Spike on October 13, 2008.
This repackaged series run was criticized by fans for its presentation of past cases only, with no new case segments being produced. The existing segments were also edited to be shorter so the show could be expanded to present five cases in an hour rather than the four of the original series. Because the majority of the cases were now between 20 and 40 years old, the re-edited segments usually did not reference the years in which the events presented originally occurred. When updates for solved cases aired, Dennis Farina’s voiceover would refer to cases “in a recent broadcast…”, when the case may have already been solved during the show’s original run or during the series’ hiatus from 2002 onward. Unsolved Mysteries ended its run on Spike on April 27, 2010.
Unsolved Mysteries: Reboot
A 12-part reboot was announced by Deadline Hollywood on January 18, 2019. The series is being “refreshed” by Stranger Things executive producer Shawn Levy and his company 21 Laps Entertainment along with Cosgrove-Meurer Productions and Netflix. Cosgrove and Meurer are showrunners for the series, with Levy and Josh Barry being executive producers. Robert Wise is a co-executive producer, along with showrunner Dunn Meurer. Each episode focuses on a single mystery. Cosgrove stated that the reboot would be “pure documentary style” and would have no host or narrator, however an image of longtime host Robert Stack can be seen in the title sequence for each episode as an homage to his impact on the show. The first six episodes of the new season became available to stream starting July 1, 2020.
Unsolved Mysteries: Actors and Celebrities
Famous actors and celebrities have appeared on the show, both as role actors (before finding stardom) and also in episodes where they had a connection with the events being portrayed.
In 1992, Unsolved Mysteries filmed in Texas and cast Matthew McConaughey to play a murder victim. This was one of McConaughey’s earliest on-screen roles. Cheryl Hines, Stephnie Weir, Bill Moseley, Ned Bellamy, Holmes Osborne, Scott Wilkinson, Daniel Dae Kim, David Ramsey, and Taran Killam also appeared on the program before receiving more notable work in Hollywood. Hill Harper also appeared in an episode about a woman looking for a childhood friend whom she later discovered was indeed her sister.
Comedian Blake Clark was interviewed in the “Comedy Store Ghosts” episode. Author James Ellroy appeared in an episode looking for the man who murdered his mother. Football player Reggie White appeared in an episode trying to find the arsonists who set fire to his church. Musician Henry Rollins and actor Dennis Cole both appeared to find the people responsible for the murder of Cole’s son, Joe. Musician Ron Bushy appeared in a story about the disappearance of fellow Iron Butterfly bandmate, Philip Taylor Kramer. Musician Jon Bon Jovi was interviewed about the death of his personal manager’s daughter, Katherine Korzilius.
Have you watched Unsolved Mysteries?
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