'Unsolved Mysteries' is a TV series that, for its time in the '90s, was relatively low-rent stuff.
You had the somber Robert Stack stepping out of a stage street, covered in smoke and in a trenchcoat, recounting the mysterious disappearance of one unfortunate soul, intercut with interviews of well-meaning but dry interviews with people involved in the case, and all of it soundtracked by a synth keyboard with some ropey recreations thrown in for good measure.
From the very start, Netflix's reboot of 'Unsolved Mysteries' colours itself in a different light and leans more towards the true-crime documentary style that's permeated not just Netflix, but all streaming platforms of late. This time around, there's no host to guide through the audience through the story, instead relying upon on-screen visual aids such as a timeline or a map of the scene, followed by very skilfully cut and filmed interviews with those involved.
While the original always had a certain element of tabloid glee to their stories of vanishings and mysteries, this time around, people are not only believed but given a chance at explaining themselves without an ever-present narration to clarify or nullify their points. We can see people trip up on some elements, reassess certain aspects, and even in one or two cases, allow us draw conclusions of our own.
You'll find yourself trying to piece together some of the stories right after the episode ends, such is the skill in how the episodes are laid out and pieced together. It's clear the producers and directors are approaching it in a forensic, clear-eyed fashion, and not with an exploitative, sensationalist bent.
Theories are tested, examined, and discarded when they don't fit logical reasoning. One of the best episodes, involving a UFO experience in rural New England, not only investigates the event itself, but the fallout from speaking on what people saw - and how telling the truth doesn't always lead to the light.
More than anything, 'Unsolved Mysteries' labours to keep things as factual as can be and without any of the cheesiness of the original. There are, of course, some faults to be found in that premise. For one, all of the episodes bar one involve a disappearance and while the facts may lead you to a conclusion, and even the producers themselves tip towards it, you're still left unsure of what you saw. The original series had far more flavours in their stories, yet this time around, it seems so concerned with being fastidious and scrupulous that it loses a little of the charm in it.
That said, placing a shadowy silhouette of Robert Stack in the opening credits with a variation on the original theme is a wonderful touch, and the show does evoke the same kind of grim fascination that we all knew and enjoyed.