Spoiler Warning!

This article contains information that could be considered too revealing according to our spoiler policy. Proceed with caution. You can't unsee it!

Reason ID Channel has asked us not to reveal the killer's identity until the second installment airs, but our graphics may (read: "will") give it away.

Screens: Investigation Discovery

Investigation Discovery's Serial Thriller Gives New Meaning To The Term 'Statute Of Limitations'

Sarah D. Bunting salutes the network's willingness to try scripted programming but can't get through its maiden effort.

High-Profile Show Attempted: Serial Thriller: Angel Of Decay

Topic: Investigation Discovery's debut scripted offering, Serial Thriller "brings viewers to the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s" and "a string of victims with similar profiles." ID has respectfully requested that press not reveal the identity of the notorious subject until after the second installment of the three-part miniseries, so I will observe the letter of that law.

2015-06-08-st-bug

I will also observe that even a newborn Mennonite will have said identity knocked in about 13 minutes, despite the production's best efforts to dissemble, starting with the casting, but I'll get to all that in a sec.

How Far I Expected To Get: I wouldn't say I had high hopes for ST:AoD, because ID programming generally is the Domino's of TV true-crime fare: you're not proud of consuming it, but you know what it is and what to expect, and grading on that trash curve means you aren't disappointed.

Usually.

How Far I Did Get

32:51 (in the first hour of a three-hour "event")

What Did It: One obsessed/baffled case detective wonders rhetorically what the killer is doing with all the missing girls. "Sure as hell's not starting a cheerleading squad," he notes. Well, we sort of figured th-- "He's killing them!" And then Captain Obvious ducked into frame with a slateboard and blared, "Aaaaand cut." I mean, seriously? Pretty sure your fellow homicide dick had already caught on to that little bit of trivia there, Professor.

I have a higher tolerance for the kinds of gauzy-focus, big-blocking re-enactments in which ID shows specialize than the average viewer, but not so high that I want to watch a three-hour version that drags over three nights and spends a good two thirds of that time preciously avoiding the killer's name, but 1) using his victims' real names and 2) busting out what looks like one of the real-life composite sketches of the guy.

2015-06-08-st-composite

Never mind that it's clumsily done; why do it at all? The show is on ID! Who do they think is watching, easily defeated hotel-room viewers who couldn't find Animal Planet on the Best Western channel guide and settled for unintentionally hilarious shots of the killer snuggling with his victims' bodies in a rainy glade?

The sad part is that the killer could not be more woefully miscast if he were CCH Pounder. Ryan Gage isn't bad, but I just absolutely don't understand the hair narrative here.

2015-06-08-st-hair-02

Or here.

2015-06-08-st-hair-01

Or...here.

Screens: Investigation Discovery

Screens: Investigation Discovery

What kind of Dave-Grohl-lookalike-contest nonsense is that? The irony is that the actual guy traded in no small part on his all-American newscaster good looks; his Kennedy-jockishness was the opposite of what his victims would have been looking for. I can't imagine there's any shortage of Popped-Collar Frat Teeth #3-lookin' bros in SAG right now. Did Gage's agent lose a bet?

Elliot Cowan as the lead detective is pretty good; I like his socially awkward thoughtful pauses, though that could just as easily be weird direction (or Cowan struggling to tamp down his British accent, which he seldom succeeds in). The case itself is fascinating, of course. But Serial Thriller is bad, and doesn't know who it's for. It doesn't even have an IMDb page.

Worth Taking Another Run At It? I actually put in The Deliberate Stranger to cleanse my palate, so: very much not.

Discussion

Explore the Television forum or add a comment below.