Unsolved And The Family

USA's limited series takes on Biggie and Tupac; a Starz docu takes on an Australian cult; Toby Ball and Sarah D. Bunting take on vague naming conventions.

USA debuted yet another take on the still-open cases of the murders of Tupac Shakur and Christopher "Biggie" Wallace last week, this one featuring pretty much every procedural Hey, It's That Guy! you can think of (Brent Sexton, Jamie McShane) plus a couple top names (Black Mirror's Jimmi Simpson, Josh "Mr. Fergie" Duhamel, Dwayne Johnson) (...right? hey, the IMDb doesn't lie), and a great deal of table-setting exposition to locate us in three timelines. It's a little heavy-handed about explaining the challenges for investigators, at least for anyone who's familiar at all with true-crime material involving LAPD -- Rampart; OJ: Made In America -- but it's done well, and fairly economically. What's more, I felt no urge to Google during the runtime: always a sign of compelling quality. We'll let you know if you should keep watching.

We'll also let you know if The Family is too bleak to manage. The story of Anne Hamilton-Byrne's doomsday/LSD cult, whose primary hallmark was stealing babies and raising them in an intermittent-reinforcement hellscape of beatings, brainwashing, and shrooms, features interviews with former "members" of The Family, plus the journalists and cops who tried to get someone, anyone to agree the Hamilton-Byrnes needed to go to jail. Can kids starved of love (and literally starved) learn to make their ways in the world as adults -- and parents? Should the filmmakers have split the material up into several installments, to investigate claims of Illuminatoid contacts in Melbourne's power structure -- and to give viewers a break? And does The Family belong to the, uh, family of "extremely affecting; can never watch again" documentaries headed up by Dear Zachary? Toby and I mull these questions and more before marinating in some Powerpuff Girls to cleanse the palate, in The Blotter Presents Episode 47.

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