‘Based On A True Story’ Peacock Review: A Joke Stretched For Far Too Long!


Based on a True Story is a prime example of what happens when you take a one-liner joke and decide to make a show out of it. What might have sounded hilarious turned into an eight-episode disaster. The characters were mostly half-baked and nonsensical. It would have worked if the show were purely comical, but that is not the case. We have a comedy crime thriller unfolding, and the thrill gets worse as we progress. The constant need to cut into lengthy dream sequences explains the lack of story. The fact that we have two completely clueless individuals at the center of the drama makes it worse.

Ava and Nathan Bartlett were desperate to save their marriage. A star tennis player once, Nathan was demoted to coach children at the club. Mason, the new young coach, turned tennis into a spicy, drunken affair, something that Nathan did not approve of. But the stay-at-home mothers loved the new coach, forcing Nathan to step down. With his job on the line and a baby on the way, Ava and Nathan had too much on their plate to deal with. It was not just their financial situation that caused a rift between the two; Nathan could sense that there was a distance between him and Ava. Somewhere deep down, he was perhaps disappointed in how his life turned out to be. He could have made it big, but an injury destroyed his entire career. And he assumed that his unsuccessful career was the reason behind Ava’s disappointment. Ava was obsessed with true crime podcasts. She diligently followed every case and even organized gatherings with her friends to discuss her recent obsession. Ava was bored by the life she and Nathan lived; she needed something that was thrilling, and a true crime podcast was the answer. Discussion about their marriage would often turn into an argument, and they struggled to find a way to make their marriage work.

Based on a True Story is obsessed with dream sequences, and every important character is busy dreaming about their fantasies. As a realtor, Ava struggled to sell mansions that could get her big commissions. She is hopeful about her new client, but her focus shifts from business to sexual. Ava starts to fantasize about the young man; she struggles to keep him out of her mind and often has explicit dreams about him. After learning about the many affairs her rich friends were involved in, Ava did not feel guilty about dreaming of another man. Ava and Nathan’s lives changed when a plumber entered their apartment. Matt admired Nathan, and the regular tennis classes and games of darts contributed to developing their friendship. In a way, Matt boosted Nathan’s confidence. While the men bonded over their mutual interests, there was a serial killer on the loose in Los Angeles. The killer, known as the “West Side Ripper,” haunts the city, and Ava follows the news to stay updated about the serial killer. The killer apparently never left any mark on the crime scene, making it impossible for the police to track him. He targeted women, and no one ever escaped from his hands.

According to Based on a True Story, all that the middle-aged population ever cares about is physical relationship. Everyone is either having it, dreaming about having it, or envious of the ones who are able to sleep around. Guess what a group of women discuss when they are not busy dissecting a true crime podcast? The answer is physical intimacy. Beyond sex and dreams, there is nothing going on in anyone’s life. This one-dimensional approach reduces the characters to cliches. As a realtor and a would-be mother, Ava could have been layered with conflict and trouble, but instead, the character is simply animated and unintelligent. In the course of the series, we are asked to believe that she is capable of coming up with a daring proposal, but she lacks the wit to make it believable. She and Nathan keep on making mistakes, but somehow they always come out of the mess alive.

There is barely any depth to the character of Ava’s sister, Tory Thompson. She is young, goes on several casual Tinder dates, and has casual relationships; that is all that we get to know about her in seven episodes. In the last episode, she gets a couple of minutes to narrate her story, probably as an afterthought. Meanwhile, Nathan is either busy watching videos of his glorious tennis days, or he is dreaming about the things he wishes he had done. Ranging from saving a dog to even dreaming about sleeping with Ava’s best friend, Ruby. None of the characters are worth rooting for, and at one point, Based on a True Story feels repetitive and simply boring. It is disappointing that Craig Rosenberg failed to deliver even with the celebrated Kaley Cuoco, Tom Bateman, and Chris Messina on board. They are brilliant at their craft, and they tried their best to salvage the disaster, but actors can only do so much. Moreover, we barely know anything at all about Bateman’s character, and all he can truly experiment with are his creepy looks.

I was honestly excited about the show when I read the premise. Going by the current obsession with true crime podcasts, a satire about it seemed promising. But Based on a True Story gets so entangled with the crime thriller angle that the humor is lost. The idea was good on paper; perhaps it would have been compelling as a film, but the eight episodes felt a little too stretched. I wish the series indulged further in the true-crime podcast industry and the exploitation of the surviving victims. There is true potential in what Based on a True Story wanted to convey, but sadly enough, it was overshadowed by the chaotic nonsense that was occurring in the foreground.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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