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The Staircase, the true-crime series that inspired Serial, is back

The Staircase, the true-crime series that inspired Serial, is back
Michael Peterson in The Staircase: Last Chance, which Sundance Channel re-broadcast and is now on Netflix. (Photo by Sundance Channel)

Sundance is capitalizing on the popularity of true-crime unscripted series not be creating its own show, but by making it possible for people to watch the documentary series that inspired the podcast Serial: The Staircase.

However, Sundance won’t air the 10-part series on television; instead, the channel will make it available on its web site and Sundance’s iPhone app starting tomorrow, Jan. 15. The network’s announcements said “[t]he first two episodes will be available with no log-in required,” which presumably means a cable su bscription will be necessary to watch the rest.

Sundance also acknowledges why it’s releasing The Staircase now: “[i]n response to viewers’ increasing appetite for compelling crime documentaries, and in light of recent stories that have referenced the series as a touchstone in the art form.”

The series, directed by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, follows the murder trial of Michael Peterson, a novelist accused of killing his wife, Kathleen. Did she fall to her death down the stairs? Or was she killed? Or was something else involved, like an owl?

If you liked Serial, The Jinx, and/or Making a Murderer, you’ll probably find The Staircase equally compelling. Besides Sundance’s airing, it’s also on DVD and watchable on Amazon:

It was the original multi-part crime mystery reality series, airing in 2004, with a two-hour 2013 follow-up called “The Last Chance.” Serial producer Julie Snyder cited the show as inspiration for Serial’s first season, pointing out how “You just keep on flipping the whole time. He’s guilty, he’s innocent. He’s guilty, he’s innocent. We talk about that a lot when doing this.”

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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