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Marcia Clark Investigates The First 48 finds nothing new, at least in Casey Anthony’s case

Marcia Clark Investigates The First 48 finds nothing new, at least in Casey Anthony’s case
Marcia Clark Investigates: The First 48, and may perhaps also need the assistance of Hoarders, judging by her desk. (Photo by Miller Mobley/A&E)

On tonight’s premiere of Marcia Clark Investigates The First 48, a new A&E series on which she looks at old and famous cases, Marcia Clark tells a researcher, “You blew my mind. I really didn’t know that, and I don’t know that anyone knows that.”

That is referring to evidence that is not, alas, new evidence in the Casey Anthony case.

In 2008, the 22-year-old mother was charged with first-degree murder of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. Casey claimed her daughter had been missing for a month—during which she was photographed partying and shopping with her boyfriend—before authorities were even notified. Caylee’s remains were found later that year, and Casey was tried. But in 2011, a jury found her not guilty.

The evidence pointing toward Casey’s guilt might be new to some people, and there may be one detail that hasn’t been reported before, but it’s ultimately a six-year-old bombshell. An Orlando TV station reported in 2012 that deleted search history on a different browser had a search for “foolproof suffocation”—and a timeline established that Casey Anthony was home at the time that search was completed, while her father George was at work. Cell phone tower records confirm that. The same researcher in the episode is quoted in that story.

Another piece of evidence Marcia focuses on—how duct tape was adhered to hair attached to Caylee’s skull—was known in 2009, having been reported by CNN, which cited Orange County’s medical examiner.

This is not hidden, unknown evidence, and the “you deserve the truth” angle is more overwrought A&E grandstanding.

What’s left, then, on the premiere of Marcia Clark Investigates The First 48 (A&E, Thursdays at 8) is a two-hour show that recaps of a famous case and its evidence.

Marcia Clark Recaps Famous Cases isn’t as catchy a title, but for a recap with information that some people don’t know, it’s a decent enough show. Approach it as a summary of a famous case that provides details that are perhaps less-well-known to people who didn’t watch the trial or read news coverage after it was over, and you’ll walk away informed rather than with a blown mind.

As a host and narrator, Marcia Clark isn’t quite at ease, but that works in her favor—this doesn’t feel like she’s sitting down and reading from a teleprompter and then summarizing things producers found for her after they did a few Bing searches.

We get to hear recorded phone calls, court testimony, and investigators talking about their initial investigation, and the show presents this well so it’s both easy to follow but still in-depth.

We also get a lot of hedging and speculation. “It certainly was,” Marcia Clark says at one point, and then quickly adds: “In my opinion.” A psychologist the show brings in makes all kinds of plausible yet baseless claims (“She has tremendous resentment towards Caylee. Caylee stood in the way of love, and now Caylee’s landed her in jail. It’s all Caylee’s fault.”) the show uses to help build a case against Casey even though it’s not actual, you know, evidence.

The First 48, starring Marcia Clark

Marcia Clark is best when she’s talking to people, whether that’s a casual conversation in a car about how the O.J. Simpson case and crime scene haunt her; asking investigators how they did their work; or grilling a defense attorney. In the latter, she’s in full-on prosecutorial mode, but without all the messiness of a courtroom and law, so it’s much more fun than real life.

In the premiere, Clark has a lively exchange with one of Casey Anthony’s defense attorneys, Cheney Mason, who has apparently forgotten about evidence presented during trial, which is evidence he says he doesn’t believe anyway. Clark hammers away at him, but at the end I think he ultimately won the argument when she dismisses something he says as his opinion, and he says, “and apparently the opinion of the 12 people who count.”

Yes, the jury made a decision, and Casey Anthony cannot be convicted of murdering her kid, as much as the public may be unsatisfied with that verdict. Mason’s line points out the futility of her investigation and perhaps even the show: none of it really seems to matter.

There’s a bit of Justice! For! Caylee! here, and remembering the victims is important, but is having a cable reality show repeat previously reported details along with oodles of speculation any kind of actual justice?

All of this is kind of awkwardly smashed into a The First 48 box, because that is a recognizable A&E brand—though honestly, I’d prefer this series to that one. Looking back at a case years later and reviewing evidence is less messy than filming an investigation in real time, and potentially putting people at risk or getting things wrong.

The First 48 is an especially odd container for Casey Anthony’s case, since the 911 call from her mother came a month after Caylee went missing/died. So the first 48 hours are of the police investigation and Casey’s arrest, not anything to do with Caylee’s death or murder.

Oh, and that 911 call: the audio from a 911 call is repeated five times in the first half-hour, and three times in the first five minutes alone, and both times appears on screen with the same background image and the same subtitle. It’s clunky and overdramatic presentation, and in those moments, where A&E’s worst instincts creep in, I just wanted it to get back to Marcia Clark.

She may have something to prove, as is evident in the opening moments, when she compares O.J. and Casey’s not guilty verdicts, even though the not guilty part is probably the only similarity. And she may win you over as a guide to these cases. But after this first episode, I don’t expect her show to really prove much of anything.

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About the author

  • 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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