True Crime Story: It Couldn’t Happen Here is a gripping new docuseries

Hilarie Burton Morgan and Jessica Cino - It Couldn't Happen Here _ Season 1 - Photo Credit: SundanceTV
Hilarie Burton Morgan and Jessica Cino - It Couldn't Happen Here _ Season 1 - Photo Credit: SundanceTV /

True crime aficionados will be easily enthralled by SundanceTV’s new series True Crime Story: It Couldn’t Happen Here, the beginning of a new franchise. Hosted by advocate and actress Hilarie Burton Morgan, True Crime Story: It Couldn’t Happen Here takes a look at the idyllic small towns most of us have come to believe are like time capsules, a glimpse into a happier time where everyone knows everyone and somehow gets along.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. While brutal crimes are less likely in places like Adel, Georgia and the hamlet of Sauquoit, New York, they’re not unheard of and tend to be all the more destructive due to to their rarity.

The show’s name, “It Couldn’t Happen Here,” is an obviously ironic reference to the commonly held belief that bad things simply don’t occur in small towns. It’s a trope that fiction loves to play with. Just pick up any Stephen King novel, watch Twin Peaks, Stranger Things, The Vampire Diaries, etc. The list is endless. We’re obsessed with the idea of bad things happening in these rural outlets.

What makes the crimes in these small towns more insidious is that the local law enforcement is generally not equipped to handle murderous crime sprees or suspicious poisonings, as are the cases presented in the first two episodes.

True Crime Story: It Couldn’t Happen Here puts the victims front and center

True Crime Story: It Couldn’t Happen Here shines a light on these rural towns, and the way crime can severely impact the status quo in a way that doesn’t even cause a ripple effect in big cities like New York and Chicago. Here, all the ugliness of the justice system is on full display, and it’s easy to see the gaping flaws.

In the first episode, host Burton Morgan (who does a fantastic job of using her upbringing to relate to families and locals who these travesties have rattled) visits Adel, Georgia, where four murders occurred in the span of just two years, something literally unheard of in the town.

Then in Episode 2, she heads to Sauquoit, New York, to discover why and how a rare poison murdered a woman seemingly in the prime of her life. In Episode 3, Burton Morgan travels to the tiny city of St. Augustine, Florida, where a young woman is shot to death with a gun belonging to her boyfriend. The police believe it was a suicide, but her family is adamant that she was murdered.

I found particularly appealing about this show because it really focuses on the victims of these crimes and how their stories have echoed throughout their communities. It’s a unique approach that we don’t often see in true crime docuseries, which can often get obscured by the more spacious details or in-depth backstories on the wrong people.

The focus never wavers here, and hopefully, this show might impact some of these cases still waiting to be solved so these families can finally get some answers, and possibly justice, too.

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True Crime Story: It Couldn’t Happen Here premieres tonight at 10/9c on SundanceTV.