Review: Netflix's 'Unsolved Mysteries' lacks nostalgia, still has intriguing potential

Unsolved Mysteries (Photo: Netflix)

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) – Netflix and the producers of “Stranger Things” have teamed up for a revival of the classic “Unsolved Mysteries” documentary series that explores unexplained phenomena like UFOs and dives deep into disappearances and takes a second look at unresolved crime investigations.

Unsolved Mysteries” started out as a series of seven specials before becoming a series that ran on various television stations between 1987 and 2001 when host Robert Stack died. The series returned in 2008 with Dennis Farina acting as host. Farina’s version of the series ran unto 2010.

It might be hard to imagine, but in 1987 there weren’t remotely as many documentary series that were devoted to paranormal incidents or cold cases. Like “America’s Most Wanted,” which launched in 1998, “Unsolved Mysteries” had an interactive feel as Stack would break the fourth wall and speak directly to viewers and asked them to help find answers to the questions raised in each segment.

This new “Unsolved Mysteries” lacks that interactive element. It flashes a website at its end, but without a host it feels like any and every other crime documentary series out there. There’s nothing to connect to. Nothing to set it apart. Of the six episodes I was given to watch, five were focused on murder and one was centered on a UFO sighting.

That said, I was surprised by the “House of Terror” episodes for numerous reasons. The first being that it is entirely in French. While some might find that annoying, I enjoyed the idea of exploring stories that exist outside English-speaking societies. They wouldn’t necessarily need to be in foreign languages, but the international aspect of Netflix could allow the series to go places that it traditionally wouldn’t have gone. If it shifts the focus to worldwide mysteries, then that is something that would set it apart and give me reason to watch.

In many ways this “Unsolved Mysteries” is just another, albeit well-produced, documentary series. It lacks distinct personality and there’s no sense of nostalgia beyond the program’s name. Strange, considering the producer's love for all things '80s. Of course, nostalgia isn’t everything. There are six episodes that have yet to be released, I’ll watch those and see where it leads and leaves me.