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I'm a true crime TV nut — but this is now officially overkill

Colin Firth and the cast of The Staircase
(Image credit: HBO Max)

I'm a true crime nut, so this is almost painful to say: There's too much true crime on TV right now.

The other day, after finishing up Netflix's chilling doc Our Father, I realized I'm in the middle of actively watching six true crime series: HBO Max's The Staircase; Netflix's Conversations With a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes; Apple TV Plus' WeCrashed; and Hulu's Candy, The Girl From Plainville and Under the Banner of Heaven.

I have 10 more saved on various watch lists, including We Own This City, Dr. Death, The Big Conn, and Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story. Not to mention the unfinished shows languishing in my queue (I swear I'll get back to you, Landscapers, Lady and the Dale, and The Sons of Sam ... uh, some day).

And every week brings even more new true crime documentaries and dramas. The true crime bonanza has no end in sight. And frankly, even for this fanatic, it's exhausting.

It's all streaming's fault

True crime has been around for decades. Unsolved Mysteries riveted viewers in the '80s and continues to do so on Netflix now as one of the best shows on Netflix. I watched one of the forebears of modern true crime docu-series, The Staircase, back in 2004 when it first aired on the Sundance Channel. 

So, the popularity of true crime isn't new. But the genre truly exploded thanks to cultural sensations like the podcast Serial, Making a Murderer and The Jinx. After that, streaming services swarmed true crime like a gold rush. Established platforms like Netflix and Hulu were already veterans of this game, but new players like HBO Max and Peacock have taken it to a new level. 

And then came the pandemic. Everybody went into lockdown, unable to go to movie theaters, concerts and Broadway musicals. Instead, they stayed home and watched television. It's not a surprise that the first big quarantine hit was a true crime series, Netflix's Tiger King. 

Tiger King on Netflix

(Image credit: Netflix)

In the last two years, we've been hit with wave after wave — not just of COVID-19, but streaming true crime documentaries and dramas. Tiger King was followed by the NXIVM exposé The Vow, I'll Be Gone in the Dark, scammer series McMillions, American Murder: The Family Next Door and the divorce-gone-very-wrong drama Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story, among many others. 

Last year saw major true crime releases like Allen v. Farrow, The Investigation, Dopesick and LuLaRich. And as a parody of true crime podcasts, Only Murders in the Building is genre-adjacent. 

Streaming's embrace of true crime is understandable. One, it's popular and tends to generate a lot of social media buzz. Services want to attract and retain subscribers. Netflix might be experiencing a downturn now, but in spring 2020, everybody was talking about and watching Tiger King. 

Second, documentaries are generally cheaper to make than scripted series and movies. With Netflix, and likely other streamers, clamping down on budgets, we might get even more docs than ever before. 

I need a true crime break

Poster art for The Girl From Plainville featuring Elle Fanning

(Image credit: Hulu)

You know how there are all those stories about how many lottery winners suffers breakdowns and wind up losing their fortunes? That's how I feel as a true crime aficionado now. 

Right now, I'm fumbling with my true crime riches. I'm three episodes behind on The Staircase and just halfway through The Girl From Plainville and WeCrashed. I'm only on episode 2 of both Under the Banner of Heaven and Candy. As I mentioned before, there are a lot more that I haven't even begun or paused indefinitely. New stuff is constantly premiering, like next week's Peacock's Sins of the Amish on Peacock and Hulu's Keeper of the Ashes: The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders. I haven't contemplated subscribing to Discovery Plus; I might never see the light of day again.

There must be a German word for this feeling of wanting something, yet also being completely overwhelmed by it. 

So, maybe it's time for a break — a summer vacation from true crime. All the murders, scams, heists and drug deals can wait. They've already happened, so no spoilers. And as the cliché goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. 

FYI: In other streaming news, Oprah's OWN just canceled Delilah after a single season.

Kelly is a senior writer covering streaming media for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.