Based on a True Story: Is There a Real Life Inspiration Behind the Series?

Image Credit: Elizabeth Morris/Peacock

Created by Craig Rosenberg, ‘Based on a True Story’ is a comedy thriller series that revolves around Nathan and Ava Bartlett (Chris Messina and Kaley Cuoco), who are a couple at a critical juncture of their lives. They are about to have their first child but don’t feel financially stable with the jobs they have. Moreover, a sense of unfulfillment has started to creep into their minds. Nathan is a former professional tennis player relegated to teaching bored kids and homemakers at a club, while Ava is forced to deal in one-bedroom apartments as a realtor despite her aspirations to sell properties with bigger commissions.

When Ava, a true-crime media junkie, begins to suspect that a person she knows is the serial killer known as the Westside Ripper, she decides that the best idea would be to create a podcast with her husband and invite the killer on it. If the title of the Peacock show and some parts of its narrative have probably made you wonder whether it is based on a true crime story, here is everything you need to know about it. SPOILERS AHEAD.

Based on a True Story is a Satirical Tale

‘Based on a True Story’ is essentially a social satire aimed at the morbid fascination that many of us have for true crime stories. Rosenberg said in a statement, “Over the last decade, a true crime phenomenon has swept over America. Podcasts, documentaries, fictional shows based on true stories – they dominate the culture. Murderers have become celebrities and celebrities have become murderers which inspired me to create this show.”

‘The Boys’ executive producer continued, “I became fascinated with the idea of a relatable married couple whose youthful dreams hadn’t come to fruition and who saw the true crime tidal wave as an opportunity to change their lives and save their marriage. Our Los Angeles setting – the city where everybody wants to be famous – became a vivid backdrop to our story of fame, ambition, aspiration and murder.”

As Rosenberg mentioned, true crime has emerged as a lucrative genre of film and television since the early 2010s, and it can be argued that the rapid increase in public fascination has coincided with the advent of streaming platforms, where documentaries, scripted shows, and films based on real-life incidents can readily be found. Docuseries like ‘The Devil Next Door,’ scripted shows like ‘Monsters,’ and films like ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’ are great examples of this.

However, the explosion of interest might be new, but the fascination itself isn’t. There is a reason films like ‘Anatomy of a Murderer,’ ‘Monster’ (2003), and ‘Wolf Creek’ were successful when they came out. There is also a reason why Ted Bundy received numerous love letters while he was in prison before his eventual execution. As a show, ‘Based on a True Story’ satirizes this fascination, underscoring its inherent unhealthiness and danger through the prism of humor.

Psychologists seem to have different opinions on why people are drawn to these projects. While some believe that the fascination is connected to past trauma, others think it’s a form of entertainment. Speaking to NBC News, psychotherapist Kathleen Check stated that true crime media allowed people to have “a particular kind of escapism,” before adding, “tuning in and following the specifics of a crime also creates a [false] sense being able to ‘see inside’ the mind of a criminal, thus creating a psychological protective barrier: ‘If I know how criminals operate, I can protect myself.’”

Image Credit: Erica Parise/Peacock

There is no reason why these views and others on the phenomenon can’t be correct simultaneously. People can approach the same thing for different reasons. In ‘Based on a True Story,’ Ava is part of a group that almost religiously listens to true crime podcasts. That group is one of the primary sources of social interactions in her life. TV shows that have similar themes include ‘Only Murders in the Building’ and ‘The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window.’

Although the narrative of the series is largely fictional, Cuoco was definitely pregnant during the filming of the first season, with the production starting when she was five months pregnant and concluding a few weeks before the birth of her daughter, Matilda. “It was honestly awesome to write it in because I never had to hide anything,” the actress told Vanity Fair. “I could still eat what I wanted and wear what I wanted, and it worked for the character, which is so rare—that you can keep eating for a role.”

The serial killer in ‘Based on a True Story’ is also fictional, though the primary antagonist of the 2017 survival horror game ‘The Night Ripper’ is also known as the Westside Ripper. So, to sum it all up, despite its title, ‘Based on a True Story’ is not inspired by actual events. Instead, it’s a satirical take on people’s fascination with true crime media.

Read More: Where is Based on a True Story Filmed?