Peacock’s ‘Based on a True Story’ revolves around Nathan and Ava Bartlett (Chris Messina and Kaley Cuoco), a Westside, Los Angeles-based couple whose lives haven’t turned out the way they want. Nathan used to be a promising young professional tennis player but was forced to retire following a knee injury. Now, he teaches tennis to homemakers and children at a club. As for Ava, despite her wishes to sell Palisades mansions, She deals in one-bedroom apartments. Ava is also a true crime media enthusiast and obsesses over murders and crimes with her friends.
When she discovers that the plumber they have hired, Matt Pierce (Tom Bateman), is actually an on-the-loose serial killer, the Westside Ripper, she hatches the plan of creating a podcast with her husband and inviting the Westside Ripper on it. Predictably, things don’t go according to their plans, and Nathan and Ava soon find their lives are now being controlled by a serial killer. If you are wondering whether the Westside Ripper is a real-life murderer, we got you covered. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Is the Westside Ripper a Real Serial Killer?
No, the Westside Ripper is not a real serial killer. As a show, ‘Based on a True Story’ is not inspired by real-life events. Instead, it’s a social satire on how much people have become obsessed with the true-crime media. Series creator Craig Rosenberg clarified this 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,” he said.
In ‘Based on a True Story,’ the authorities believe that the Westside Ripper has killed seven people, while the killer himself claims that there were at least 20 more victims. His preferred victims are young women who live alone. In the podcast, he reveals that he started killing when he was 18 years old. It seems like the Westside Ripper is a composite of multiple real-life killers.
The setting of the story is Los Angeles, where thousands of people arrive every year in pursuit of their dreams. It is perfect as the backdrop of a story where characters give in to desperation for wealth and success and open their door to a monster. “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,” Rosenberg stated.
Over the years, Los Angeles has been plagued by some of America’s most notorious serial killers. There was Harvey Glatman, or the Lonely Hearts Killer, who targeted young women aspiring to be models between 1957 and 1958. There is also Randy Kraft, also known as the Scorecard Killer, the Southern California Strangler, and the Freeway Killer, who tortured, raped, and murdered over at least 16 young men between 1972 and 1983.
Another serial killer, John Floyd Thomas Jr., killed at least seven women in the 1970s and the 1980s. Lonnie David Franklin Jr., or the Grim Sleeper, committed a minimum of 10 murders and one attempted murder from 1984 to 2007. And then, there is Charles Manson and his group of deranged followers. Between July and August of 1969, several Manson family members killed nine people at four different locations.
This is most likely a coincidence, but the primary antagonist of the 2017 survival horror game ‘The Night Ripper’ is also called the Westside Ripper. Recalling how he felt when he first read the script, Bateman told EW, “I thought it was a preposterous idea, but it was done in such a sort of darkly comic, ‘Black Mirror,’ Coen brothers, sort of punk-rock way, [and it had] its own personality, that I thought, ‘Hell yeah. Let’s have a look at this. I just thought what they were trying to do was so cool. I’d never seen anything like it.”