Peacock’s ‘Based On A True Story’ Review

Photo Credit: Peacock

Peacock’s new extremely bingeable and devilishly addicting dark comedy thriller Based On A True Story is one best to go into blind. Don’t let anyone spoil the premise or any of the twists the series has in store. The premise set up is worth the wait as it sends the show in a direction most will find unexpected with twists and turns aplenty. The inevitable comparisons to Only Murders in the Building will be quickly tampered as the two only share minor instances where there is commonality. 

As a true dark comedy series that was even darker than expected, there are moments with real shock, uneasiness and one that left me with a pit in my stomach (episode six) which required me to take a short break in my binge and weighed heavily on me for the rest of my night. 

Prepare yourself for the unexpected. The series is full of fake outs, red herrings, and moments that make you question what you have just witnessed. It keeps you on your toes as much as the characters themselves need to be. It brings you in even more and feels like an even bigger experience.

Kaley Cuoco’s take on this twisted series may not hit the depths as seen on The Flight Attendant, but her character’s constant uneasiness and on edge persona shines as a woman on the verge of motherhood who finds herself in a surreal situation. Chris Messina plays extremely well off of Cuoco, bringing out the best of both his comedic side and dramatic side. He takes viewers on an unexpected ride from timid and ill prepared, to explosive and impulsive in an instant. Cuoco and Messina’s interactions feel natural, almost improvised at points, when you can see a sneaky smile break through. Tom Bateman’s charm and cunningness oozes on screen. It was a blast seeing Priscilla Quintana in a role that let her have fun after playing more stoic and subdued characters on series like Pandora and Good Trouble. It was also exciting to see Natalia Dyer in a TV role outside of Stranger Things. I would have loved to see more of Liana Liberato as her scenes often brought a lot of comedy and her banter back and forth with Cuoco was always a highlight. 

Without spoiling, there were a bunch of actors and characters brought on that I expected to be better utilized within the main story. They were mainly used for less important side plots that didn’t serve as much of a pressing purpose other than to be there for less important moments and to appear in the trailer for the purpose of misdirects. The biggest underusage of characters that surprised me the most was the roles played by Jessica St. Clair and June Diane Raphael. Their known mastery of comedy was used more at a distance than an important tie into the plot. I would have loved to see them in a more integral and important way. On the other hand, some characters throughout the series I thought little of initially grew in importance as the season progressed which surprised me. 

Based On A True Story isn’t just a story about mystery and murder. It is also a love story at the heart of it. We have this couple going through a lot of emotions with all of these big changes in their lives. By having this shocking new aspect to their lives, it upends their routines and the monotony, causing them to become even more honest with themselves and each other. They’re forced to confront the things that had gone unsaid for years. 

As a series full of attractive people, it’s not surprising the show is often horny and sensual. Fantasies of rage, sexual nature and violence are threaded throughout the season. The moments never feel cheap, as they could easily happen in the course of the story. More often than not, they serve as personal insights, visions and moments of pure fantasy, helping drive each character’s motivations and identity. The series is not for the squeamish, that’s for sure, as it absolutely loves to put the dark in “dark comedy.” Moments are often meant to be very uncomfortable and push each character to places they probably didn’t expect to ever end up. 

Most episodes hover around the halfhour-ish mark which was nice to allow for easy binging. Oftentimes I found myself wanting even more out of episodes because of how caught up I found myself with the twists and storytelling. Some episodes have more of a sense of urgency and tension than others, but the ride is well worth it. The story is left open for much more to hopefully come down the line. It feels like the first chapter of the story and I have a feeling audiences will demand to know what comes next. 

All eight episodes of Peacock’s Based On A True Story premiere June 8.

Lee Arvoy
Lee Arvoy joined the TV Source team in the summer of 2020 as a TV Writer.

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