Rapid Insights: Based on a True Story Lampoons True Crime Tropes

True crime’s soaring popularity has influenced Peacock’s new spoof-comedy-thriller series, premiering on Thursday. Starring Kaley Cuoco and Chris Messina, the show follows a cash-strapped couple trying to profit from a local serial killer by creating an investigative podcast and accusing a neighbor as the perp.

Here’s what you need to know about Based on a True Story:

Vault AI uses index scores to describe the impact a given story/theme/element will have on specific KPIs: 
≤79 Disappointing  80-89 Challenging  90-109 Average  110-119 Promising  120+ Outstanding

How will its viewership compare to the typical true crime audience? 
It’ll include more men. We’re predicting that Based on a True Story will lean male (56%) and older (74% aged 30+), with a sweet spot at men 45+. In contrast, murder-based true crime docs like Making a MurdererUnsolved MysteriesInvisible Monsters, and The Jinx–as well as the scripted dramas that often spring from them–tend to skew female. Hulu’s true crime podcast spoof Only Murders in the Building also caters mostly to women (63%). All, however, do match Based on a True Story in skewing fairly heavily to adults 30+.

Why will viewers be tuning in?
For Ava and Nathan’s Dysfunctional Relationship (114). The kooky, quirky couple at the heart of Based on a True Story (Team Up, 117) will pull in audiences eager to laugh at their Midlife Crisis (118) and resulting Life-Changing (and possibly life-ending) Decision (117) to develop a true crime podcast for instant riches.

How do Based on a True Story’s ratings drivers compare to those of true crime docs?
They’re focused on the detectives rather than the killer. Whereas Based on a True Story’s biggest draw is its bumbling citizen podcasters, true crime series often pull in audiences by revealing the deep, Dark Secrets (127) (Unsolved Mysteries), Family Dysfunction (124) (Invisible Monsters), and Hidden Truths (113) (Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel) propelling the murderers.

What will help Based on a True Story reach a second season?
Its send-up of true crime tropes. Viewers will be drawn in by the hapless Criminal Investigation (133) as a pair of incompetents attempt to solve a Murder Mystery (130) through poorly-thought-out sleuthing and deduction (Amateur Hour, 117). These drivers will provide a rich basis for future seasons of storytelling, and all are key factors for longevity.

What’s the difference between Based on a True Story and similar spoof Only Murders?
Tone. While both series’ bingeability is driven by comedy, Only Murders in the Building takes a warmer, lighter approach (Feel Good Humor, 148) as it focuses on the Unlikely Friendship (128) between its mismatched trio of aspiring true crime podcasters. Based on a True Story will instead lean into the darker Twisted Humor (151) of a suspenseful neighborhood killing spree (Murder Violence, 118) and Ava’s attempts to profit from this new ‘it’ murderer.

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*Publicly released trailers for series are evaluated using Vault AI’s algorithms – utilizing our proprietary 120K+ story element database alongside ratings performance and other datasets – to identify unique combinations of stories, themes, characters, and genre elements that will drive success.

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