‘Killing Fields’: TV’s Next True Crime Sensation?

To say that true crime is having a moment in pop culture right now is a major understatement. From last year’s obsession with the Serial podcast and HBO’s The Jinx to the recent release of Netflix’s hugely controversial Making a Murderer, it seems audiences can’t help but be captivated by the chilling details of real-life murder cases. With interest in the genre at an all time high, it’s no surprise the Discovery Channel is jumping on the bandwagon with a crime docuseries of its own, entitled Killing Fields.

Billed as the network’s first ever true crime series, Killing Fields follows Louisiana detective Rodie Sanchez as he comes out of retirement to reopen a years-long cold case that he first began investigating 18 years ago. The case centered on the killing of graduate student Eugenie Boisfontaine, whose body was found three months after she initially went missing in 1997. Sanchez was never able to solve the crime and it’s haunted him ever since.

Now, two decades of technological advances and forensic improvement later, the detective is hoping he’ll be able to find new clues. With a team of detectives assigned to work with him, Sanchez and new partner Aubrey St. Angelo set out to see if they can finally put the case of Boisfontaine’s murder to rest.

Similarly to Serial, the show will unfold in almost real time, with the first episode beginning in August 2015. The six-episode docuseries is still filming, so each subsequent installment will air not long after it was shot, and the audience will uncover clues soon after the detectives do.

Unlike Serial or The Jinx however, the reporters behind the camera are not part of the story, so you won’t see their faces or hear them put in their two cents. Also in contrast with those predecessors (or Making a Murderer, for that matter), the show does not focus on one particular suspect (either acquitted or convicted). Instead, Killing Fields places most of its attention on the detectives as they work to solve the case.

The fact that the show isn’t suspect-driven works both for and against it — at least, according what critics have said about it. Early reviews acknowledge that there are a lot of intriguing elements to the series, from the case itself to the dedicated, genuinely caring cops to the swampy setting (the show’s name was taken from the fact that Boisfontaine’s body was found in what they dubbed a “killing field,” or a place where a body can go undetected due to geography.) As the Washington Post put it, “Killing Fields isn’t just a Serial wannabe.”

But some reviewers have also admitted that not having a central suspect established from the get-go can make it feel like something’s missing. As The Hollywood Reporter wrote, “Those other crime series, part of the thrill was watching a killer get caught or being outraged at how the justice system was failing an innocent man.”

Then again, reviewers only have the early episodes to go on. As previously stated, the show is still filming — which means there’s still an possibility that a suspect or some other major break in the case could be uncovered in the latter half of the season. In the meantime, it seems safe to say that true crime addicts may have just found their next obsession.

Killing Fields premieres on Tuesday, January 5, at 10 p.m. Eastern on Discovery Channel.

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