Unsolved Mysteries is an American television program, hosted by Robert Stack, from 1987 until 2002, and later by Dennis Farina, starting in 2008. It was broadcast first as specials in 1987, then as a regular series on NBC (1988–1997), CBS (1997–1999), Lifetime (2001–2002), Spike (2008–2010) and back to Lifetime (2010–present).
Unsolved Mysteries uses a documentary format profiling real-life mysteries and features reenactments of unsolved crimes, missing persons, conspiracy theories and unexplained paranormal phenomena (alien abductions, ghosts, UFOs, and "secret history" theories).
The concept of Unsolved Mysteries was created upon a series of three specials produced by John Cosgrove and Terry-Dunn Meurer that they pitched to NBC in 1985 and were shown in 1986 called "Missing... Have You Seen This Person?". The success of the three programs led to Cosgrove and Meurer to broaden the program to include mysteries of all kinds. The pilot of Unsolved Mysteries was a special that aired on NBC on January 20, 1987 with Raymond Burr as host/narrator to a rousing success. Six more specials aired with the next two being hosted by Karl Malden and the final four by Robert Stack for the remaining 1987–1988 season.
In 1988, the show became a weekly run series on NBC. The show would lose some of its popularity after the 1993–1994 season. Until 1998, the show was hosted by Stack, and during its brief 2-year run on CBS, co-hosted by Virginia Madsen in 1999. Later episodes featured journalist Keely Shaye Smith and television host Lu Hanessian as correspondents in the show's telecenter, from where they provided information on updated stories. Due to failing health, Stack quit hosting the show in 2002 and died a year later. In 2008, Spike revived the series, and it is now hosted by Dennis Farina. The show was known for its eerie theme song composed by Michael Boyd and Gary Remal Malkin, as well as Stack's unmistakable voice and presence, which became synonymous with the show. The theme song was later changed four times in 1993, 1996, 1997, and 2001 until ending in 2002. In 2008, the theme and music used were changed to up-beat rock music much to dismay of loyal fans.
Unsolved Mysteries features segments in documentary film style, with actors portraying the victims, perpetrators and witnesses. In most cases, however, victim's family members and police officials are also featured in interview segments that are interspersed throughout the dramatizations. In the earlier episodes, the following message was related to the audience at the beginning of the program:
"This program is about unsolved mysteries. Whenever possible, the actual family members and police officials have participated in recreating the events. What you are about to see is not a news broadcast."In the specials that first aired on NBC, the last sentence of the disclaimer said:
"This is not an NBC News Production."For other special episodes, like Mysteries of the Psychic Mind or Mysteries of the Afterlife, the message was:
"This program is about unsolved mysteries. The re-enactments and special effects are actual eyewitness accounts. What you are about to see is not a news broadcast."Each episode of Unsolved Mysteries usually features three or four segments, each involving a different story. The show's host offers voice over narration for each segment, and appears on-screen to begin and end segments and to offer segues.
While the show was in production, viewers are invited to telephone or write letters. In the new broadcast, the program asks viewers to submit tips through their website or via a toll-free number (800-876-5353) if they have information that might help solve a mystery featured on the show.
Unsolved Mysteries segments, all of which involve actual events, generally fall into one of four categories:
- Criminal cases: Accounts of abductions, suspicious deaths, homicides, robberies, claims of innocence, missing persons and other miscellaneous unsolved cases, where either the suspects are unknown or can't be located.
- Lost loves: Accounts of individuals trying to reunite with someone from their past; often involving closed adoption, people separated by circumstances, or an unknown "Good Samaritan" that saved someone's life.
- Unexplained/Alternative history: Alternative theories of history (among them the theories that outlaws such as Billy the Kid and Butch Cassidy did not die as history recorded, that the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov survived the 1918 regicide that killed her entire family, that the assassination of Louisiana senator Huey Long may have been an accident, that the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr was in fact a conspiracy, and that Kurt Cobain may have been murdered).
- Paranormal matters: Accounts of miracles, alleged UFO/alien encounters (including examination of the Roswell UFO Incident and the Phoenix UFO Incident, the UFO incident in Eupen, Belgium observed by NATO fighter jets, or scientific questions about life on Mars), ghosts, Bigfoot, or other inexplicable phenomena.
Viewers are given updates on success stories, where suspects were brought to justice and loved ones reunited.
Unsolved Mysteries was shot on medium to high-standard motion picture film from 1987 to 1991. From late 1991 onward the show was filmed with the filmizing process. The segments were shot on videotape and later edited and processed to make it look like it was shot on film.
Cameos and reenactorsEdit
- Matthew McConaughey, who played a man named Larry Dickens that was murdered by a man named Edward Harold Bell.
- Henry Rollins, who played himself in a segment about the murder of his friend, Joe Cole.
- Daniel Dae Kim, who played the friend of a Korean businessman, whose wife, Su-Ya Kim was murdered.
- Stephnie Weir, who played a woman that encountered a man named Bill Blackwell, who was wanted for the murder of Neal Jennings.
- Cheryl Hines, who played the mother of Ashley Berman, a girl who was abused by her nanny, Rosa Hernandez, who is still on the run.
- Comedians Blake Clark and Joey Gaynor appeared in one segment titled "Comedy Store Ghosts."
The show aired on NBC from 1987 – 1997. It was originally hosted by actor Raymond Burr as a television special. Karl Malden also hosted the show before Robert Stack took over full-time. Unsolved Mysteries was also one of the few prime-time shows of its era to appeal to fans of the supernatural and used effective special effects to enhance tales of the unexplained.
In 1992, NBC aired a short-lived spin-off series called Final Appeal: From the Files of Unsolved Mysteries, with Robert Stack as host also. The premise of this series was to try to give the unjustly accused a final appeal for help, with the debut episode taking an in-depth look at the Jeffrey MacDonald case. The series was canceled after only a few episodes due to poor ratings.
By 1997, Unsolved Mysteries started to lose its audience, and NBC canceled it. Ratings had been on the decline ever since it was moved from its original Wednesday evening to Friday evening in the fall of 1994. When CBS canceled its Block Party line-up with shows such as Family Matters, and Step By Step, CBS moved the show to its 8:00 p.m timeslot.
In early 1999, Stack was joined by actress Virginia Madsen for hosting duties in hope to regain ground on the ratings, but to no avail and after two years, CBS removed the show from its Friday night lineup. Later cable reruns of segments that aired during the show's run on CBS and were originally narrated by Madsen were re-dubbed with Stack's voice.
Lifetime Television, which had been airing re-runs of NBC episodes since the early 1990s, began airing new episodes sporadically in 2001. Consisting of a mixture of newer and older cases, these episodes were produced between that year and 2002, and usually aired on weekdays between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
After Stack's death in 2003, old episodes continued to run in syndication on several television networks (notably Lifetime) in the U.S., Canada, and Australia; but as of August 14, 2006, Unsolved Mysteries switched to airing on Lifetime Real Women, which is mostly on digital cable. In 2007, the show was yanked entirely from the schedule.
During some shows, callers gave tips to the telecenter. When the show aired on NBC and CBS, the number was displayed on the bottom of the screen. When it moved to Lifetime, the number was removed and an address was put in place. Lifetime kept the telecenter segments in the broadcast, despite the fact that this would not make sense to a viewer who hadn't seen the show on NBC and/or CBS.
Spike TV (2008–2010)Edit
According to Broadcasting & Cable, in 2007, HBO Distribution announced plans to bring back Unsolved Mysteries when the cable channel Lifetime contract expired in 2008. The show featured a new set, new logo, new music, and updates on old cases. In addition, actor Dennis Farina became the new host, as Stack had died some time previously. The show debuted on Spike on October 13, 2008.
Initially, Spike's airing schedule for the show was sporadic. Some weeks the channel would air a marathon during the daytime hours (11AM-3PM), similar to Lifetime's schedule for the show. But other times the show replaced with a CSI marathon and would only air during late night hours (12AM-4AM). New episodes began to air again on April 5, 2010 with three episodes back-to-back-to-back Monday through Friday.
As of late August 2010, Unsolved Mysteries began to air on the Lifetime Television cable television network again.
U.S. television ratingsEdit
Seasonal rankings (based on average total viewers per episode) of Unsolved Mysteries.
- Note: U.S. network television seasons generally start in late September and end in late May, which coincides with the completion of May sweeps.
|Season||TV Season||Rank|| Viewers|
First Look Studios released six theme-based DVD sets in Region 1 in 2004/2005. The sets were re-released on June 21, 2005 with a lower suggested retail price. On March 21, 2006, a compilation set called The Best of Unsolved Mysteries was released, which contained selected segments from each of the earlier DVD sets along with some previously unreleased-on-DVD content. A special boxed set featuring the first six sets along with the new content from the Best of collection was also produced.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release Date|
|Volume 1: UFOs||26||September 7, 2004|
|Volume 2: Ghosts||34||September 14, 2004|
|Volume 3: Miracles||33||October 26, 2004|
|Volume 4: Bizarre Murders||32||January 25, 2005|
|Volume 5: Psychics||28||January 25, 2005|
|Volume 6: Strange Legends||27||February 15, 2005|
- Template:Official website
- Template:Imdb title
- Unsolved Mysteries Headquarters (Unofficial)
- Broadcasting & Cable Spike announcement