In 1987, the world was introduced to a television show unlike anything that came before it. The show covered various true stories, paranormal encounters, strange phenomenons, and especially unsolved cases. That show was Unsolved Mysteries, and it still continues to have an impact and audiences to this day. To celebrate its 35th anniversary, FilmRise and Cosgrove/Meurer Productions are joining forces to release Unsolved Mysteries: Behind the Legacy, a brand-new documentary which takes audiences behind the scenes of the legendary show.
Terry Dunn Meurer, co-creator of Unsolved Mysteries, spoke with MovieWeb to share tidbits about the documentary, along with her own behind-the-scenes tidbits from the series. The trailer for Unsolved Mysteries: Behind the Legacy can be viewed below, and you can watch our video interview with Meurer above.
Solving Unsolved Mysteries
Unsolved Mysteries: Behind the Legacy lifts the fog for audiences and takes them behind the scenes of the famous television program, starting at the beginning. Unsolved Mysteries started as a short series of specials by Terry Dunn Meurer and co-creator John Cosgrove, which gained enough attention to greenlight a full series. For those that are unfamiliar, what set Unsolved Mysteries apart from other true crime or mystery shows was the inclusion of audience participation. Viewers were encouraged to come forward if they had any information on the presented case.
Meurer detailed why that was an intentional key feature from the very beginning.
“We had produced three specials for NBC called “Missing… Have You Seen This Person?” and those shows found a few different people. That was the inspiration behind broadening it out to not just missing persons, but different kinds of unsolved mysteries. We were hoping that the audience would start to solve the mystery. That’s always been the premise, to solve these cases. In the first episode of the first season, when we solved something, we were all thinking ‘this might work!’ Then we started doing the updates, that was what the viewers really liked.”
Cases are still being updated to this day and can be found and reviewed on the Case Archives in the Unsolved Mysteries website. According to Meurer, they still go back and provide updates, such as a suspect being let out of prison, on the archive. For the new documentary, Meurer described shooting and producing interviews with the numerous directors and crew members who worked on the show over the years. Her stories are fascinating and includes everything from special effects mishaps to the struggles of working with the local police force.
As she explained:
I heard stories that I’d never heard before, because John and I were in the office executive producing, so we didn’t get to go out on the field in the first episodes we did. But once it turned into a series we had to stay back. Some of those stories I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ and surprised that somebody didn’t get hurt.
But despite the brushes with danger or mishaps, Meurer says the experience was positive overall. “It was great to look at the shows and remember how much production value those episodes had. They really were little mini movies,” explained the long-time producer. “We didn’t micromanage what the directors were doing, and they just did an amazing job as well as the producers and everyone else. There were over 600 people who worked on Unsolved at some point!”
35 Years of Unsolved Fans
Unsolved Mysteries has had such a wild history. It premiered as an official series on NBC in 1987, running for nine seasons before jumping to CBS for two more before its cancelation in 1999. The show was then picked up by Lifetime, running two seasons across 2001 and 2002, closing off upon the illness and later death of its long-running host, Robert Stack. In 2007, the show was revived by Spike TV, running a 175 episodes from 2008-2010. These episodes were hosted by Dennis Farina. Nearly a decade later, Netflix picked up Unsolved Mysteries for additional seasons.
Throughout the show’s impressive life, it’s always sported a dedicated fanbase that was ready and eager to tune in and see what new mysteries were out there. Those fans will have plenty to look forward to with Unsolved Mysteries: Behind the Legacy. The documentary will feature never-before-seen production footage, along with exclusive bloopers featuring the iconic Robert Stack. Meurer says that the documentary was created for the ever-growing fanbase that continues to stay dedicated, both old and new:
“It’s not just the fans from back in the day. That’s another surprising thing to think about the series, it’s become multi-generational. People know the name ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ and it’s created more fans along the way. Rebooting on Netflix has helped create some new contemporary fans. But the fans have never let us down, they are out there.”
The Lifelong Dedication to Mysteries
Terry Dunn Meurer was always a fan of mysteries. She shared that she got into the genre from reading Nancy Drew as a young child, having multiple volumes of the book series, and would “read them cover to cover multiple times.” Afterward, she “graduated to Agatha Christie.” She explained:
“Recently, I kind of put two-and-two together and went, ‘Oh my gosh, I had this passion as a child and now look. I’ve spent my entire career in the world of mysteries. How lucky am I that the interest I had when I was younger turned into this career that I would never have expected.’”
When asked if she would work on future seasons of Unsolved Mysteries, Meurer said quite simply:
Until the day I die. Nothing makes me more proud (other than my children) than Unsolved Mysteries. I can’t look back and say ‘I wish I had done this, I wish I had done that.’
“Unsolved isn’t the only thing we’ve produced, we’ve produced made-for-TV movies, other reality series, and nothing has felt as gratifying as Unsolved,” continued Meurer. “As long as somebody wants us to produce episodes, we will produce episodes.”
Unsolved Mysteries: Behind the Legacy
In 2016, FilmRise acquired the digital rights to Unsolved Mysteries. The classic episodes can now be found on various streaming platforms such as Prime Video, YouTube, Tubi, and Pluto TV. Meanwhile, the Netflix seasons can of course be found on Netflix.
As for Unsolved Mysteries: Behind the Legacy, the new documentary will premiere exclusively on Pluto TV on October 5th. On October 19th the feature will premiere on other major platforms such as Tubi, Amazon Freevee, The Roku Channel, Samsung TV Plus, and FilmRise’s own free streaming apps.