If you wanted to be scared shitless about unsolved crimes and murderers running free (and probably hiding under your bed), Unsolved Mysteries was the TV show for you.
The show’s original run was from 1987 to 1997 on NBC and was hosted by Robert Stack, also known as the voice that narrated your nightmares.
Unexplained Mysteries was a documentary-style program that told the story of real unsolved crimes, missing people, conspiracy theories, and unexplained phenomena.
Perhaps the best part of the show was the reenactments of each case. They were overly cheesy and the footage always had the same grainy quality we knew and loved in the late 80s and 90s. However, the reenactments did feature some early work of now prominent actors such as Cheryl Hines of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Bill Moseley of nearly every scary movie you’ve seen in the last thirty years.
But my favorite famous appearance in a reenactment on Unsolved Mysteries has to be none other than Matthew McConaughey as a murder victim. According to IMDB, this was his first official acting credit before landing a role in Dazed and Confused.
It was also his first on-screen death. Thankfully, his acting skills have somewhat improved since then.
In 1997, Unsolved Mysteries was picked up by CBS after NBC cancelled it due to falling ratings because apparently people had better shit to do with their time than hear about the serial killer who was probably hiding in their basement. In an attempt to spice up ratings, CBS gave Robert Stack a co-anchor: Virginia Madsen.
However, the attempt failed and CBS cancelled the show in 1999. In fact, the attempt failed so badly that future cable reruns of the CBS episodes had Robert Stack’s voice dubbed over Virginia Madsen’s narrations.
The show then bounced around to Lifetime, to Spike TV, and back to Lifetime. Robert Stack passed away in 2003 so Dennis Farina took over the hosting duties until 2010. Now, the Farina-hosted episodes currently rerun on Lifetime because I guess they have to intersperse movies about battered women and episodes of Dance Moms with something.
If you’d like to watch episodes of the Robert Stack episodes, there are currently a bunch on YouTube until someone notices a copyright law violation and takes them down. If you do decide to watch, just remember–they never caught that one guy who liked to kill people who looked exactly like you.
Happy Throwback Thursday!