Kaley Cuoco as Ava, Chris Messina as Nathan in Peacock's...

 Kaley Cuoco as Ava, Chris Messina as Nathan in Peacock's "Based on a True Story." Credit: Peacock

SERIES "Based on a True Story"

WHERE Streaming on Peacock

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Ava (Kaley Cuoco) and Nathan (East Northport's Chris Messina) Bartlett are an unhappily married couple living the good life in Southern California. A real estate broker — he's a tennis pro at a local club — her one passion is true crime: Podcasts, Netflix, "Dateline," she consumes it all. And then one fine sunny L.A. morning, true crime arrives at her doorstep. A young woman who lives nearby has been murdered, the latest victim of the "Westside Ripper" terrorizing the city. The victim also happened to have known (in passing) Nathan and the plumber who has been fixing the Bartletts' broken toilet, Matt Pierce (Tom Bateman). 

Without giving too much away here, she learns the identity of the killer and decides to launch a podcast — starring the Ripper himself. 

Jason Bateman and Craig Rosenberg ("The Boys") are behind this new series which drops Thursday and hints at — in fact, promises — a second season.


MY SAY Just to clear this up right away, "Based on a True Story" is not based on a true story. That should be immediately obvious except that what's "obvious" in the true crime genre — the genuinely true one — has never been clear-cut, at least not since the advent of streaming TV ("Making a Murderer") and the podcast ("Serial"). Anything is possible or at least anything is plausible. Facts? The truth? Sure they're important but the story is what matters most. Get a good one and watch the returns — or "consumption rate," if we're talking about those podcasts — take off. 

That's the joke here stretched out over eight episodes but the premise comes straight from Joel and Ethan Coen. "Based on a true story…." Yeah, right. 

Ava and Nathan Bartlett are a married couple confronting the 12-year itch, which is sort of like the seven-year one only in their case itchier. She's pregnant, exhausted and bored, looking for a way to compensate for Nathan — complacent, settled, defeated — and with the kid coming, has an even more pressing problem (money). So why not a podcast starring a real-life serial killer? After all, the Bartletts happen to know one.

This image released by Peacock shows Kaley Cuoco in a...

This image released by Peacock shows Kaley Cuoco in a scene from "Based on a True Story." Credit: AP

There are a million reasons "why not," apparent to anyone except the Bartletts. At first Nathan resists, then submits. He wants to save his marriage and getting into business with the Westside Ripper is the price he must pay. 

Yes (of course) "Based on a True Story" is a satire, or meant to be, settling somewhere on the satire scale between "Only Murders in the Building" and "The Santa Clarita Diet." It's about the monetization of murder, the more gruesome the better, or the more readily monetized. 

The target is broad and easy to hit (others already have) except "Based on a True Story's'" aim is unsteady. The show would much rather be a comedy (also unsteady) or thriller (unsteadiest of all). At its best, this series features three seasoned and particularly appealing actors who know how to sell the premise — outlandish and as full of plot holes as this one is. 

But at its worst — far worse — is a recurrent pattern of violence against women, beginning with the opening scene. It's horrific, actually, and you immediately begin to wonder why it's necessary. A real-world phenomenon like this one has no place in a satire, certainly not in a comedy. Strange that this otherwise genial show doesn't seem to think so too. 

 BOTTOM LINE Good cast, amusing premise, scuttled by the violence against women.   

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