NEW YORK — The CBS News crime franchise “48 Hours” this week launches a series of episodes on cold cases that’s aimed at satisfying an increased appetite among viewers to get involved solving mysteries.
The first “48 Hours: Cold Case” episode on Saturday focuses on the 1994 murder of Amy Gellert, a Florida woman killed when she unwittingly came upon her mother and step-father when they had been taken hostage by an intruder.
“48 Hours” has been looking at criminal mysteries for years, but more often than not tells about cases that have been solved for a passive audience to enjoy.
There’s a greater willingness now for audience members to get involved in cases, through social media or by providing tips, said Susan Zirinsky, senior executive producer of “48 Hours.” Retelling the stories can tap the memories of people who were involved, or a viewer may notice something that has slipped past investigators.
Crime mysteries are a popular genre right now. Last fall’s “Serial” podcast brought more than one million listeners intrigued by the story of convicted killer Adnan Syed of Baltimore. HBO this weekend airs the last episode of “The Jinx,” a six-part series investigating New Yorker Robert Durst, suspected in three murders.
Former “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh’s new series, “The Hunt,” is doing well for CNN and producer Dick Wolf’s series tracing unsolved cases, “Cold Justice,” is in its third season on TNT.
“It’s incredibly fulfilling to talk directly to our audience,” Zirinsky said. “When we’re doing something where we are asking people questions, or asking people if they know something, it’s electric.”
She said “48 Hours” is already being contacted with tips about the Gellert case based on people reading about it on the show’s website. Erin Moriarty reports on the case.
“This is not about us doing the police’s job, or being critical if a case isn’t solved,” she said. “But the impact that we can have by giving a case national exposure … suddenly creates a dynamic that can really impact a case.”
She said “48 Hours” is actively looking for more unsolved cases that the show can present to viewers.
The goal is to present at least three “cold case” episodes for each television season, CBS said.