This weekend Oxygen will unveil its latest true crime series, A Lie to Die For. The season will be made up of stand-alone episodes, each one a mini-documentary dissecting different high-profile criminal cases. However, at the center of every episode is a lie or secret, often protected at the expense of human life. Detectives and investigators walk viewers through the detailed network of lies behind each case.
The first episode, titled “A Marriage Bed of Lies,” delves into the 2004 disappearance of Lori Soares in Salt Lake City, Utah. The then-27-year-old was supposedly happily married to her high school sweetheart, Mark Hacking, but didn’t come into work one July morning. The couple were preparing to move to North Carolina, where Mark would attend medical school. According to Mark, Lori had gone out for a jog before work, as she often did, and was never seen again.
The suspenseful music and ransom note-style graphics of the introduction immediately set the tone for the following 43 minutes of overdrawn dramatic cliffhangers building up to an underwhelming ending. The show incorporates interviews with friends and family members, local news footage, and police photos as the detectives gradually reveal that Mark Hacking was not the person he claimed to be. True crime lovers will appreciate that one of the detectives on the Lori Soares case also investigated the highly publicized disappearance of Elizabeth Smart two years earlier.
What sets A Lie to Die For apart from other true crime shows is its focus on the psychology of lying. It hypothesizes that dishonesty, and the anxiety of being caught in a lie (or many, many lies), is enough to push someone to do the unthinkable: commit murder. Much of the first episode is spent interviewing detectives about the various clues that someone may be lying. Most of the advice makes enough sense. Pay attention to body language and whether or not someone is actually crying. At one point, a gravely serious middle-aged detective delivers the unintentionally hilarious line, “If somebody’s crying and there’s no snot, they’re not really crying.”
But in another scene, Detective Kelly Kent describes the first sign that Mark Hacking was being dishonest. While searching the couple’s apartment, she found Lori’s purse on a table. She claims to have immediately thought it was suspicious, because women never go anywhere without their purses. Not only is this a major (and mildly sexist) generalization, but it seems highly possible that Lori would have left her purse behind to go jogging. In fact, it’s hard to imagine any experienced jogger running with a large, red leather pocketbook in hand.
America’s obsession with true crime programming is reflected in the popularity of documentary series like Netflix’s Making a Murderer and HBO’s 2015 series The Jinx. More recently, dramatizations of real crimes, like Hulu’s chilling look at Munchausen-syndrome-by-proxy The Act, and the Ava Duvernay-helmed miniseries When They See Us, have garnered glowing reviews from critics. Television viewers have long been morbidly fascinated by murder and tragedy.
Oxygen rebranded as a true crime network for women back in 2017 when its “Crime Time” programming block experienced significant ratings growth, according to The Hollywood Reporter. In an interview with THR, the president of NBCUniversal lifestyle networks Frances Berwick explained, “Looking across the landscape and how much interest there is [in true crime], even way beyond conventional television and video content, it really is exploding online with people following crimes and being involved on social platforms trying to solve crimes.”
A Lie to Die For, which premieres Sunday, June 23, may be ideal for binging reruns of on a rainy Sunday afternoon, but based on the first episode, it will likely not provide much beyond what’s already available on the Wikipedia pages of its cases.