Today's crime dramas are mixing high stakes with relatability

The prestige crime genre is enjoying a boom on streaming platforms.
Posted at 7:40 PM, May 02, 2023

Based on the 1980 murder of Betty Gore and the trial of her friend Candy Montgomery, "Love & Death" is this season's latest entry into the genre of prestige crime. 

"I did an internet deep dive," said actress Olivia Applegate. "When you're playing real people, I'm very invested in doing an accurate job, honoring the people who actually existed and went through this." 

Applegate plays Carol Crowder on "Love & Death," who was the real-life neighbor of Candy Montgomery, played by Emmy-nominated actress Elizabeth Olsen. 

In 1980, Montgomery was accused — but found not guilty — of murdering Gore, her lover's wife, in the small town of Wylie, Texas. 

"It was based on this article that was in the Texas Monthly called 'Love & Death in Silicon Prairie,'" Applegate said. "And that details all of the things that happened … And they take direct quotes, our script has direct quotes from these interviews. So, we really try to stay very true to the actual thing that happened." 

If the story and names of "Love & Death" sound familiar, it may be because it's the second dramatization of the 1980 murder trial in recent years. The Hulu drama "Candy" aired last year with Jessica Biel in the starring role.

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The competing dramas are part of the streaming industry boom of prestige crime series — both true and fictional. And it's all pushed by the popularity of series like "Mare of Easttown," "The White Lotus" and "American Crime Story," which reportedly cost $6M an episode. 

"Love & Death" adds to that growing library, and it doesn't hurt that the series was written by David E. Kelley, who also created the 2017 star-studded hit "Big Little Lies." 

"'Big Little Lies' is a really important show in a lot of ways," said Slate Senior Editor Sam Adams. "And you see shows like 'The White Lotus' just copying that structural template … It's become this way to hook people in to promise that even if you're watching people go about their normal lives, things are going to get very interesting at some point." 

"I think it's deeply, deeply human — even though in our show, the stakes are so so high, because it ends up in a murder, there's affairs, y'know, there's a level of intensity," Applegate said. "But the themes themselves I think are remarkably relatable."

Critics have so far praised the performances in "Love & Death" — particularly Olsen as Montgomery. 

The series premiered Thursday, April 27 on HBO MAX.

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