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‘Unsolved Mysteries’ revival on Netflix surges in popularity with tips already coming in

New episodes feature more family interviews and documentary footage, but skips the original’s cheesy, but delightful actor reenactments.

Robert Stack, who died in 2003, was the original host of ‘Unsolved Mysteries.’ Netflix has revived the series.
Monty Brinton/AP

That didn’t take long.

A day after its revival on Netflix, ”Unsolved Mysteries” already has received what producers feel are 20 credible tips toward solving some of the cases featured in the six episodes released Wednesday.

That response echoes the thousands of leads submitted by viewers during the show’s earlier run on NBC, CBS and Lifetime from 1988 to 2002. Executive producer Terry Dunn Meurer, who co-created the series, says more than 260 mysteries from the original were ultimately resolved with the help of tips and other factors, such as increasingly sophisticated DNA testing.

Since the Netflix premiere, “we have received tips,” Meurer told USA TODAY Thursday. When they seem credible, “we pass them on to the appropriate authorities. It’s only been 24 hours. We’re hoping there’s a lot of people who still haven’t watched and maybe this weekend they’ll sit down and binge the episodes and we’ll get more leads.”

In another measure of the unscripted program’s enduring appeal, “Mysteries” ranked as the No. 1 TV show on Netflix in the U.S. on Thursday. (Six more episodes will be available for streaming later this year.)

The latest version of the series, a pioneer in reality crime and paranormal programming, includes familiar features from the original, such as the scary musical theme. However, it differs in significant ways, going without a narrator to take the place of Robert Stack, the tough-guy presence with the gravelly voice who hosted and narrated until 2002. He died in 2003.

“Everybody talks about how they hear that music from the original episodes and it sends a chill up their spine,” Meurer says. “And then we had to make a tough decision: Should we have a host? We decided it would be impossible to fill Bob’s shoes.”

The updated “Mysteries” focuses on one case per episode, lasting from 38 to 51 minutes without commercials, rather than the three or four unresolved cases previously featured during each network hour. The show still advises viewers that it’s not a news program and asks for their tips at the end. But updates on case resolution may now appear on the show’s website or via social media rather than at the end of an episode.

The show still tries to cover a broad range of cases, from murder to the paranormal. New episodes feature questions about the cause of death of a man found at a Baltimore hotel in 2006; the disappearance of a man whose wife and four children were found murdered at their home in France in 2011; and a reported UFO sighting in Massachusetts in 1969.

So far, Meurer says “Mysteries” has received three tips it passed on to the FBI related to the death of Alonzo Brooks, whose body was found a month after he disappeared following a party in rural Kansas in 2004. Tips also came in relating to the cause of death of Rey Rivera, whom Baltimore police said died of suicide, and the disappearance of Lena Chapin, who was supposed to testify against her mother in her stepfather’s death.

The new “Mysteries” episodes rely more on interviews with family members and other interested parties and documentary footage, skipping the original’s actor reenactments that many viewers found cheesy but nevertheless loved. (They also were the place for early sightings of Matthew McConaughey, Daniel Dae Kim and a youthful Taran Killam.)

“We didn’t want to just produce the same show (from) 20 years ago. We wanted it to be fresh and feel contemporary,” Meurer says.

“Mysteries” has had to adapt to dramatic advances in technology since the show’s last original season in 2002. The missing-persons category has diminished in an age of widespread DNA analysis, Meurer says.

“We don’t have nearly as many ‘lost-love’ story submissions as we did, because people can find people (now) with Ancestry.com, 23andMe and the Internet,” she says. “We don’t have as many UFO stories, because (with) cellphones, you figure if somebody saw (a UFO) a lot of people would be recording it, not just one person.”

Meurer hasn’t heard anything yet from Netflix about making more episodes, but she’d like to continue and expects viewers will suggest stories.

“We would love to do more,” she says. “There are a lot of mysteries out there that need to be solved.”