NEW YORK — Now a successful talk show host, Tamron Hall is both returning to her journalism roots and taking advantage of the public’s never-ending fascination with crime stories in a new Court TV series that debuts Sunday.
What the stories she tells in “Someone They Knew” have in common is what the title suggests — each of the victims had a personal connection to their killer.
Hall’s daytime talk show, now in its third season, has been renewed for two more years. That’s a significant success in an industry where establishing a syndicated show can be very difficult.
As a local news reporter in Chicago and her native Texas before that, Hall would often report on crime stories. After moving to NBC News in 2007, where she was a host on MSNBC and the third hour of “Today,” she also anchored a crime series on the Investigation: Discovery network for six years.
That show ended during the initial stages of the pandemic, freeing Hall to help develop the new idea for Court TV.
Consumers can’t seem to get enough crime stories, from prime-time series like the renewed “Law & Order,” to newsmagazines to podcasts. Many of the non-fiction stories are stylized and very well told, but Hall said in an interview that she’d often felt something was missing.
“Sometimes the reminder was missing that this was a real person,” she said. “This is not a story. This is a mother or father or friend or aunt or uncle who won’t go home again, who won’t celebrate birthdays or anniversaries or life in general.”
The topic is personal for Hall because her older sister, Renate, was found bludgeoned to death in the pool of her Houston home in 2004.
No one was ever charged with the crime. Hall said police told her family they had a strong suspicion about who it might be but felt they did not have enough evidence for a conviction. Officially, it’s a cold case.
“I felt as helpless as any other family that I’ve covered, and I’ve covered a lot of cases where families don’t get justice, where there are no charges,” she said. Her family wants justice, but also knows that it won’t bring her sister back, and wonders if the pain that would resurface in a risky trial would be worth it.
And, yes, Hall believes that Renate’s killer was someone she knew.
“People often associate crime with people in dark corners waiting to leap out,” she said. “And it’s not always that. Sadly, it’s often friends, colleagues, loved ones. This is certainly not a show to make you afraid of what’s around you, but it is one that is thought-provoking when it comes to humanity and relationships.”
The first story is about a businessman killed in his suburban Atlanta mansion in 1996 by one of several girlfriends. Although the victim is Black, and Hall is keenly aware that minority crime victims often don’t get as much attention as those who are white, it’s not a specific goal of the series to rectify that situation.
The first of 24 episodes of “Someone They Knew” airs at 8 p.m. Sunday.