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Could a Podcast Like the One in Based on a True Story Ever Get Made? Well ...
An entertainment lawyer weighs in on the legal ramifications of content creators featuring an elusive killer on a podcast like Based on a True Story in real life.
The new Peacock series Based on a True Story surrounds a couple trying to monetize on the true-crime craze that continues to sweep America, but is what they’re doing legal? Oxygen.com spoke to an entertainment lawyer to determine if Based on a True Story could get made in real life.
What is Based on a True Story?
Kaley Cuoco and Chris Messina star in the new comedic thriller as Ava and Nathan Bartlett, two down-and-out Angelenos in a financial rut that just might be remedied by creating the next hit true-crime podcast. Their podcast series, aptly titled Based on a True Story, revolves around the elusive “West Side Ripper,” a serial killer targeting young women in the Los Angeles area.
However, the Bartletts know the identity of the West Side Ripper and bribe him into being a crucial part of their show, all while concealing their identities from the public.
Would Based on a True Story podcast Be Legal in Real Life?
Entertainment lawyer and celebrity commentator Richard Roth of the Roth Law Firm in New York spoke to Oxygen about the possible ramifications of bringing a killer — who continues to evade capture — onto a true-crime podcast.
Roth said people like the Bartletts could “possibly” face criminal charges while discussing the West Side Ripper's past crimes.
“It’s no different than someone who commits a crime and runs into a house to hide,” said Roth. “If you hide a potential felon who committed a crime, there are all kinds of acts and statutes that you could be liable for, for harboring a felon.”
Roth said it was likely that people like the Bartletts would face arrest and prosecution because “the bottom line is, if this were a real podcast, then the authorities would be all over it.”
What About Crimes That Have Yet To Be Committed?
Roth also discussed the implications if the Bartletts created content about crimes the killer had yet to commit.
“The net for conspiracy is very broad,” said Roth. “If I have any inkling or knowledge that this guy is going to commit a crime — no matter what the crime — then I could be drawn into the net.”
Though Based on a True Story is not actually based on a true story, Roth said investigators would be all over the podcast in real life.
“They would hopefully be able to find the killer and the people profiting from it before the events,” he continued. “If they couldn’t, they would do everything to find him after.”
Not only would investigators be after the West Side Ripper, but they’d also be out for the Bartletts.
“If [the Bartletts] didn’t believe he was going to do it, but the podcast is done, and the crime is committed, and then he does another podcast talking about another crime, then the authorities would argue they knew that he was going to do it again,” Roth continued to Oxygen. “They knew, or had reason to know, that this person — whose identity they know — was going to commit a crime and did nothing to stop it.”
What Criminal Charges Could The Bartletts Face?
Roth said that, depending on laws in a particular region, content creators like the Bartletts could be subject to a host of criminal charges, including ones as serious as murder.
"If I'm driving a car and there's a guy in the backseat, and he says, 'Hey, let me stop at the bodega to buy some milk.' And he walks in and he steals the money and he shoots [and kills] someone," said Roth. "The person driving the car could very well also be arrested for felony murder because they're involved in the crime."
Conspiracy and aiding and abetting could also be potential charges for people like the Bartletts, if found culpable.
How to Watch Based on a True Story
Tune in to see what happens to the Bartletts and the West Side Ripper when all eight episodes of Based on a True Story drop Thursday, June 8, on Peacock.