You guys know I’m a fervent viewer of true crime television. I TiVo “season pass” about 80% of the shows on the Investigation Discover Channel. I am an ID Addict.
There are two main types of TV true-crime shows. There are the “news” shows and the “reenactment” shows.
Dateline, 20/20, and 48 Hours are examples of “news” shows. They are more serious and faithful to the facts. By the time an episode of one of these shows is aired on the ID Channel, though, it was likely shown on its major TV network a year earlier. A slightly edited and repackaged version will air as “Dateline on ID,” for example.
Then there are the reenactment shows. I’m not sure how many of them are produced directly for the ID Network, but they obviously have a lower production budget, and often seem to be filmed outside of California.
I’m noticing more and more are coming from Canada. You can tell as soon as someone says the word “about,” or if they show lush green grass. Our drought and watering restrictions have made California pretty brown these days.
Both the news and the reenactment shows tell stories using interviews and news footage spliced together in a montage of information. Often, a law or psychology expert is consulted as well.
It’s the reenactment programs, however, that bring to life previously unexplored possibilities. If a 20/20 correspondent interviews a police officer involved in the case, the officer might discuss theories that arose from the investigation. A reenactment program will take those theories and make them a reality. They act out the scenes right in front of the viewer’s eyes.
The Perfect Murder Reenactment
The first reenactment show to cover Daniel’s case was The Perfect Murder. The title of the episode was “Curtain Call.”
Thank you Twitter follower Anthony P. for letting me (and Daniel) know about the airing.
The Perfect Murder is only in its first season, and I honestly thought it would be one of the old-timers like Nightmare Next Door that would first tap into the plethora of drama circling around this case.
I have to assume that the title of the series is meant to be ironic, because the murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi were far from perfect in their planning or deed.
Overall, I thought The Perfect Murder made a decent attempt at telling the story, but there were certain aspects of the show, either done for dramatic effect or from lack of knowledge, that could have been confusing for someone who was learning of this crime for the first time.
The show took Daniel’s confession as absolute fact, and then had lookalikes act it out. This included the stories Daniel made up when he was first questioned.
The Costa Mesa Police originally suspected Sam Herr of murdering Julie Kibuishi, whose body was found in his apartment. That is how it was set up to look, and it was one of the early lies Daniel told to the police. Viewers of The Perfect Murder got to see all of those investigation theories actually brought to life, and I found it disconcerting to watch a drunken lookalike Sam being abusive and violent to a lookalike Julie.
Who am I to worry about this? No one, I guess. It was pointed out to me that I watch these types of shows all the time, and normally I view those reenactments as merely engaging television.
Steve Herr and June Kibuishi were both interviewed for the program, so they most likely signed off on what the show was going to put out to the public.
This crime already has so many twists and turns to it, and I don’t necessarily trust people to pay complete attention to what they are watching (or reading, for that matter). I bet if you questioned a hundred people who saw that episode, you’d find at least a one or two of them think everything they saw acted out was fact.
The episode “Curtain Call” gave the impression that the murder and decapitation of Sam Herr took place in the same theatre where Daniel and Rachel were performing in the musical Nine. It showed a blood-covered Daniel washing up at a theatre and then changing immediately into his costume (while looking in a mirror and laughing evilly, of course).
I know that it adds an extra layer of horror knowing the murders of Sam and Julie took place on the same weekend that Daniel and Rachel were performing in Nine, but these events did not happen in the same location.
Maybe nobody else cares about this, but Sam was not murdered at the Hunger Artists Theatre Company where Nine was being performed. That’s the theatre where I first met Daniel. Our little theatre didn’t even have an upstairs. The reenactment Hunger Artists looked similar to the real place, albeit nicer, but I don’t really like people thinking that those of us who ran Hunger Artists were a bunch of unaware idiots who allowed a murder to take place right above our stage.
In reality, Sam Herr was murdered at the Liberty Theater at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base, where, later, the majority of his remains were found.
Did it make for exciting television? Sure. Scenes of Daniel and Rachel singing lovingly to each other interspersed with images of Daniel cleaning off a bloody saw… that makes for high drama. But if that didn’t happen, what else didn’t happen?
You readers know I don’t entirely believe Daniel’s confession, especially when it comes to the motivation behind the murders. Even officers who worked on the case think Daniel is still not being completely truthful about everything that happened to Sam and Julie, or who was involved.
The actor playing Daniel did do his homework. He must have put in some real time (no pun intended) watching clips of Daniel’s police interview and videos of Daniel performing in Nine. The clothes, the way he adjusted his tie on stage, and that crazy laugh all seemed pretty accurate. He’s a better singer than real Daniel, though.
I wonder if The Perfect Murder had a costumer working on the show or if the actors were asked to just bring in their own clothes. It all depends on their budget I guess. Lookalike Daniel was wearing a pretty accurate rendition of the ugly shirt real Daniel wore in his confession video. Well done.
I was most impressed with the Rachel lookalike. I took some screen shots of my TV and sent the pictures of the reenactment actors to Daniel in jail. He thought the actress playing Rachel was spot on visually. She also had a lovely singing voice and, if my memory serves me correctly, real Rachel is a talented singer (she’s better than Daniel, too).
The romantic proposal scene between Daniel and Rachel also didn’t actually happen in real life. It makes for good TV, though, and really emphasizes how psychotic Daniel is meant to seem as he goes from slipping a diamond ring on the finger of an excited and blindfolded Rachel (a glass of champagne in her other hand) to committing double murder.
The show seemed to run out of steam near the end when they showed a snippet of Daniel’s trial. They definitely ran out of visually accurate actors. Prosecutor Matt Murphy isn’t bald in real life. Public defender Scott Sanders is in his 40s, not his late 60s. Oh, and Judge Conley isn’t African American.
So, for those readers who have just joined us after seeing The Perfect Murder, and then Googled Daniel’s name, I hope you’ll read this blog from the beginning, keep an open mind, and remember that in the case of a reenactment crime show, seeing shouldn’t always mean believing.