The Talks Today

चलिए खबर फैलाते हैं…





Jake Lacy, Anna Paquin, Colin Hanks in the Peacock true crime show A Friend of the Family
International News

A Disturbing, Confounding True Crime Series

A Disturbing, Confounding True Crime Series

“The best true-crime stories humanize people or situations that seem incomprehensible at first.” That’s what Nick Antosca told Gizmodo about his series The Act, his first TV switch from the horror genre he’d mastered in Channel Zero and Brand New Cherry Flavor.

That quote applies doubly to his new limited series, A Friend of the Family, which contains decisions and situations which seem so incomprehensible on the surface that they’re almost laughable. The limited Peacock series follows the multiple kidnappings of Jan Boberg, a kind young girl in the ’70s whose well-intentioned family seemed to make the worst decisions imaginable. What Antosca is able to do, however, is flesh out a full portrait of this family and their awful situation, humanizing the absurdity and fashioning order from their chaos. The result is a suspenseful and bizarre study of the naïveté and ignorance of some good people, and the manipulative cruelty of those who take advantage of them.


A Friend of the Family is About the Broberg Story

The story of Jan Boberg and her family might be familiar. While the events have been told in countless news articles and recounted in books and the Netflix documentary Abducted in Plain Sight, the star-studded dramatization of A Friend of the Family is undoubtedly the best way to approach it.

For those who aren’t familiar with the events, A Friend of the Family develops it with meticulous coherence. The Brobergs lived in Pocatello, a small part of Idaho, and were prominent members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints during the 1970s. Into this bucolic Mormon existence came the Berchtolds, a new family in town with rambunctious, out-of-control kids, a jittery and haunted wife (a great Lio Tipton), and seemingly the most charming patriarch in town.

Robert, or ‘B’ as he is called, has a million-dollar smile and the gift of gab, and practically becomes a member of the Broberg family in no time. The Brobergs, the type of very kind people who so often become doormats, fail to recognize this ravenous wolf in sheep’s clothing. Robert is a predator who becomes increasingly obsessed with Jan, and his devious machinations (and how the family acquiesces to them) would but totally unbelievable if they weren’t completely true.

A Friend of the Family continues to chronicle the extremely poor choices made by everyone which ultimately allowed Robert to kidnap the young Jan not just once, but twice. The family becomes entangled in a web of their own consequences, spun by ignorance and vulnerability. Jan is manipulated by Robert into loving her abuser, and she isn’t the only one; Robert is a master manipulator, and before long he has wormed his way into the lives (and pants) of the Broberg parents.

Colin Hanks, Anna Paquin, and Jake Lacy are Wonderful in Peacock Series

Beyond any other medium, long-form television may be the best to fully explore true-crime stories. There would be no way to humanize the Brobergs if A Friend of the Family was a feature film, the same way that a news article on the events simply cannot capture the tragic scope of the situation. A good miniseries has the time to turn the inexplicable explicable, and humanize what may at first seem like the most moronic decisions possible.

Related: Colin Hanks Gives Intense Performance in Peacock’s Crime Thriller A Friend of the Family Trailer

Much of the series’ success is owed to Antosca (who has proven himself to be one of the best minds in television) and his excellent crew of writers and directors (including Brian Chamberlayne, Alana B. Lytle, Lucy Teitler, Rachel Goldberg, Eliza Hittman, Steven Piet, Jamie Travis, and more). Another reason why A Friend of the Family works is its incredible cast. The talented Anna Paquin is heartbreaking as the conflicted Broberg matriarch Mary Ann, Colin Hanks gives his greatest performance yet as Bob, the hapless head of the Broberg clan, and Mila Harris and Mckenna Grace are perfect in different stages of Jan’s life.

They’re all phenomenal here in what may be the best ensemble cast in a miniseries this year (especially Hanks as a father utterly beholden to social pressures, who truly transforms himself into the balding and bespectacled Bob). The surprise standout, though, might be Jake Lacy as the conniving Robert Brechtold.

Lacy masters the pathetic obsessions of a pedophile who cleverly ingratiates himself into the Broberg family, always on the lookout for everyone’s weaknesses, using his good looks and dapper demeanor to always get what he wants. Lacy continues a wonderful career here, first proving his skills opposite Jenny Slate in Obvious Child and following up his excellent recent work in The White Lotus and Being the Ricardos.

Jan Broberg Humanizes A Friend of the Family

Perhaps the most significant reason for the achievements of A Friend of the Family, though, happens mostly offscreen, thanks to the involvement of Jan Broberg herself, who took a very active role in shaping the series. She even introduces it, something which immediately provides a bit of hope before the sprawling dark narrative which is to come — she survived, and she’s more or less okay.

Jan’s input surely helped paint a clearer picture of these people, preventing them from seeming like caricatures or simple oafs. Her introduction and much of the first episode establishes the weird atmosphere of A Friend of the Family, a combination of a ’70s period piece, warped public service announcement, and psychological horror.

Without Jan, this could have been a cruel exercise in finger-pointing, because to many people on the outside, the Brobergs’ choices may seem like a showcase of stupidity. From letting Robert sleep in the same bed as Jan, to deciding not to call the police after she’s been kidnapped, it may seem inconceivable how the Brobergs could be so naive. In a vacuum, with each questionable action existing without context, that might be an understandable response.

A Friend of the Family Understands the Brobergs

However, A Friend of the Family develops a full portrait of the true-crime story, to the extent that everyone’s motivations make sense in a tragic, frustrating way. Antosca has said in his notes for the show, “It’s easy to judge the Broberg family’s story from the outside. Sometimes when people first hear it, they get defensive: ‘How could these parents have let this happen? I’m not like them!’ That’s understandable. It’s a surreal story […] I wanted to understand from the inside — to know what their lives felt like, to live in each family member’s experience, to see how they were caught in such a bizarre web, and help audiences understand too.”

Related: The Best Peacock Original Series, Ranked

There is a petty tendency for people to assume that, in the same awful circumstances, we’d do a better job. We ponder how victims could let atrocities happen, be it genocide or sexual abuse, because in our minds, we know better; this isn’t just offensive, it’s devoid of empathy. No, given the same circumstances, we’d all do terrible, dumb things. Antosca continues in his notes:

I hope people will come away from the series with a deeper understanding of the family and say: In that time, in that place, they were like me. They made terrible mistakes, but they loved their kids. And a master manipulator took advantage of them.

The great accomplishment of A Friend of the Family is how it reveals the universality of human stupidity without blaming anyone, and how it disturbingly depicts the awful individuals just waiting to prey upon our mistakes. The series makes the inconceivable legible, allowing us to see for ourselves the very ignorance and cruelty we’re all capable of.

A co-production of Eat the Cat, Universal Content Productions, and Top Knot Films, A Friend of the Family will premiere on Thursday, October 6th with four episodes on Peacock, and the remaining five episodes will drop weekly on Thursdays through November 10th.