It’s a little weird that it took this long for Unsolved Mysteries to get a reboot, but if the first episodes released by Netflix on Wednesday are any indication, it was well worth the wait.
The host of the original series, Robert Stack, who in his trademark trench coat reminded viewers of his role as Elliott Ness on the mid-century TV series The Untouchables, is still as closely associated with the series as its wonderfully creepy theme song.
Although the series had hosts before and after Stack, the late actor (he died in 2003) is the icon of the series. He lent his deep, gravelly voice to stories of disappearances, murders, and supernatural events in episodes that aired from the late '80s to the late '90s.
Shawn Levy, a director on episodes for the Netflix reboot of Unsolved Mysteries (as well as directing Stranger Things episodes), explains why there's no host in this iteration:
"We have also opted for a hostless format, because the late, legendary Robert Stack was a singular and irreplaceable presence," Levy says. "In Robert’s absence, we are letting the spirit and the strength of the stories carry the narrative. Above all, our aspiration was to make a new chapter worthy of his memory and of iconic contribution to this iconic series."
Netflix described the new episodes as being "rooted in the experiences of ordinary people who have lived the unthinkable — from the trauma of a loved one’s unexplained disappearance or horrific death, to the shock of a bizarre paranormal encounter. Alongside detectives and journalists, family members offer clues, present theories, and identify suspects, hoping one viewer holds the key to solving the mystery."
Terry Dunn Meurer and John Cosgrove, the creators of Unsolved Mysteries (you should really read their Reddit AMA) had this to say about Stack's legacy.
"We know our loyal audience will miss host Robert Stack as much as we do, but we hope mystery lovers old and new will embrace this next chapter, knowing that no one could fill Bob’s shoes."
Famously, episodes in the '80s and '90s encouraged viewers to call a 1-800 number if they had tips about the mysteries. (Today, calls to that number are disconnected.) But the spirit of engaging audiences lives on with that website. When an episode of the reboot ends, viewers are directed to unsolved.com and, if applicable, a law enforcement agency.
The late Stack's mysterious visage appears in every episode of the Netflix reboot of Unsolved Mysteries, though, as an Easter egg for viewers who are familiar with the original. It's in the beginning, which uses the same theme song.
As a revamped take on the classic logo appears, we see an almost ghostly face surface behind it.
It's Robert Stack: