CBS Orders Unscripted True-Crime Anthology Starting With JonBenet Ramsey Case (Exclusive)

Emmy winner Tom Forman and Critical Content will produce the series, which is targeted for fall 2016 and pegged to the 20-year anniversary of her death.
Newscom; Courtesy of PMK*BNC
Ramsey, left, and Forman

CBS is looking for its own Making a Murderer/American Crime Story.

A day after NBC greenlighted a Law & Order true-crime scripted anthology and two days after FX's American Crime Story ended its run, CBS is in final negotiations for an untitled unscripted anthology focusing on a different case each season, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. The first season will focus on the JonBenet Ramsey murder case and could premiere as soon as this fall — timed to the 20th anniversary of the death of the 6-year-old beauty pageant regular.

Emmy winner Tom Forman (48 Hours, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition) and Critical Content are onboard to produce the series. While the subject will change every season, Forman and Critical Content will remain as producers. A title and episode count have not yet been determined, though sources say it will be a limited run similar to Netflix's 10-episode phenomenon Making a Murderer. CBS and Forman's camp declined comment.

The untitled project will reunite the original investigators in the Ramsey case as well as new experts who all re-examine the unsolved case from 20 years ago.

Ramsey was found slain in her Boulder, Colo., home in 1996. Police found her body in the basement of the family's home eight hours after she had been reported missing. The 6-year-old was found struck on the head and strangled. Colorado officials initially suspected JonBenet's parents and her older brother of being involved in her death; the family was partially exonerated in 2003 when DNA taken from the victim's clothing suggested they were not involved. Her parents were completely cleared in July 2008. A year later, the Boulder Police Department took the case back from the D.A. and reopened the investigation. After several grand jury hearings, JonBenet's slaying remains unsolved.

The CBS unscripted series comes as true-crime fare has become the hottest trend on the small screen following the breakout success of HBO's The Jinx, Netflix's Murderer and podcast Serial. On Wednesday, NBC joined the fray when it announced it was teaming with prolific producer Dick Wolf for Law & Order: True Crime, with the first season of the anthology set to focus on the Menedez brothers, who were found guilty of murdering their parents in 1996.

FX has found critical and ratings success with Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk's American Crime Story, with the recently wrapped first season focusing on the O.J. Simpson trial. Season two, which has not yet officially been greenlighted, will focus on Hurricane Katrina.

The true-crime phenomenon can also be seen on the pilot side after the genre was one of the hottest trends this past development season. Among the projects are ABC's The Jury, a short-order series starring The Good Wife Emmy winner Archie Panjabi that will focus on a different jury and different case each season.

Serial, meanwhile, is also being adapted for TV, though a network has yet to be announced.

Forman is repped by WME.

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