Investigation Discovery Orders Scripted True Crime Series 'The Von Bulow Affair'

The six-part Universal Cable Productions drama is based on the book of the same name.
Courtesy of Open Road Media

Investigation Discovery is continuing its push into scripted programming.

The Discovery-owned cabler has ordered Universal Cable Production's six-part scripted true crime series The Von Bulow Affair (working title), The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Based on Williams Wright's book of the same name, The Von Bulow Affair drama chronicles one of the murder trials of Danish-born aristocrat Claus von Bulow who attempted to murder his heiress wife Sunny twice by insulin overdose to inherit her millions and marry his mistress. Although her death was initially suspected to be an overdose, her son Alex and daughter Ala spearheaded a private investigation that ultimately convinced the Rhode Island D.A. to make their stepfather a suspect in her murder.

Claus’ murder trial was considered one of the most scandalous and sensational of the 1980s. His first conviction was overturned by appeal and a second trial found him not guilty. However, many still believe he’s to blame for his wife's eventual death in 2008, more than 25 years after she fell into a persistent vegetative state. The series will examine the subsequent fall of America’s aristocracy through the demise of one of its last dynastic families.

The famed case also served as the inspiration for the 1990 Glenn Close-Jeremy Irons film Reversal of Fortune, for which Irons won the Oscar for best actor.

Former New York Times writer Ilene Rosenzweig (Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce) will write the project, and exec produce with Meryl Poster (Chicago, Cider House Rules) and ID’s Angela Bromstad. The series is produced by UCP.

Like several other Discovery-owned properties, ID has pushed aggressively into scripted in the last two years. In 2015, the channel ordered its first scripted mini, the three-part Serial Thriller. Last year, the network expanded into scripted movies with two projects, The Dating Game Killer and Final Vision.

The Von Bulow Affair was as much a true crime whodunit as it was a family drama that opened the ‘mansion door’ on the dark deeds of, arguably, one of society’s most infamous villains,” said Discovery Group president Henry Schleiff.  “We are thrilled to partner with the talented team at Universal Cable Productions and acclaimed producer Meryl Poster to tell this nearly unbelievable story to an entirely new generation of viewers.”

The Von Bulow Affair is a key off-network sale for UCP, which began developing the project early last year. In addition to its nearly dozen series produced in-house for USA, Syfy, Bravo and E!, the studio produces Difficult People for Hulu.

“The Von Bulow family story has long fascinated America and the world. There are so many compelling, probing and conflicting facts from what we know that makes it a worthy story to dig into once again," said UCP executive vp development Dawn Olmstead. “ID is the ideal partner for this story with their commitment to investigating history’s greatest true crime stories.”

True crime, both scripted and unscripted, continues to be a hot trend. FX has two new seasons of American Crime Story in the pipeline, NBC is working on Law & Order: True Crime. Oxygen also recently announced a crime-focused brand revamp.

The Von Bulow Affair was announced Tuesday as part of ID’s annual Upfront presentation in New York.

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