Scene of the Crime With Tony Harris is Investigation Discovery’s new hit documentary series.
With each episode, Emmy-winning host and investigative filmmaker Tony Harris takes viewers deep into America’s heartland hometowns and secret-filled back streets to uncover the truth about notorious crimes that took place there.
CrimeFeed caught up with Tony and he graciously talked with us about this first extraordinary season of Scene of the Crime.
CRIMEFEED: The show’s tagline is instantly compelling: “Every crime has more than one story.” Can you tell us about any particular story — or stories — that initially inspired you?
TONY HARRIS: In the Jodi Parrick hour that kicks off our season, you’re meeting a mother who is still, all these years later, wracked with guilt and pain over the loss of her daughter.
And then there’s the moment you realize, a completely innocent man has also had his life destroyed in the course of the investigation of that murder.
Well, at this point you don’t want just one story. You want the whole story, right? How did law enforcement get it so wrong … that you now have another victim? An innocent man!
All of our stories are like that. On one level you’re like, “That can’t be all there is to that story.” So what we do is we drill down. We push and prod and coax.
There are times we hug it out. There are tears a-plenty. And you know what? There are times in this series where I’m so damn confused, I just need to take a walk or a drive to reset things in my head. Reporting Scene of the Crime has been that kind of a ride!
How did you go about selecting the specific cases for this new series?
We were given a wonderful challenge by ID. And that was to expand the range of stories told effectively and in a compelling way on the channel. So we set out to find stories that revealed distinct worlds. TV talk, right? So what does that mean?
For us, a world could be a small town, an extended family, a unique social circle. A device — a cellphone — becomes a world in one of our episodes this season.
This is definitely a “lean in” and pay-attention-or-you’ll-miss-something show. Our hope is that you’ll watch these episodes at least twice to get all of the great storytelling that is packed into these hours.
So we’ve set a high bar for stories to make the cut, and we had an amazing amount of good fortune in finding dense and nuanced stories for this season.
As a viewer, each episode of Scene is extremely emotional — even devastating. We can only imagine what that must have been like for you. How was it to make this series?
I will tell you that by the third episode I was emotionally drained. And here’s the thing: I didn’t see it coming.
I knew these stories were powerful when we booked flights to tell them. But there is an intensity to this reporting that is different than anything I’ve done before. When you ask “the” question of people who have had their lives turned upside down, you’d better be ready for a flood of emotions to come your way.
From sadness to anger to gut-wrenching pain to guilt … I heard it all in reporting this series. I would be lying if I told you I wrapped this season of Scene of the Crime unaffected. I wrapped this series and ran to the nearest beach I could find! Your boy needed to decompress!
Without any specific spoilers, what were some of the biggest surprises that struck you as you were investigating and filming Scene of the Crime?
I can think of three. First is how real a thing police “tunnel vision” is and how it can distort investigations and compromise the justice seeking process.
Secondly, I was struck by how our wants and desires can lead us into patterns of bad decision making that can potentially compromise our lives. Along with that, I found myself stunned by how often we don’t heed clear warning signs of trouble or danger.
And here’s the big one: Once again I was reminded of how devastating the loss of a loved one is for a family and for the friends of that victim.
In each episode, people who lived through the unthinkable are empowered to share their experiences. Is there anything you’d like to say to the participants — as well as to viewers who will now come to have a deeper understanding of what may have seemed to be “closed cases”?
So many people are connected to the stories we tell on Scene of the Crime. For me, a heartfelt thank you to all of them doesn’t seem quite enough to capture the sense of gratitude I feel, but let’s start there.
What’s more difficult than sharing the details of the worst moments of your life with someone you’re meeting for the first time? And to the families and the friends of the victims and to law enforcement seeking justice for these families, I say thank you for such deep sharing.
If I owe my longevity in this business to any one thing it’s an ability to meet people where they live and have honest conversations with them. I think the audience will see those connections form as we work through each episode together. At the end of an episode of Scene of the Crime, I hope you feel we’ve taken a pretty difficult but enlightening journey together.
Watch full episodes of Scene of the Crime with Tony Harris on Sundays at 10/9c or on ID GO.
Main photo: Tony Harris, Scene of the Crime With Tony Harris [Investigation Discovery]