TV’s recent infatuation with true crime seems to show no sign of fading.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, CBS is in the process of developing a miniseries based on the 1974 Patty Hearst kidnapping case. If picked up to series the untitled scripted Hearst project would join CBS’ other recent true crime order, an unscripted anthology series with the first season centering on the JonBenet Ramsey murder case from 1996.
The limited series will retell the infamous kidnapping of Patty Hearst, granddaughter to news industry mogul William Randolph Hearst, by a terrorist group known as the Symbionese Liberation Army. It will detail her kidnapping and the subsequent 19-month search for Hearst, which experienced further complications when it came to light that Hearst had essentially been converted into a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army and had changed her name to Tania.
Jonathan Tolins (Grease Live!, Queer as Folk) will write the Hearst series and executive produce. Joining Tolins as executive producers are Rocky Lang (Girl Fight, White Squall), Asylum Entertainment CCO Jonathan Koch, Asylum Entertainment CEO Steve Michaels and Asylum Entertainment’s head of scripted television Joan Harrison. The miniseries is produced by CBS Television Studios and Asylum Entertainment.
If the Patty Hearst limited series goes forward, then CBS will be throwing its hat in the already crowded true crime ring. NBC is developing Law & Order: True Crime with the first season set to focus on the Menendez Brothers murder trial, HBO had its Emmy-winning docuseries The Jinx, Netflix has seen success with its compelling, conversation-starting docuseries Making A Murderer and FX rejuvenated widespread interest in the twenty year old Simpson/Goldman murder case with The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.
Oddly enough, the writers behind the first season of American Crime Story are in the process of adapting the Hearst case into a film. Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander are using another of The Run of His Life author Jeffrey Toobin’s books as source material, one called American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst. Another little coincidence tying these projects together is that Hearst’s lawyer was F. Lee Bailey, who was also a member of OJ Simpson’s ‘Dream Team’ legal defense and was portrayed by Nathan Lane in The People v. O.J. Simpson.
Patty Hearst, though obviously most well-known for the events that took place in 1974, has popped up occasionally in television and in movies. Mainly in minor parts, Hearst is probably most notable as being in a handful of iconic cult director John Waters’ films including Pecker, Cry Baby, Serial Mom and Cecil B. Demented. In an LA Times article written during the release of Cry Baby Waters said of Hearsts’ trial, “She had a bad lawyer. He made her plead the Fifth Amendment, which always makes you look guilty. Even I could have gotten her off.”