Review: Truth Be Told

Truth Be Told is a thirty episode series across three seasons on Apple TV. It is Apple’s attempt at prestige television alongside HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc. As far as drama series goes, it is actually an intriguing, well executed on nearly all levels show. It also happens to be the epitome and best presentation of what is wrong with the current streaming era.

The basic premise of Truth Be Told is Poppy Parnell (played brilliantly by the always excellent Octavia Spencer), an award winning journalist, restarts her true crime podcast that won her fame, fortune, and acclaim to look into a decades old case that jumpstarted her rise to prominence. After seeing another appeal fail, she begins to question the validity of the trial’s outcome and her own part in reporting on the facts. As the first season progresses, Poppy learns that her biases and investigations may have led to a miscarriage of justice and is desperate to pursue and discover the actual truth of the events she witnessed and played a part in. As well, she is dealing with her return back home to Oakland and reintegrating back into her old neighborhood and place in her family, some of which are prominent members of the Oakland criminal community. The second and third season continue on in similar fashion as Poppy investigates crimes she is connected to in some way and discovers and deals with uncomfortable and, at times, ground breaking truths about her own past and family.

I wish more true crime podcasts were like this fictional one.

Beyond her personal journey, the series also takes on specific cases in each season that intersect with major social issues like race, homelessness, sexual assault, law enforcement corruption at various levels, sex trafficking of young girls, and many, many more. Now, there is an obvious perspective and take that the show develops. Whatever term you want to use, the series goes with the opinion that social ills are bad and should be dealt with with impunity. The series, through Poppy’s podcast and the perspective of her family and Oakland community, essentially tries to highlight the inequalities of the system and status quo and navigate these issues to the benefit of the disenfranchised. It also demonstrates how and why the oppressed and disenfranchised at times have to use criminal action and violence, or at least the threat of these, to try to get justice and attention to the issue. This is not done or shown without consequence, but it is still understandable why it is done.

So, the show is engaging with a truly stellar cast across the board and all three seasons. It has prescient and timely stories that deal with current societal issues and narratives. The music, score, and sound is pitch perfect (pun fully intended). The cinematography shows that money was definitely spent on the production. All in all, this is exactly the kind of show that should have been in conversation, if not in contention, every awards season. It should have had several think pieces written throughout its three season run. Various niche portions of social media should have been dissecting and discussing this series ad nauseum. And yet, my guess is that most people, even the ones reading this right now, have never heard of this series. A show from one of the biggest companies and streamers on the market starring award winning actors is barely in the know simply because of lack of actual marketing and push because some number cruncher in an office somewhere did the math of how many more subscribers it would draw or keep based on the level of marketing would be spent. This was the result.

Thus, an engaging prestige level show has ended with little attention or fanfare. To be clear, this is also part of what the WGA and the various other unions are fighting back against. I would recommend watching this one on Apple TV+ before the fruit corporation decides to remove it for tax purposes as every other streamer has begun doing.

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