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YMMV / Unsolved Mysteries

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  • Accidental Aesop: By a ways of Values Dissonance, plenty of older cases show why simple everyday errands, such as going to the store on foot, buying a soda from an isolated vending machine and especially a trip to an ATM, should never be done at night.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Other foster children of the Zelinskis have since come forward and claimed that they weren't the wonderful people that Sharon Stevens portrayed them as in the segment. It has been stated that they were often abusive and neglectful to boys in their custody while they conversely doted on girls.
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    • In the segment about missing person Dottie Caylor, her husband Jule comes across as an abusive asshole in his interview when he claims he's glad his wife is gone and doesn't miss her. But he claims this because she apparently made life hell for him, threatening him and being verbally abusive, and he had been offered a job in another city and she didn't want to come with him, so as far as he's concerned she probably just left him and started a new life.
    • While Paul Freshour was painted in a sympathetic light in the Circleville Letters segment, there is ample evidence that he at least participated in the letter writing. The segment uses the fact that the letters continued after Paul was incarcerated as proof of his innocence, but it's perfectly plausible that there were multiple writers.
  • Awesome Music:
    • The theme song, which uses the phrygian musical mode to create what is unquestionably one of the creepiest songs in all television history. Go ahead: find it, put it on an MP3 player or iPod, and walk outside at night.
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    • The originally-aired, non-symphonic version of the song had some subtle differences...that might have made it even creepier.
    • The ending credits music was also extremely haunting. Every single thing about the show's music was awesome, really. Gary Malkin has a long and distinguished career in film scores, atmospheric space music and jazz, but he'll be remembered for this.
    • The show itself used to acknowledge how awesome its theme music was by including a link to the Lifetime-era remix in their website (keep in mind this was during the 2008-2010 era, when said theme music was replaced by generic rock tracks). The site has since been redesigned.
    • Artificial Fear liked it so much he covered it, beautifully.
  • Broken Base: The "Unexplained" segments which profiled stories about possible ghosts, UFO sightings and religious experiencesnote  tend to be among the most controversial. Much of the fanbase thinks they were the most interesting part of the show, while others find them wacky and ridiculous, expressing annoyance that these segments wasted valuable airtime that could have been used to help find a missing person or solve a murder case. Nevertheless, there are plenty of viewers who enjoy the paranormal stories, enough to warrant the production of special DVD boxsets devoted exclusively to them.
  • Critical Research Failure:
    • The sister of Tami Lynn Leppert (who went missing in the 80s) once criticized the UM segment featuring her as they got many facts about her disappearance wrong, from the clothes she was wearing, to the car she was last seen getting into. Her sister also pointed out that Tami was pregnant at the time of her disappearance, but the re-enactment doesn't mention that. Predictably, when the case was shown again years later during the Dennis Farina era, none of the above mistakes were corrected (the era was fond of reusing the same segments from the original series untouched aside from flashy new effects and transitions).
    • Less-than-savory aspects of the lives of some of the murder/missing person stories are also left out, despite the possibility that they could provide information as to who is responsible for their death/disappearance—Dr. Sneha Philip reportedly had a drinking problem and a habit of bar-hopping, either of which could have caused her to meet with foul play, but neither of which is mentioned in the segment.
      • The lengthy piece about the death of Cindy James completely omits the fact that her husband's co-worker, Dr. James Tyhurst, was known for doing similar things to women and was caught, tried and convicted for it less than two years after Cindy's death. The case was thrown out on appeal. The four women he'd tortured brought civil action. He settled for $500,000 each and walked. He is still out there.
    • The "Billy the Kid" segment omits the facts that Brushy Bill's own family denied that he was Billy the Kid, and that then-recent computer analyses of photographs of both men called Brushy Bill's claim into question. Additionally, the show regarded Brushy Bill's claimed age (in 1950) of 91 years as an undisputed fact, when his own family maintained that he had been born in 1879, making him 71 at the time of his death (and only two years old when the 21-year-old Billy the Kid was killed).
    • The Amy Billig segment left out the fact that a man who has since died confessed to her murder on his deathbed, and that authorities consider the confession credible. This actually was included in the Amazon Prime segment as an update, perhaps since Amy's mother has died and her brother has expressed a desire to move on.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: The Alex Cooper segment. It features the story of an elderly traveling salesman who went missing on a business trip. While he was found alive and well, it was revealed that he deliberately abandoned his family for fear that his shady criminal past would come back to haunt him. To add insult to injury, his family also discovered that his identity by which they knew him was a complete fabrication. While the segment update was produced in the typical “happy reunion” fashion, it’s fair to assume his family likely had VERY mixed reactions to the turn of events.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: One segment from the first season focused on a legend surrounding a map that could possibly lead to buried gold. The map had a cipher that required the text from the Declaration of Independence to serve as a key to solving it. Hold on, is this Unsolved Mysteries, or is it National Treasure?
  • Idiot Plot:
    • Jim Boumgarten. This segment revolves around a man who has a doppelganger living in the same city. He keeps getting mistaken by his townspeople for this "twin." Jim wants to know who this person is, so he decides to go on national TV to get to the bottom of this curious mystery...instead of just asking one of his neighbors who they were mistaking him for. It is still debated as to whether this was a gag segment.
    • In the minds of viewers anyway, with missing persons or murders it's often very obvious if one of the interviewees is the guilty party and it will be questioned how they haven't been arrested and charged yet. This goes for many cases where the suspected party was the last one to see the person alive, they've changed their story of what happened, and/or they acted in a suspicious manner after the crime happened. Sometimes mitigated when the investigators on the case state they know who probably did it, but lack enough solid evidence to press charges.
      • The disappearances of Wendy Camp, Cynthia Britto, and Lisa Kregear. The short version is that Wendy married Chad Noe, and after she slipped into a coma in childbirth he divorced her and his mother Beverly got custody of their son Jonathan. After Wendy came out of her coma and re-married, Beverly spent months avoiding letting her visit Jonathan, until one day she invited Wendy to a visit. Wendy attended with her sister Lisa and her daughter Cynthia from a previous marriage, something that upset Beverly on the phone (and she flat refused to let her new husband come). The three went missing that day, with Beverly claiming she dropped them off at a shopping center the last time she saw them. The YouTube upload of the segment includes an update that their remains were found buried on property owned by Beverly's brother, along with a knife and gun; just from reading the description of the case, this should not come as a surprise. Beverly's family also complained they have no idea how Chad's mother got custody of Jonathan when neither Wendy, her parents, nor Chad signed off on it, and custody was never taken away from Beverly after she repeatedly ignored court orders to let Wendy see her son.
  • Just Here for Godzilla:
    • Many viewers, especially the younger ones, watched the show almost solely for its segments on the Unexplained, which were strange and fascinating enough to lead directly into... The current distributors of the show are even fully aware of this trope and have published several "best of" DVDs with nothing but the fantastical mysteries like paranormal events and lost treasures.
    • Plenty of others prefer the "Missing" and "Unexplained Death" segments, despite freely admitting that they're terrified by them—there are several DVDs consistently solely of these types of stories.
  • Most Wonderful Sound:
    • Anytime Robert Stack said "Update!" It usually meant that a mystery had been solved, or at the very least there was a good strong clue. Unless of course, the resolution was a sad one—that a missing person had been found dead, or worse yet, was still missing.
    • Some fans (perhaps old enough to remember The Untouchables or familiar with Stack through his comedy career) report actually experiencing Stack's voice comfortable and reassuring rather than scary. He also clearly felt for the victims and lost loves, spoke warmly about reunions, and showed great interest in the unexplained stories. That tiny smile and barely discernible twinkle in his eyes showed just how much he was enjoying all this, and hoped you did, too.
  • Narm: As miraculous and touching as the segment of the choir members who were spared from their exploding church was, the one reaction of the toddler daughter of one of the church members is this. When the explosion occurred and the town experienced a blackout as a result, her (purported) reaction was a simple, nonplussed "Uh-oh."
  • Paranoia Fuel: Many of the cases about missing or murdered persons are just totally mundane in how it happens. The victim is visiting an ATM, using a payphone, driving down the highway, or just walking to a store a few blocks from their home, and they go missing and are found dead. It's frightening to think that you could be going about your usual routine, and all it takes is for someone with sinister intention to be in the area and you catch their attention...
  • Replacement Scrappy: Dennis Farina, and really anybody who isn't Robert Stack, who unfortunately died in 2003. Strongly averted by Stack himself (there were narrators before him such as Raymond Burr and Karl Malden) thanks to his haunting narration (adding a certain amount of pathos to what may have been otherwise mundane stories), which was completely different to the other hosts.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Matthew McConaughey, Daniel Dae Kim, Hill Harper, Cheryl Hines, Jamieson Price, Doug Jones, and Stephanie Weir all made early appearances on the show.
  • So Bad, It Was Better: As the show's budget and technology improved, the reenactments got better in quality—and less spooky or scary, according to some viewers.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: The theme song draws comparisons to the Halloween theme.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!:
    • Including Virginia Madsen as a co-host didn't go over very well with some viewers.
    • The move to the Lifetime Network meant that nearly all of the scary/awesome paranormal segments were booted off to make room for more "missing loved ones" segments instead. Yup: say goodbye to Bigfoot, UFOs and ghosts and say hello to more families crying and hugging!
    • The 2008-2010 Spike TV run, which was basically comprised of Re-Cut versions of the original episodes, pointlessly featuring outdated stories (mostly the true-crime segments) from the 1987-2002 runs with a plethora of unnecessary video/audio effects added, Robert Stack swapped out for Dennis Farina, and the iconic theme song and background music replaced with generic rock tracks. The announcement that they were going to focus on "male-oriented" stories had even male fans snarking on discussion boards.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: While the series profiled a number of well-known historical mysteries, many fans have expressed disappointment that they never did a segment on the JFK assassination. The production team addressed this years later, stating that the story had been profiled enough that UM's airtime would be better spent on other things.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • It may be a little jarring to viewers when cases that involve people growing marijuana are treated with the same level of horror by the show as criminals that commit murder, rape, robbery, etc.
    • A large number of the stories about adopted children looking for their parents always mention how the kid was often abandoned by their young mother. While being a single teen mother isn't ideal nowadays, it's rarely "abandon your child" horrible. In several cases, the children were split up and put in foster care because the parents were working, leaving the oldest to care for siblings. This used to be quite normal.
    • The Camilla/Cam Lyman story. Born biologically female, Camilla transitioned to a man in the late 1970s and early '80s: he legally changed his name to Cam and apparently underwent hormone treatments as it's mentioned he grew facial hair. Cam would probably be identified as a transgender man if the segment were to air today, yet even in 1999, at the time the segment first aired, Cam was portrayed as an eccentric woman who enjoyed "posing as" a man just because "she" could. The show also described Cam with female pronouns, whereas male pronouns would likely be used today.
    • One segment, titled "Black and Blue", involved an interracial couple (John Elias, who was black, and Eleanor Platt, who was white), forcibly separated by her parents in The '50s, who, decades later, were looking for the daughter Eleanor was forced to put up for adoption. (They did find her, thanks to the program, and reunited as friends.) Nowadays, many people, especially parents, would object to the forbidden relationship for a reason entirely unrelated to race — at the time, he was twenty-nine while she was only seventeen. (In earlier times, a wide age gap could be perfectly normal, especially since men were expected to support women and would take their time to build a career and save some money before pursuing marriage and family.)
    • The Dottie Caylor segment was a bit awkward, to say the least. On its face it was a pretty standard missing persons story, featuring a shy, agoraphobic woman disappeared after boarding a train. However, the segment includes an interview with her husband Jule, who makes no bones about the fact that he despised Dottie and he's happy she is gone. He even goes so far as to admit that he threatened her with a knife in supposed self-defense, and that he regretted not killing her when he had the chance. For a show that usually took great pains to paint missing people in a positive light, it is truly bizarre that they included Jule's interview in the segment.
    • Robert Stack sometimes used the term "retarded" when referring to any person in the show that was mentally handicapped. Back then, this was the proper word, used by doctors, and considered to be a sympathetic, kindly description, replacing "moron" or "idiot" (which had once been non-offensive medical words as well).
  • The Woobie: Charles Holden. Imagine experiencing a life-threatening altercation with a hitchhiker, finding your mother brutally murdered, and then being in a police interrogation room accused of your mother's murder...ALL IN THE SAME NIGHT. It is a wonder how the man can still stand on two feet after going through such a thing.


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