The real story behind new TV series A Friend of the Family is truly terrifying.

If you reckon sleep is overrated and thrive off spooking yourself senseless (it's me, I'm describing me), then there is a new series about to drop that's basically all your nightmares tied into one neat, unnerving package.

Creepy doesn't even begin to describe A Friend of the Family. 

Oh, and it's based on the true story which was told in Netflix's bone-chilling documentary, Abducted in Plain Sight.

A Friend of the Family premieres on 7Plus later this month, so we've rounded up everything you need to know.

What is A Friend of the Family about? 

The miniseries is a dramatisation of the disturbing story of Jan Broberg, who was kidnapped at the ages of 12 and 14 by a family friend named Robert Berchtold.

The show's creator Nick Antosca was inspired by reading Stolen Innocence: The Jan Broberg Story and watching Netflix's Abducted in Plain Sight. Jan and her mother Mary Ann both served as producers on the show. 

Jan speaks at the start of the series, telling viewers “I want to tell my family’s story today because so many seem to think that something like this could never happen to them, especially at the hands of someone they know and trust,” Jan says in the first episode. “But it did happen. It happened to my family. It happened to me.”

A Friend of the Family stars Girls actor Jake Lacy as Robert Berchtold, Mckenna Grace as Jan Broberg, along with Colin Hanks and Anna Paquin as parents Bob and Mary Ann. 

Watch the trailer for A Friend of the Family. Post continues after video.


Video via 7Plus. 

What is the true story that inspired A Friend of the Family?

What makes this nine-episode limited series especially hard to stomach is that it's entirely based on events that actually happened. A Friend of the Family is the true story of how the Broberg family were manipulated and groomed by Robert Berchtold. 

Bob and Mary Ann met Robert and his wife Gail through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1972. The two families soon merged, with each family's kids enjoying sleepovers together. 

But what was happening under the surface was much more sinister. Robert began a romantic relationship with Mary Anne, meanwhile one day as he confided in Bob over his marital problems, he convinced Bob to perform a sex act on him. 

At the same time, Robert started paying more attention to the Broberg’s eldest daughter, Jan. 

Jan Broberg and Robert Berchtold. Image: Netflix. 


One day in 1974, Robert got Mary Ann’s permission to pick up a 12-year-old Jan and take her horseback riding. 

She didn't come home for five weeks. 

This was the first time Jan was sexually assaulted by Robert, but it wouldn't be the last.

Robert drugged, kidnapped and brainwashed Jan, driving her to a mobile home in the Mexican desert. When Jan awoke, she was tied to a bed with a tape recorder telling the child she had been abducted by an alien. The voice told Jan that to save the planet she had to have a child with Berchtold before her 16th birthday.  

The Brobergs eventually alerted authorities their child was missing. Robert and Jan were found, but he said he'd only return the 12-year-old if the parents gave their permission for her to marry him. 


While the Brobergs didn't agree to this, they did drop the charges against Berchtold after he blackmailed them with exposing the affairs he'd been having with both parents.  

But shockingly, this wasn't the end of Berchtold's involvement in the family. 

Bob Broberg in Abducted in Plain Sight. Image: Netflix. 

Mary Ann had another affair with Robert in 1975, and meanwhile their daughter insisted she still wanted to marry Berchtold. In 1976, Mary Ann allowed Jan to spend two weeks staying with him in Wyoming, and later that year Berchtold abducted Jan again. 


The parents didn't notify the police their daughter was missing until two weeks after the abduction. 

The FBI tracked down Berchtold from tapping his phone. He only served 10 days in prison for the first kidnapping. For the second kidnapping, he was sentenced to spend six months in a mental facility. 

In the years since, he continued to stalk Jan, prompting her to get a lifetime restraining order against him. He died by suicide in 2015 while awaiting sentencing for more crimes. 

Is A Friend of the Family based on Netflix's Abducted In Plain Sight

Parts of it are. The creator was partly inspired by the documentary to take on the project, but the creative team wanted to tell the family's story in a more nuanced and sympathetic way to the sensationalised feature. 

"Abducted in Plain Sight was told in headlines," Jan told The New York Times in 2022. "But 90 minutes was not enough time to address the reality of how people are manipulated, how their children are abused under their noses."

When the Skye Borgman-directed documentary Abducted in Plain Sight was first released in 2017, it became a huge talking point online once it was added to Netflix in 2019.

Where can I watch A Friend of the Family

A Friend of the Family will premiere in Australia in 7Plus on October 25, 2023.

Feature image: 7Plus.