Warning: This article contains some light spoilers for the first four episodes of Binge's The Staircase.
If I had to describe The Staircase to someone completely unfamiliar with the original case, I would probably tell them it's the equivalent of a true crime turducken.
For those of you playing along at home, a turducken refers to a dish in which a deboned chicken is stuffed into a deboned duck, which is then stuffed into a deboned turkey.
In this analogy, HBO's new drama series The Staircase, which stars Colin Firth and Toni Collette as Michael and Kathleen Peterson, is the turkey. The original documentary, also named The Staircase, which was initially released in 2004, with a sequel released in 2013, and a followup commissioned by Netflix in 2018, is the duck. And the real-life incident, in which North Carolina business executive Kathleen Peterson was found dead at the bottom of a set of stairs in her sprawling suburban home on December 9, 2001, is the chicken.
Watch the trailer for Binge's The Staircase. Post continues below.
This three-layered stuffing means that many people were already heavily invested in the mysterious death of Kathleen Peterson, her husband Michael's 2003 conviction, and everything that came after, before they had even watched the first episode of the new series.
This case holds a special place in the heart of true crime fans because The Staircase is probably the docuseries which spurned the true crime genre, which is now such a pivotal part of pop culture.
Without The Staircase, there probably wouldn't be Making A Murderer or The Jinx. Or even Serial season one. There definitely wouldn't be Tiger King.
The Staircase piqued our interest in true crime and made it 'cool' to be interested in the untimely, grisly deaths of strangers and the mysteries surrounding those deaths.
Don't get me wrong, people were always interested in murder and the macabre, but The Staircase was the first step in that interest going mainstream.
From the beginning, The Staircase was more than just a documentary, or even a real-life crime. It spurned countless podcast episodes and YouTube videos. Think pieces and recaps. It made its way into dinner party conversations, and in its later installments, group chats.
Michael Peterson became a figure that was larger-than-life. He felt like a character in a HBO series, long before he was one. His legal team, and the family members who allowed themselves to be filmed for the docuseries, also became a cast of characters.