"You out there. You, who think you have committed the perfect crime...that there are no clues, no witnesses…listen: Somebody knows.”
No, knowers, that‘s not the new tagline for your favorite podcast here. But it is part of the opening of the CBS radio show Somebody Knows—which ran for eight episodes in the summer of 1950.
That’s right knowers, there’s an OG Somebody Knows !
I only just learned the existence of it today. Interestingly, the radio show Somebody Knows was also a true crime program. But where our podcast is a review (and now discussions) of mysteries and cold cases from the well-known to the obscure, the 1950 series was basically TV’s Americas Most Wanted combined with Unsolved Mysteries. It featured weekly dramatizations of unsolved murder investigations, presenting facts with the goal solving the case by offering listeners a $5,000 reward for information that would lead to the capture of the featured case’s killer.
Now, here’s the fun part: That reward? Purportedly, that was coming out of series producer Jimmy Saphier’s own pocket. With eight episodes airing that summer, if all eight featured crimes were solved through information or clues provided by the audience, he was possibly on the hook for $40,000—equal to almost $41,000,000 today!
I’ll say it right now, knowers: don’t hold your breath for that on our show any time soon.
What was it like, you ask? Fortunately for you all, I let curiosity get the best of me and I’ve listened to all the episodes available online. (I mean, I had to. Finding out about a true crime audio show form over 70 years ago called Somebody Knows is like one of those thriller/horror stories where the lead finds a hundred year old painting of someone who looks just like her—you know it won’t turn out well for her, but she just has to uncover the connection!)
It has Dragnet-style narration that’s overwritten and talky in a trying-too-hard-to-explain-everything way. Calling the stories dramatized is a bit of a stretch. The actors work with what they’ve got, but the point of it all is to convey facts, not portray characters, so everyone sounds like they’re either reporting or lecturing, not interacting or conversing. For a show trying to be salacious, they’re a little timid on the details, but I guess that’s maybe the more the discretion of the time. The organ music… well, that’s got to go. And, wow, do they really hammer the reward aspect of the program in the opening and closing bits.
In spite of all that, I have to admit, it was interesting to listen to such an early example of the same kind of show I’m doing here. If you want to give it a listen yourself, here's a link to the episode where they tackled the (at the time still-recent) Black Dahlia murder.
I won’t say it’s necessarily good, but it’s an interesting look at what’s come before.