‘Murder in the Family’ Premiere: Geraldo Rivera on Celebrities Who’ve Suffered Family Tragedies

Geraldo Riverera

Controversial journalist Geraldo Rivera, who got his start as a WABC news reporter in 1970s New York City, is back on the crime beat to delve into tragedies striking celebrities.

Here, he talks about his “respectful” new Reelz series, Murder in the Family, and how it feeds the “never-ending appetite” for true crime.

The first episode is about Jennifer Hudson. Three family members were shot and killed by her former brother-in-law in 2008. Why this story?

Geraldo Rivera: What is most interesting is how she was able to pick up the pieces of a broken life, the taking of her mom and her little nephew in such a horrific and public way. For the first time we get to see her as the embattled heroine whose family had this malignant dysfunction that resulted in a tragic ending.

American Crime Story’s Gianni Versace and O.J. Simpson seasons were high-profile projects. Is there anything left to tell about these extensively covered tragedies?

When the story cools, that’s when you get the best analysis — when everyone isn’t piling on trying to get one more nugget of information, [when you have] the perspective of a couple of years. [And we carry] a historian’s burden to tell the story accurately and completely.

Did you come up against any problems?

Dave Navarro [of Jane’s Addiction] has already told his own story [of his mother’s 1983 murder], so he wasn’t particularly keen to have the story told again. Sometimes it is very difficult for someone who has suffered these traumas to open doors that contain so much pain.

What’s the takeaway for viewers?

You will think more positively about the celebrity you thought you knew. They grow in your esteem. Kelsey Grammer [whose father died in a 1968 shooting and whose sister was raped and brutally murdered in ’75], Woody Harrelson [whose dad killed a judge in 1979] — how much can someone go through and still go on and make people laugh?

Geraldo Rivera’s Murder in the Family, Series Premiere, 9/8c, Reelz