Dan Abrams

Patrick T. Fallon

Gio Benitez

Patrick T. Fallon
Fill 1
Fill 1
March 01, 2021
In The Mix

Survival Skills

With real-life videos, an A&E series proves it pays to keep cool during a crime.

Ann Farmer

A Florida car-service driver is giving a ride to two men and a boy when one of the passengers becomes belligerent.

As recorded by the vehicle's dashcam, the man starts castigating the driver about the plastic partition meant to separate the front and back seats. He reaches for the flimsy barrier. What happens next is terrifying, but the driver, it turns out, is no pushover.

I Survived a Crime takes a fresh twist on the well-trod crime reality genre. The new A&E series presents short crime stories that meet two criteria: they must feature victims who lived to tell the tale, as well as footage of the assault — whether from surveillance cameras, cellphones or the like — so viewers can fully appreciate these adrenalin-charged situations.

"This is not a show about vigilante justice," stresses Dan Abrams, an executive producer of the 20-episode series; he is also anchor for ABC News and was the host of A&E's Live P.D. "It's about what an ordinary person does when put in extraordinary circumstances."

Beyond the car-service attack, the premiere episode features several other harrowing events: a father and his two kids, trying to pull out of a parking spot, are set upon by a pack of troublemakers. A property manager, confronted by a tenant wielding a gun, begs for his life. A sleeping homeowner jumps into action when her house is invaded in the middle of the night.

The clips, while intense, tend to be abbreviated. And since they tell only part of the story, host Gio Benitez (who's also an ABC News correspondent) fills in many of the blanks. He provides context, gives background on the perpetrators and queries the victims about what went through their heads. And if the case has gone to trial, he provides a wrap-up of the legal outcome.

Sometimes there is no satisfying resolution — only lingering consequences. The family that endured the attempted carjacking, for instance, was left with a damaged vehicle and traumatized psyches. When the police failed to identify the chief legal affairs main assailant, the father took it upon himself to conduct his own sleuthing.

"We've tried to elevate the storytelling side of it," says Abrams, who expects these crime scenarios to make viewers think: how might I react in a similar situation?

"A lot of people can relate to the dad in his car trying to protect his children," Abrams says, noting that the father did what he could to prevent the situation from escalating. "The number one thing is: keep your cool."

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine Issue No. 1, 2021

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