'48 Hours' Turns 30 on CBS

CBS's 48 Hours marks its 30th anniversary when the new season rolls with back to back episodes Saturday, Sept. 30, starting at 9 p.m. The episodes are titled “O.J. Simpson: Endgame” and “The Widow on Solway Road.”

The show of course gives viewers a look inside the investigation, and how the correspondent unpacks the multifaceted story. Susan Zirinsky, senior executive producer, says 48 Hours will offer more of that close-up into the newsgathering process this season. “Journalism has to be a little different,” she says. “We’ll let viewers peek inside a little bit.”

Zirinsky acknowledges the skepticism among some toward the media in this age of fake news, and says opening the door a tiny bit more may help alleviate the cynicism.

The show began as the documentary 48 Hours on Crack Street in 1986, with correspondents chronicling the impact of drug abuse over the course of a weekend. It became a regular series in 1988, and shortened its name to 48 Hours. January officially marks the 30th anniversary, though 48 Hours is celebrating the milestone all season.  

The Simpson episode shines its light on what Zirinsky calls the racial “divide” in the nation, and notes how the debate over kneeling for the national anthem in the NFL shows the split remains broad.

“The arguments [Simpson] ignited rage louder than ever before,” says Zirinsky.

“The Widow on Solway Road” is about Raynella Leath, whose first husband was said to be trampled to death by his own cattle, and whose second husband was a reported suicide. Some wonder if Leath had a hand in their deaths. Zirinsky promises a “legal shocker” at its close.

“The Widow” is the focus of a six-episode podcast as well, hosted by correspondent Erin Moriarty. Zirinsky says the project involved some “extremely heavy lifting,” but is excited to have the 48 Hours brand extend onto another platform. She likens the series to the This American Life smash “Serial.”

Zirinsky came on board at 48 Hours in 1996, and isn’t nearly finished yet. “I wish I wasn’t the age I’m at,” she says. “I’m not anywhere near done.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.