The Watcher, a new mystery show on Netflix that focuses on a confirmed case of stalking and came out last week, gives the true crime genre a little more variety.
The Watcher follows the Brannock family—Nora (Naomi Watts), Dean (Bobby Cannavale), and their teenagers Ellie (Isabel Gravitt) and Carter (Luke David Blumm)—after they buy their dream home in Westfield, New Jersey. Unfortunately, the family’s excitement quickly turns to fear when they start getting disturbing letters from a stalker, only known as “The Watcher.”
Even though the seven-episode thriller is based on a real case, it does change some facts to make the story more interesting.
This is a common thing for authentic crime entertainment to do. But in The Watcher, only two of these changes were made because the family who lived through it asked for them. The real stalking case that inspired The Watcher started in 2014 with Derek, Maria Broaddus, and their three young children, all under ten years old.
Some facts are used in the Netflix show, which is about a big house at 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey (though the house used for filming is in New York). The production’s threatening letters also used text from the real Watcher’s letters.
But unlike their fictional counterparts, the Broaddus family never moved into their new home and didn’t have to deal with increasing hostility like break-ins and annoying phone calls. The previous owners only got one letter from The Watcher, which they didn’t think was a bad sign.
Mercifully, all the Broaddus had to deal with were threatening letters and neighbours who didn’t believe them. Even so, it was still a very upsetting and traumatic event for the family, and they don’t want to think about it again.
The Cut said that even though Netflix bought the rights to their story, the Broaddus family did not want to be involved in making The Watcher. Like many other people who have been the focus of actual crime shows, likely, they’d instead the series hadn’t been made at all.
Instead, they sold the rights so they could still have some say in how the story was told. This happened after Lifetime put out a movie in 2016 called The Watcher, which was also based on the Broaddus’ story but which they couldn’t stop and had no say over.
The actual “Watcher” family asked for two changes.
In line with their hands-off style, the Broaddus only had two requests for the Netflix show. The first was that the show wouldn’t use their real names, and the second was that the family in The Watcher wouldn’t look like theirs. “Catching Killers,” a Netflix show, talks to detectives who worked on real-life crimes.
So, the people in the show were given different names, and their family name was changed from Broaddus to Brannock. The Watcher also changed the family, so there were now two older children instead of three younger ones.
The real Broaddus family also said, more as a suggestion than a request, that they wouldn’t mind if the house in the show were burned to the ground. From what they said, they wouldn’t care if the actual place was torn down, either.
In my opinion, no one could blame them.