Netflix has released its new mystery series The observer last week, injecting a little more variety into the real crime genre by focusing on a real stalking incident.
Based on a 2018 article published in The Cut, The observer follows the Brannock family – couple Nora (Naomi Watts) and Dean (Bobby Cannavale) and their teenage children Ellie (Isabel Gravitt) and Carter (Luke David Blumm) – after purchasing their dream home in Westfield, New Jersey. Unfortunately, the family’s excitement soon turns to fear when they start receiving creepy letters from a stalker known only as “The Watcher”.
Although the seven-episode thriller is based on an actual case, it takes some liberties with facts to dramatize the events, a practice that is not uncommon in real criminal entertainment media. However, in the case of The observeronly two of these changes were specifically requested by the family who actually experienced it.
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The real family of “The Watcher”
The real stalking issue on which The observer headquarters began in 2014 and involved Derek and Maria Broaddus and their three young children, who were all under 10 at the time.
The Netflix series adheres to some facts, focusing on a large house located at 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey (although the house used for filming is in New York). The ominous correspondence of the production also raised the text directly from the Observer’s letters.
But unlike their fictional counterparts, the Broaddus family never moved into their new home and were not subjected to escalating hostilities such as raids and harassing phone calls. The former owners also only received a letter from The Watcher, which they had not considered disturbing.
Thankfully, the Broadduses only had to contend with threatening letters and disbelieving neighbors, if that can be called mercy. Even so, it was still a very upsetting and traumatizing incident in the life of the family, and one that they are not eager to relive.
As reported by The Cut, the Broaddus family didn’t want to get involved The observerthe production despite selling the rights to their story to Netflix. Like many other subjects of true criminal entertainment, it is highly likely that they would prefer the series not made at all.
Rather, their decision to sell the rights was so that they would at least have a say in how it was said. This was after Lifetime also released a 2016 movie called The observerwhich was similarly based on the story of the Broadduses but over which they could not stop and over which they had no control.
The two changes required by the real “Watcher” family.
In keeping with their hands-on approach, the Broadduses only had two requests for Netflix production. These were that the series wouldn’t use their real names, and that The observerThe imaginary family did not resemble theirs.
As such, the production gave the series’ family members different names and changed their surname from Broaddus to Brannock. The observer it also changed the family setup to have two older children rather than three elementary school children.
While it’s more of a suggestion than a request, the real Broadduses also noted that they wouldn’t object if the show’s house surrender was reduced to ashes. Judging by the sounds, he probably wouldn’t mind if the real house was burned to the ground as well.
I believe no one can blame them.
The observer is currently available to stream on Netflix.