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TLC goes in different direction with Chandra Levy movie

January 21, 2011 | 11:16 am

Looks as though TLC is branching out.

After finding great success with reality shows such as "Cake Boss," "Sister Wives" and, of course, "Jon & Kate plus 8," TLC is going to make a "docu-movie" about the Chandra Levy case. Levy was a Bureau of Prisons intern who was murdered in 2001 while in Rock Creek Park.

LEVY After Levy went missing, attention focused on Congressman Gary Condit (D-Calif.), to whom she was linked romantically. While Condit has never said whether he was involved with Levy, he denied having anything to do with her death. The subsequent media storm drove him out of office.

Years later, another suspect emerged and last November that man -- Ingmar Guandique -- finally was convicted of her murder. The conviction came in part after a lengthy Washington Post series revisited the case and analyzed missteps by the police. The Washington Post also noted that the "police investigation was overwhelmed with the white-hot media coverage fueled by the possible involvement of Rep. Gary Condit, a congressman from California."

For TLC, which has emerged as a powerhouse for parent Discovery Communications, this is the latest step away from its reality bread and butter and seems to be a sign that it wants to branch into territory occupied by other cable channels. Lifetime, for example, lives on this sort of ripped-from-the-headline fare and recently found success with a movie about the so-called "Craig's List Killer."

Next Sunday, TLC goes after History Channel with its own documentary about the Kennedys featuring home movies of the family.

TLC said its Chandra Levy program "weaves dramatizations with original on-camera interviews to recount the events surrounding Levy’s sudden disappearance." In other words, they'll hire an actress to play Levy and show her jogging in the park.

As tragic as Levy's murder was, one wonders whether it would have received the media attention it did almost 10 years ago or whether TLC would be revisiting the case now without the Condit connection. Hopefully TLC's program will focus on the media's role in slowing an investigation as well as the goofs police made rather than just seek to capitalize on the 10-year anniversary of a tabloid story.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Chandra Levy. Credit: Associated Press.