TV Review: 'The Widower' Will Have Every 'Dateline' Fan Riveted

The Widower Key Art Promo Poster

If you have watched many episodes of “Dateline,” then you know that the truth is often stranger than fiction -- as in a lot stranger. So, it comes as little surprise that the producers behind TV’s perennial true crime newsmagazine have created a riveting three-night event in “The Widower.” The miniseries chronicles a mind-blowing real-life crime saga that will have viewers on edge.

“The Widower” starts airing tonight, Thursday, February 18, at 10 p.m. ET on NBC. It will unfold over three (non-sequential) nights, with Friday and Sunday’s episodes beginning at 9 p.m. ET. The event concludes on Sunday. Now to the question you undoubtedly want to know at this point. What is “The Widower” about?

The docuseries picks up with a 911 call made in Las Vegas, Nevada, circa May 2008. Calling in is a man claiming to have killed an alleged home intruder, who the man claims he walked in on after the intruder had shot and killed his wife, Sharon. Before long, that man, Thomas Randolph, is talking to police, and suspicion quickly grips detectives.

In a surprising twist, “The Widower” is literally there almost from the get-go as a shocking case emerges. One that cameras capture over the course of ten years. The story “The Widower” ultimately uncovers makes “Dirty John” pale in comparison as Thomas Randolph’s past is dragged from the shadows and into the light.

As detectives busy themselves trying to put the pieces together, a quest for the truth also begins for Sharon’s daughter, Colleen Beyer. Colleen is interviewed in real-time, while footage also captures her in the immediate aftermath of her mother’s murder. It is a tough real-life scene that true crime series rarely capture.

The Widower Colleen Beyer Daughter of Sharon Randolph NBC

The hairs on the back of your neck will stand at attention at one point as Thomas Randolph comes into close quarters with Colleen after the murders. It is a startling moment as it is practically unheard of for such a scene to get captured on-camera in real-time. Usually, a story like that gets told from an entirely reflective viewpoint. “The Widower” provides the latter as well.

All the while, the docuseries also captures the stark awkwardness of that and other encounters, causing “The Widower” to stand out even more. It is “Dateline” on steroids, albeit without the colorful narration and interviews conducted by the show’s fan-favorite correspondents: Keith Morrison, Josh Mankiewicz, Dennis Murphy, and Andrea Canning.

“The Widower” opts for something more in the vein of the recent “Unsolved Mysteries” reboot as interview subjects more or less talk right into the camera. What transpires is a fascinating in-depth look at an investigation as it builds from the ground up. The detectives’ determination and grit are on as full a display as an episode of “True Detective.”

Never Miss A Post!

Those familiar with “Dateline” will undoubtedly relish this fascinating and fantastically-crafted spinoff of sorts. As someone who never purposely misses an episode of “Dateline,” this viewer found it to be a perfect companion piece. After all, “The Widower” features most of the facets that make “Dateline” my highest-rated true crime newsmagazine. 

Hopefully, NBC does more projects like “The Widower.” I have to believe that can happen. The first two parts were provided to the press for screening. So, where this intense case leads is anyone’s guess. One thing is for certain. I will be watching on Sunday night to find out. My instincts tell me that movies featuring a “Dateline-esque” plot cannot keep up.

The Widower” premieres Thursday, February 18 at 10 p.m. ET on NBC. Parts 2 and 3 air Friday (February 19) and Sunday (February 21), starting at 9 p.m. ET on NBC, aka the home of “The Blacklist.”