Is HBO Max’s The Staircase based on the Netflix documentary series?

Colin Firth, Toni Collette in The Staircase - Cr. HBO Max
Colin Firth, Toni Collette in The Staircase - Cr. HBO Max /

In May, HBO Max is set to premiere The Staircase, an upcoming true-crime drama series starring an incredible cast that includes Toni Collette, Colin Firth, Rosemarie DeWitt, Juliette Binoche, Parker Posey, Sophie Turner, Odessa Young, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Dane DeHaan, Olivia DeJonge, Michael Stuhlbarg and Tim Guinee.

Based on the true story of crime writer Michael Peterson who was convicted of murdering his wife Kathleen Peterson, The Staircase sounds like it will be a massive hit for HBO. But Netflix fans have started wondering why HBO is seemingly adapting a Netflix Original docuseries for their network. Let’s take a look into whether or not that is actually true.

Is HBO Max’s The Staircase based on the Netflix documentary series?

The answer is a little complicated, but in short, yes, the series is based on the documentary series that you can watch on Netflix. But the original docuseries is not technically an entire in-house Netflix Original. The 2004 French television miniseries documented the Peterson trial and the crime.

The Staircase was a very well-received docuseries that helped start the true-crime phenomenon. It was so popular that the series was restarted multiple times, with additional episodes added through 2018.

In 2004, the series was created by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, the Oscar-winning filmmaker behind Murder on a Sunday Morning. It later premiered on Canal+, BBC Four and the Sundance Channel.

Years later, in 2012, Lestrade returned to the case and followed up on the Peterson family with additional developments later released in a two-hour sequel to the original docuseries. Then in 2018, Netflix got involved, adding three new episodes with even more updates to the story.

Netflix consolidated all installments into one complete series running at 13 episodes. You can watch the whole tale right now on the streaming service. It’s the easiest way to catch up with it since everything is all in one place.

So, in short, yes, HBO Max is adapting a Netflix documentary series, but that’s a very generic way of looking at it since the series started as something different before the streamer got involved. Oddly, Netflix didn’t think to make a scripted series out of it first.

This is not the first time the Netflix docuseries has been referenced, as the short-lived NBC sitcom Trial & Error parodied elements of the case and show.

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