The Watchman: Another Side of Van Jones on CNN, And a Most Bizarre Crime on Oxygen

Senior content producer Michael Malone’s weekly look at the programming scene
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The Redemption Project With Van Jones, an eight-part series on CNN, offers a glimpse at what is known as the restorative justice process, as the victim of a life-altering crime, or the family of the victim, meets with the offender, with both parties seeking some healing.

The executive producers are Jonas Bell Pasht, Jonah Bekhor and Jason Cohen, and the host is Jones. The producers shot a “proof of concept,” said Bell Pasht, and passed it along to Jones, who they said fell in love with it. “Criminal justice reform, and everything to do with justice, is the most personal and powerful issue for Van,” Bekhor said.

The Redemption Project With Van Jones

The Redemption Project With Van Jones

Airing Sundays, the showdowns include a mother whose son was killed in a drug deal, speaking with a dealer serving a long sentence for the murder; and a man whose teen was killed in a drive-by shooting and the guy who shot the girl. “There were so many tears over the course of making the show, on the set, in the office, in the editing bay,” Bekhor said. “It has had a really profound effect on us.”

The drive-by shooting story, Bell Pasht added, may “haunt me forever.”

Jones is well known as a political commentator, but The Redemption Project shows another side of him. “Viewers will see the charismatic Van they know,” Bell Pasht said. “What they will not see on the show is any politics whatsoever.”

For another compelling look at unthinkable crime, Oxygen debuts The Disappearance of Susan Cox Powell, about a woman who vanished from her Utah home. Husband Josh’s alibi? He took their two sons camping — after Susan went to bed, in the middle of a brutal blizzard.

Two years later, Josh took the lives of their sons, and his own life.

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The case got plenty of coverage when it happened in 2009, but there’s more to it. “The story has no closure,” Rod Aissa, Oxygen executive vice president of original programming and development, said. “What exactly happened to Susan? Was it her husband? Her father-in-law? Some combination of both?”

Oh yeah, the father-in-law, Steven. Oxygen has a batch of videotapes shot by the man, which depicts his sexual obsession with Susan.

Steven died just before show producers went to interview him.

“It’s still open-ended,” Aissa said. “That’s why we wanted to take another crack at it.”

Oxygen promises “alarming new developments, scandalous never-before-seen videos and rare interviews with family members offering a closer than ever look at one of the most shocking cases in recent memory.”

The two-night special goes May 4-5. Aissa warns viewers to be prepared. “I was a puddle of emotion and tears by the end of this,” he said.

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