The Abducted in Plain Sight documentary tells the story in a much more pragmatic way than the Peacock series.
If you watch Peacock’s new limited series “A Friend of the Family,” you no doubt do so in disbelief. Following the life of the Brobergs, an Idaho family whose oldest daughter, Jan, is twice kidnapped by a family friend, the series is heartbreaking and wild. So wild, in fact, that the real Jan Broberg introduces the first episode, apparently in part to dispel claims that the story is heavily fictionalized. It’s easy to see why if you’re familiar with the 2017 documentary “Abducted in Plain Sight,” which details the same story.
“Abducted in Plain Sight” tells the story in a much more business-like way than the Peacock series, which ends each episode with a disclaimer that certain events are included for dramatic effect (although it’s unclear how the story could get more dramatic). So what was added? Let’s look at what “Family Friend” gets and what it doesn’t.
Editor’s Note: Because this is based on true events, spoilers for “A Friend of the Family” are included.
Did Mary Ann Broberg have an affair with Robert Berchtold? DO.
In “Abducted in Plain Sight”, Mary Ann Broberg is candid about her romantic relationship with Berchtold and how his actions have harmed her daughter and her family. Two years before the abduction, Berchtold and Mary Ann took a religious trip to Utah, where a romantic relationship developed. Mary Ann’s affair with Berchtold lasted eight months, and during that time Berchtold visited Jan nine times and spent two nights alone with her.
Did Jan voluntarily fly to meet Berchtold? DONE (rather)
The series portrays Jan’s second kidnapping as its own action, with the teenager flying to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. In reality, Mary Ann put Jan on that plane, knowing she would see Berchtold. As the real Mary Ann said, she was as brainwashed and manipulated as Jan.
Was Robert Berchtold a pedophile? DO
The series does not show any scenes of child abuse, although the documentary bluntly states that Berchtold was a child molester who sexually assaulted Jan when she was around 12 years old. way – where he mentions having had a physical affection with Jan from the first minute he saw her.
The tapes are filled with flowery, poetic language that is disgusting to listen to. The concept of Berchtold needing to spend time with Jan as part of a therapy regimen was pretty involved, as the doc says. Berchtold told Jan’s father that he had sex with his aunt when he was four and needed to see the girl to reprogram his brain. He slept in her bed with her four times a week for six months.
Was Robert Berchtold’s brother reluctant to work with the FBI? FICTION
In “Abducted in Plain Sight”, Berchtold’s brother says he didn’t hesitate to help the FBI, despite what the Peacock series shows. He admits that everyone on their side of the family knew Berchtold was a pedophile. Apparently Berchtold molested his sister when she was 6 years old and had previously attempted to groom and moleste two other children. In fact, the LDS church the Brobergs and Berchtolds were a part of had heard of Berchtold’s previous relationships with two other girls, so it was apparently an open secret.
Did Bob Broberg have a gun when he picked up Jan? FICTION
Berchtold eventually moved to Ogden, Utah, and worked for his brother as a car salesman. When he first kidnapped Jan, he was convinced to return her. There was never an arranged meeting between Bob Broberg and Berchtold. Bob Broberg never said in the documentary that he was considering shooting Berchtold with a gun he bought.
Did Robert Berchtold kidnap Jan a second time? DO
The second abduction is where things get incredibly weird. Berchtold attempted to hide Jan by posing as a CIA agent and enrolling her in a Catholic school in California, telling administrators that Jan was his daughter and anyone looking for her was likely a terrorist. The FBI eventually found and fired Jan, though it is said that Berchtold retaliated against the family, allegedly paying people to burn down Jan’s father’s business. Berchtold was acquitted of first-degree kidnapping due to mental illness and sent to a mental institution for six months. He continued to appear at Jan Broberg’s promotional events for his book before his death in 2005.
Did Jan Told say UFOs wanted her to sleep with Bob Berchtold? DO.
Jan is open about the abuse she suffered from Robert Berchtold. The intercom and the alien/UFO “plot” that Berchtold told Jan was real, and the real Jan saw herself as the Mary in a kind of Nativity story. The mission was that she needed to have a child to “save the alien planet” by the time she turned 16. The RV where she was being held was filled with sex manuals, and Berchtold assaulted her that first day. At 12, Jan told her mother that she wanted to marry Berchtold. The couple wrote love letters to each other regularly, although Jan said in the document that she replied out of politeness and because the mission required them to keep in touch.
“Friend of the Family” is streaming now on Peacock.