Don't let your Boomer family get you down.
Thanksgiving has always been about food.
We suffer through the awkward small talk and often anti-climactic football games for the sake of the meal that awaits us at the end of the day, and even then that "meal" is representative of ethnic cleansing and genocide. But there are a few other pros that lay outside of gorging yourself on mashed potatoes. The holiday always falls on a Thursday, which means you always have a four day weekend. Black Friday is also the following day, so despite whatever infuriating experiences you may have on Thanksgiving with your family, you can at least rest easy knowing you can go out and buy enough stuff to numb the pain.
These reasons alone are enough to warrant celebration. So while you clench your jaw through what is almost guaranteed to be a painfully long afternoon, why not curate some music to help elevate your mood and remind yourself that a four day weekend of relaxation awaits?
"Thank U" By Alanis Morrisette
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Vote for the best episode of a true crime podcast!
Back in the dark ages (before 2004), you had to go to a coffee shop or use public transportation in order to eavesdrop on strangers' conversations.
Luckily, Adam Curry and Dave Winer invented the podcast, and ever since then it's become much easier for us to pretend we have more friends than we actually do. Today, which is International Podcast Day, we can reflect on our favorite podcasts—which means talking about murder, The Office, Joe Rogan's interviews with garbage people like Ben Shapiro, and more murder (according to the iTunes Charts).
But let's be honest, so many of us tune into podcasts for the true crime. There are more of us than we'd like to admit who have learned to accept—nay, adore—Georgia Hardstark's vocal fry in My Favorite Murder; and as inflammatory as host Mike Boudet's real-life personality is, Sword & Scale is a seminal fix for true crime junkies.
Here are some of the best episodes from our favorite true crime podcasts, from the most disturbing to the unexpectedly uplifting. Be sure to vote for your favorite, so we can all remind each other that loving true crime isn't always a morbid fascination and can be unexpectedly inspiring about survival and the strength of the human spirit.
"My Favorite Murder" Episode 18: The Survival of Mary VincentMFM The Top 3: #1 - Episode 18 - Investigateighteen Discovery
Mary Vincent was 15 years old in 1978 when she accepted a ride from Lawrence Singleton. He would later be sentenced to a mere 14 years in prison for kidnapping, mayhem, attempted murder, forcible rape, sodomy, and forced oral copulation for what he did to Vincent. As she told the sentencing judge, "I was raped. I had my arms cut off. He used a hatchet. He left me to die." Singleton was released after only 8 years, and he's became a symbol of the justice system's failings. But the story of Mary Vincent and the full life she went on to lead is as inspiring as her attack was heinous.
"Sword & Scale" Episode 55: Kermit Gosnell's Bloody Abortion ClinicEpisode 55
As per this graphic episode's description, "This story about abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell illustrates the workings of a man who has lost his humanity and no longer cares who he hurts on his path to profit. The Women's Medical Society, the clinic with a grandiose name that Gosnell ran, was a pill mill by day and an illegal abortion clinic by night. It is estimated Gosnell earned well over a million dollars conducting illegal late-term abortions. Many of the women who came to the clinic were poor and easily fooled by Gosnell and his staff of unlicensed 'doctors' who administered dangerous drugs to the unsuspecting patients.
"Even after two patients died, the Philadelphia Department of Health did nothing, due to political pressure. Had it not been for a tip related to illegal prescription medications bearing Gosnell's name, the clinic may still be operating today."
"Crime Junkie" MURDERED: Robert WoneMURDERED: Robert Wone
If My Favorite Murder's conversational and off-the-cuff comedian isn't for you, Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat's research-based reporting is chilling in its accounts of murder, kidnapping, and unsolved disappearances. In telling the twisted mystery of Robert Wone, they describe, "This is probably the strangest case of murder we have ever covered here on Crime Junkie. It's the story of Robert Wone who, while staying in a friend's DC guest room, was brutally attacked. But with a staged crime scene, a timeline that doesn't add up, and three people keeping secrets we may never get to the bottom of what happened in the Swann Street house on August 2, 2006."
"Case File" Case 109: Belanglo (5 Parts)Case 109: Belanglo (Part 1)
People outside of Australia might be unfamiliar with the fact that an uncanny number of eerie murders have occurred in the country's isolated territories. For instance, western Australia is the home of the Claremont serial killer and the killer couple David and Catherine Birnie, British tourist Peter Falconio disappeared from a northern road and has never been found, and the "Backpacker murders" refers to the seven bodies found in the Belanglo State Forest. Ivan Milat was eventually identified as having murdered seven missing young people aged 19 to 22 betwen 1989 and 1993.
"Casefile's" anonymous host recounts many of Australia's most lurid crime stories with a thick Australian accent and calm, steady baritone mixed with real audio from victims and criminals.
"True Crime Guys" #22 The Murder of Mark Kilroy#22 The Murder of Mark Kilroy
Though not as popular as My Favorite Murder or Crime Junkies, True Crime Guys mixes fact-based reporting, real audio of news coverage and interviews, and light banter to cover odd murders all over the world. The story of Mark Kilroy is particularly compelling for its mix of gruesome cult violence with ultimate justice. As per the episode's description, "Many people were mysteriously going missing on the streets of Mexico City in the late 80's to early 90's. It wasn't until the disappearance of a young and promising pre-med student that people took notice. Mark Kilroy seemed to have all the characteristics of someone who could change the world, but who knew those very traits could make him a target for one of the most gruesome rituals known to man."
"Last Podcast on the Left" Episode 152: The Dylatov Pass IncidentEpisode 152: The Dylatov Pass Incident
This mystery is f*cking insane, and it's only appropriately covered by a chaotic comedy podcast co-hosted by Ben Kissel, podcast producer and researcher Marcus Parks, and comedian and actor Henry Zebrowski. In covering "one of the 20th century's most enduring mysteries," they ask, "What killed nine hikers in the Siberian mountains one fateful night in 1959? Was it an avalanche? The KGB? Aliens? Indigenous peoples? Yetis? TINY TORNADOS?"
"Sword & Scale" Episode 31: Vince LiEpisode 31
Sometimes referred to as the Greyhound Bus Cannibal Killer, Vince Li was a Canadian man suffering from severe and untreated mental illness in 2008 when he experienced a psychotic episode that resulted in him attacking, decapitating, dismembering, and partially consuming the body of Tim McLean on a Greyhound Bus. But what happened to Li afterwards is probably the most shocking part and speaks volumes about how the mental health system and justice system work inconsistently with each other.
BONUS: Morgan IngramEpisode 11
Even if Mike Boudet is a misogynistic loud-mouth, the story of 20-year-old Morgan Ingram being found dead in her childhood bedroom is too odd to be true. Dr. Phil has weighed in. NBC has weighed in. Legions of internet sleuths have weighed in. As Sword & Scale asks, "What happens when a family's grief slips into malice and madness, when a mother is so hell-bent on being portrayed as a victim that she begins victimizing everyone who doesn't see her as one? Welcome to the sad story of Morgan Ingram's untimely death and the circus of insanity that followed and continues to this day."
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The cycle of true crime is moving from podcasts and documentaries to prime time re-enactments.
We've entered the next stage of the true crime phenomenon.
While podcasts like Serial fueled the first wave of investigative content and docuseries like Making a Murderer made true crime bingeable, true crime dramas like Dirty John re-enact criminal plots so bizarre they have to be seen to be believed. 2019 will be flush with new podcasts and docuseries, but Netflix, Hulu, and TNT will also take on the challenge of artfully dramatizing real-life crime stories without looking like Lifetime Movie Network rejects.
Here are 7 true crime series worth giving a chance:
1. Conversations with a Killer: Ted Bundy Tapes (Netflix, January 24)
Netflix's upcoming docuseries will feature previously unreleased interviews with Ted Bundy conducted during his time on death row. Mixed with archival footage that traces his criminal rise in the 70s, Conversations with a Killer will be released on the 30th anniversary of Bundy's execution.
2. I Am the Night (TNT, January 28)
Chris Pine and director Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) helm this period drama about the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, infamously remembered as the Black Dahlia. While the six-episode series takes plenty of creative liberties, Jenkins was close friends with the real-life figure the series is structured around, Fauna Hodel.
3. The Act (Hulu, March 20)
Oscar and Emmy Award winner Patricia Arquette will star in the debut season of Hulu's true crime anthology series, The Act. Each season is slated to explore one story that shocked the true crime circuit with its bizarre nature. Season 1 will feature the murder of Dee Dee Blanchard (played by Arquette) by her daughter Gypsy and the lifetime of abuse and manipulations that preceded it.
4. Unsolved Mysteries (Netflix, TBA)
The classic 1987 true crime and paranormal series is being revived by the executive producer of Stranger Things. The upcoming 12-part series will re-enact one real unsolved crime or phenomenon in each episode.
5. Interrogation (CBS All Access, TBA)
Peter Sarsgaard will star in this nonlinear true crime series that spans over 30 years. The 10 episodes are based on real police interrogations about a young man who was charged and convicted of brutally murdering his mother. The network is concealing the name of the real case the series is based on, but the goal of Interrogation is to turn the viewer into a detective as the crime unfolds.
6. Central Park Five (Netflix, TBA)
Netflix is taking on this infamous case of five black teenagers falsely accused and forced to confess to the rape and assault of a female jogger in 1989. The four-episode series will feature Vera Farmiga as the lead prosecutor and Michael K. Williams and John Leguizamo as two of the boys' fathers.
7. Uncertain Terms (TCPalm podcast, January 2019)
This new true crime podcast tackles the issue of children who are convicted of murder and the adults they become while incarcerated. Specifically, the podcast explores Florida convicts who have grown up in prison and are facing re-sentencing or release, depending on the details of their crimes, how the victims' families feel, and who they've become.
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Dirty John is incredibly frustrating, but quality actresses make an unbelievable survival story seem all too realistic on screen.
This week's pipeline from true crime to entertainment culminated with the finale of Bravo's Dirty John, which aired Sunday.
While the miniseries is not the first podcast to be adapted to television (HBO's 2 Dope Queens and Amazon's Lore and Homecoming are notable examples that predated it), the show marked the first true crime-turned-podcast-turned-TV-drama. Based off the #1 podcast of the same name, the eight-episode first season features Connie Britton giving a painfully believable portrayal of real-life mother Debra Newell, a highbrow interior designer and four-time divorcee in her late 50s. While she thinks she's met the perfect man online, Dr. John Meehan (Eric Bana) soon reveals himself to be a conman and unrepentant asshole with a penchant for mood swings, drug binges, and entreaties for forgiveness—which Debra grants, again and again.
Created by Alexandra Cunningham and directed by Jeffrey Reiner, the show excels in its depiction of sheltered Californian socialites. Debra is portrayed as a blind optimist who resists the reality of John's physical and emotional threats to her family, despite glaring red flags such as threats to shoot her daughter in the head and his escalating possessiveness over her—and her finances. Additionally, Debra endlessly coddles her two adult daughters, Veronica and Terra, entitled millennials played by Juno Temple and Julia Garner, respectively. Both girls are very privileged, very blonde, and very distrusting of the new man in their mother's life. Most apparent in all three women's performances is that Britton, Temple, and Garner even capture the child-like vocal fry of the real-life Newell women, whose voices feature in the Dirty John podcast.
Temple, in particular, excels as the brash and abrasive older daughter whose genuine concern is muddled with her elitist offense that a lower class outsider has insinuated himself in her family's inner world of designer bags and luxury penthouses. In contrast, Garner's performance as the younger daughter is kept intentionally low key and peculiarly infantile.
However, for the finale, the show doesn't hold back in re-enacting John Meehan's knife-wielding attack and attempted abduction of Terra Newell, the family member whom we're led to believe is the weakest and most vulnerable. Here, the show's greatest gamble is hinging the entire climax on the subtleties of Terra's personality, which suddenly manifests as a self-assertive and independent survivor—who stabs her attacker 13 times in the parking lot outside her apartment, rather than be dragged into the trunk of his car. The transformation is almost unbelievable—except that part actually happened. In 2016, the real John Meehan died of his injuries in the parking lot where he attacked her. The real Newell girls even suspected that John would target Terra, believing her to be weak. In the show, Garner's nuanced performance is what makes an unbelievable survival story seem believable on TV in a triumph of fight-or-flight instinct.
As for the real Debra Newell, she wanted her story told as a cautionary tale of the perils of both online dating and blind devotion. She commented on the series, "It's a story to tell others to make them aware of what could happen to them. You almost have to remove yourself a little bit." In her personal life, Debra still calls herself "a naturally happy person," but it took the tools of time, therapy, and the removed sense of media to see her story clearly. She said, "[Therapy] had so much to do with being able to be healthy again. I had a lot of guilt at one point. I had to learn [the mechanics of] what had happened to me." But she's a fan of Connie Britton's portrayal. Debra praises, "She got my voice and my mannerisms down perfectly. I was in a dangerous situation, and there wasn't a lot of opportunity for Connie to show the lighter side of me — I'm not always that nice or serious!"
Debra and Terra NewellToday Show
Yet, the show isn't exactly sympathetic towards Debra. To be clear, Dirty John is incredibly frustrating. But that's largely due to the incensing nature of the late Meeham's crimes and manipulations. His history of deception, impersonation, and conning every woman in his life (including his own family members) is perhaps the heaviest focus of the series. Debra, the character, is less important; her previous marriages aren't explored, while her naivety often is, and her family's Southern Californian ethos gives off plenty of Mean Girl vibes to provide comic relief. Above all, her initial refusal to doubt John is frank and infuriating, but it's primer for the show's midpoint climax; Debra's conflict foreshadows her decision to take John back even after her family presents proof of his elaborate lies, which include wearing stolen scrubs every day to allege he's a doctor and waxing morose about traumatic deployments in Iraq despite never serving in the military.
Dirty John is a concrete depiction of how unexpectedly, eerily enthralling it is to be under someone's "coercive control." One of the reasons the podcast garnered over 33 million listeners in the first place is because of how relatable Debra's experience is. Because of course Debra didn't think of herself as a vulnerable target. "Remember," she said in an interview after this week's finale, "it's Hollywood. First of all, I don't feel desperate. I think that it's very natural to want to have a companion and to be in love." She reflected, "It really helped relieve me, to some degree, knowing that it is such a common thing, unfortunately. But I now know what happened to me and that it could happen to anyone."
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