A True-Crime Perfect 10

Best Evidence has Olympics fever! (Ugh, phrasing.)

I told myself that I wouldn’t get into the Olympics this year. Somewhere between the news of Toyota’s ad pull and Sha’Carri Richardson’s suspension I was all EFF THIS NOISE, I’m not watching this bullshit spectator-less sporting event. But then there I was on Sunday night, watching skateboarding, of all things.

Since then, it’s basically all I’ve watched. The silence of the empty stadiums makes me feel like I have to pay closer attention or seem rude, and heart-rending human stories like Simone Biles’ withdrawal take over when my thirst for competition wanes.

Given my present obsession, it only seems logical to run down 10 of the most notable true-crime properties with an Olympic link. I know there are many more crimes we could tackle, and I hope you’ll chime in in the comments with those yarns, as well as with any alternate takes on the crimes I’ve chosen. — EB

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These are in roughly chronological order, based on the incident date, just FYI. Ranking these types of crimes any other way feels a little gross.

The Blood in the Water match, 1956
Freedom’s Fury

Quentin Tarantino called Freedom’s Fury “the best untold story ever,” a documentary he liked so much he ended up producing it. Just a couple months after the USSR shut down the Hungarian Revolution, the countries came together in one of the most brutal water polo matches ever seen. (And if you know water polo, you know that’s really something.) A BBC piece on the match, itself, gives away the ending, so if you don’t recall the 1956 Olympics rankings off the top of your head wait to read it until after you watch the doc. (Link is here.) I hate to encourage you to give more money to cowboy spaceman, but your only option to watch Freedom’s Fury might be on Prime for $2.99.

Munich massacre, 1972

This is a movie about Operation Wrath of God, the real-life operation intended to avenge a brutal and bloody terrorism plot at the Munich Olympics. So it feels weird to talk about how much of an impact a pre-Bond Daniel Craig and his so-so South African accent made on my [redacted]. I mean, that turtleneck. This movie is Spielberg at his most vicious, tossing aside his poppy fun tics for Jaws-level brutality. Eric “Dirty John” Bana is kind of the moral center of the movie, playing a Mossad agent who in real life may or may not be this New York security guy. (Yes, that’s his LinkedIn.) And, hey, Prime just knocked it down to a $1.99 rental.

Boris Onishchenko cheating scandal, 1976
The Curious Case of the Electrified Épée

Soviet pentathlete Boris Onischenko was booted from the 1976 games after it was revealed that he had an electrical device in his glove that allowed him to “score” points he didn’t deserve during matches. Sports Illustrated tracked Onischenko down last year for a gripping longread on the scam and subsequent scandal. Also, fencing is cool!

Seoul’s 100 meter race, 1988

Leave it to Sarah, BE’s resident 30 For 30 historian, to pick this doc on what CNN once called “the dirtiest race in history.” Six of the eight runners in the race ended up flunking drug tests, including Canadian superstar Ben Johnson, who won the race. This won’t be the last doping tale on the list but it might have been the most jarring case at the time — in the pre-BALCO 1980s, I think (maybe?) we still had some illusions when it came to supernaturally speedy athletes. It’s available on ESPN+, the pricing plan for which might be dependent on what other streaming services you use.

The Olympic Centennial park bombing, 1996
Manhunt: Deadly Games

Regular readers of Best Evidence surely knew this was coming: I’ve made no bones about my affection for Cameron Britton, and his portrayal of Richard Jewell is some of his best work. We sometimes forget that a woman was killed and nearly 100 people were injured in the bombing, which disrupted the Atlanta games, and that subsequent explosions targeted abortion clinics and the LGBTQIA+ community. Yes, I know, there’s also a Clint Eastwood movie on Jewell but but it’s misogynistic crap. All 10 episodes of Manhunt: Deadly Games are on Netflix.

Who else is going to curate Olympics crime content for you? Or review properties based on your vote? Or keep you abreast of the latest in murder-house real estate? If you can, please keep us in business via a paid subscription, so we can keep doing stuff like this for you.

The BALCO investigation, 2002
Game of Shadows

The Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) was started in 1984, and wasn’t brought down until 2002, when federal investigators started looking into allegations of steroid use among its multitudes of high-profile Olympians. Eventually besmirched by the investigation were beloved medalist Marion Jones (five at the 2000 Olympics) and many many more (this timeline from USA Today tells the tale). In 2006 SF Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams dropped a book that included confidential details on the investigation, and almost went to jail over their refusal to reveal their sources. I’ll bet Game of Shadows is available at your local library; it’s also available on Audible or from its publisher.

Marion Jones talks to Oprah, 2008

I know it’s unrealistic to expect there to be a full searchable archive of Oprah Winfrey episodes out there, but I never want it more than when I am looking for the full version of her October 2008 interview with Marion Jones. The disgraced athlete had just been released from federal prison after lying to investigators about her use of performance-enhancing drugs (tacked onto that were charges around a check-fraud case involving her ex, fellow Olympian Tim Montgomery) when she spoke with the greatest interviewer the world has ever known (aka Oprah) in a conversation ESPN characterized as “squirm-inducing.”

I think a lot about that conversation, how Winfrey knows when the hit the gas and when to ease off. I wonder what’s going on in Oprah’s head as she talks to this once-powerful woman of color, who like Winfrey fought considerable odds to get to the top of her career, only to lose it all. Was Oprah thinking, as I was, that it fucking sucked that an awful lot of white dudes walked while Jones went down? Should steroid use even be a crime? I could keep going but you get the picture.

Oscar Pistorius kills Reeva Steenkamp, 2013
The Life and Trials of Oscar Pistorius

Yes, it’s another 30 For 30 series, this time on the first amputee runner to compete at an Olympic games, which he did in 2012. Less than a year later, Pistorius shot and killed Steenkamp, allegedly as she cowered and cried in the bathroom of their home. I so vividly recall the feeling of possibility when Pistorius took the track in London, which is maybe one of the reasons his subsequent crime bothers me so profoundly. There have been a lot of podcasts and docs on Pistorius and his fall from grace, but most of them come a little too close to making excuses for the athlete for my taste. The Life and Trials feels the clearest-eyed to me, and anyway, you already got that ESPN+ subscription to watch 9.79*, right?

Lochtegate, 2016
Why hasn’t anyone adapted this yet?

Not to go Stefon on you, but the story of Ryan Lochte’s bullshit shenanigans during the Brazil Olympics really has it all: A bunch of buff dummies, sexism, a reality star, inappropriate urination, perpetuation of racist stereotypes, poster defacement, and white privilege. AND it has a remarkably comprehensive Wikipedia page which you really should read, as at the time, we just got details in dribs and drabs and seeing it all there at once is really quite the ride.

That Steven Soderbergh hasn’t turned this into the anti-heist dark comedy of the century is a mystery to me; this thing is as gold as Lochte’s many Olympic medals. He might be bad at lying about Brazilian robberies, but he sure was good at swimming.

Larry Nassar sentenced to 175 years in prison, 2018
Athlete A

This Netflix documentary is hard to watch, especially for anyone who has looked forward to every Olympics for the gymnastics competitions. While reading about the 300-plus women who have come forward with horrifying abuse (many who were assaulted by Nassar as children) is one thing, seeing how complicit the entire USA Gymnastics organization was in his crimes is really brought home by this doc. His victims included Biles, who withdrew from the Olympics this week, and gold medalist Gabby Douglas. If you don’t want to burn the entire gymnastics/industrial complex down by the time this film ends, watch it again.

Friday on Best Evidence: You might have to hear more about steroids, sorry!

What is this thing? This should help. Follow Best Evidence @bestevidencefyi on Twitter and Instagram. You can also call or text us any time at 919-75-CRIME.

Edgar Awards midyear predictions

Hey, what’s the discussion thread doing on Wednesday?” For weekly-schedule reasons that aren’t compelling, we’re trying it this way for a little while. Feel free to bookmark it ‘til Friday and come back! …If people still bookmark stuff; I don’t know. I’m old. Anyway: let’s get to it!

Any early predictions for the nominees for Best Fact Crime at next year’s Edgars? Having just finished Elon Green’s Last Call, I’m pretty sure that’s a slam dunk for a nomination: deeply researched, not overlong, not preachy, and the prose is not without flaw but it cooks (see above re: scheduling but if I’d had a traditional “sitting,” I could have finished it in one).

Harold Schechter’s got a book in the mix, I think; Dean Jobb’s doorstop on Neill Cream; maybe the John Glatt on the latest in Princeton’s hall-of-shame alum listing; which of this year’s books do you think is getting the nod this time around? — SDB

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Citizen · Gacy · Dirty John

Plus: A cop who won an award for...not working?

Sarah and I basically raced each other to put this on our budget doc. Citizen, the crowdsourced crime-reporting app formerly known as Vigilante, has been a frequent target of Best Evidence, mainly because its Running Man-level bullshit both irritates and fascinates me.

The app, which has recently been in the news for stuff like pushing private security for folks frightened by the crimes reported in the app (conflict of interest much) and encouraging vigilante justice against the innocent* made headlines in the typically tough-on-crime New York Post. The Murdoch-owned tabloid reports that Citizen is now paying New Yorkers $25 an hour to livestream from crime scenes, with a spokesperson saying that “Citizen has teams in place in some of the cities where the app is available to demonstrate how the platform works, and to model responsible broadcasting practices in situations when events are unfolding in real time.”

That revelation follows a Daily Dot piece from last month, which claimed that “Citizen app is faking local residents in Los Angeles.” According to the Dot, a guy named “Landon,” who appears to be a prolific L.A. crime livestreamer, was “portrayed as a regular Citizen user,” like the Forrest Gump of Los Angeles smash-and-grabs.

The app’s body of work when it comes to enabling the dystopia has spurred publications as disparate as TechCrunch and Fast Company to call out the company in recent days. Both pubs are arguably cheerleaders for tech the way the Post is a cheerleader for the cops/crime reporting — interesting that all three of these outlets are cocking more than a brow at the way Citizen is telling and selling crime. From Fast Company:

Citizen believes that mass surveillance will make us safer. A blog post from 2016 wondered, “What if everyone within a quarter mile of every reported crime were immediately made aware of it? What if there were a camera on every crime? What if transparency existed—if we all knew where crime was occurring and how it was being resolved? Would crime as we know it still exist? Transparency is the single most powerful tool against crime and injustice, and we believe it will rebuild cooperation towards a shared vision. Cooperation, in turn, will lead to safer communities, better cities, and a stronger nation.”

In reality, a culture of mass surveillance leads to the creation of apps like Nextdoor, which is known as much for accusations of racial profiling as for enabling friendly neighborhood tips. Like Nextdoor, Citizen easily lends itself to racial bias, harassment, and greater surveillance.

It’s TechCrunch, however, that might have the answer to why Citizen’s shenanigans are getting more outrageous:

Citizen can only function if it has enough of a user base, and its attempts to corral civilians to use the app have gotten more and more desperate. According to SensorTower, the app hit a monthly download high in June 2020, in the wake of widespread Black Lives Matter protests. (So, as the country protested police brutality, 677,000 people responded by downloading a policing app). But the following month, just 207,000 people downloaded the app. Since then, growth has been pretty stagnant — 292,000 people downloaded Citizen in March 2020, and 283,000 people downloaded it in March 2021.

As of a January SEC filing, Citizen had raised an additional $73 million in funding, on top of several other funding rounds since the company was built from a $1 million seed round from notorious anti-journalism investor Peter Thiel. I know, that sounds like a lot of money…but you’d be surprised by how fast a startup can burn through cash. Take a look at your phone. Is the Citizen app still on it? If so, you’re helping keep them in business. Something to think about! — EB

*To be clear, no one deserves vigilante justice, not even the guilty.

If you’re into Johns Gacy or Meehan, this is a good week for your ears. I know I say this all the time, but man oh man it seems like the true-crime podcast production machine is even more robust than ever. Here are some that crossed my desk over the weekend that I’m intrigued by enough to pass the details on to you. — EB

Defense Diaries
This podcast from attorney Bob Motta approaches John Wayne Gacy from a new angle: His dad, Robert, was one of Gacy’s defense attorneys and the show seeks to investigate the (doubtlessly flawed) investigation into the case. No one here is claiming Gacy was framed (nor did Gacy, as we all know), but Motta’s show (which has been ongoing since April) is uncovering details like “an admission by three retired Des Plaines police officers and a former Cook County evidence technician that key pieces of evidence that led to the second search warrant, which resulted in Gacy’s arrest, may have been fudged,” as the Chicago Sun-Times reports. “It was the right result, we all know that,” Motta says, “but it’s a slippery slope. We can’t start crapping on the constitution on a gut call.”

The First Wife: John Meehan's Reign of Terror
This is a low-investment listen, a two-episode show on the experiences of Tonia Bales, “Dirty” John Meehan’s first wife. “Through new interviews with the people who knew her and John best and exclusive archival materials, Tonia learns that there’s a lot about her traumatic marriage that she never knew, including one bombshell that will change her and her daughters’ lives forever.” This seems less like a must-listen than a show for Dirty John completists, the podcast version of a DVD extra (kids, ask your parents). But since Meehan’s come up lately, I wanted to bring this show, which dropped last week, to your attention.

Michael Caine: Gangs
This six-episode podcast dropped its first three episodes last month, with Caine (whose bona fides, per the show’s logline, are that “Sir Michael Caine knows a thing or two about gangs: whether that’s joining one as a kid, or playing gangsters in movies for over 50 years”) covering the Krays, Griselda Blanco, and John Gotti. No one here would argue that Caine is anything close to an investigative reporter, but who gives a shit, he’s Michael Caine.

This show on a 1990s-era SoCal arsonist with ties to an unpublished novel about fire comes to us from Sony Podcast, and is hosted by former TV exec Kary Antholis. Using cinematic sound design, combined with archival and newfound footage, Firebug invites listeners to join Antholis as he journeys to figure out “where fiction meets reality,” the press release reads, which makes the podcast sound pretty fancy! Its first two episodes dropped last week.

I’m so taken with this San Bernardino Sun story on El Monte’s police officer of the year. It’s just the most awkward thing ever: In June, Officer Carlos Molina was honored in a public ceremony as El Monte’s Police Officers Association’s Officer of the Year for 2020, even though he was on paid administrative leave (that is, not at work — but collecting a paycheck totaling around $205K) from September 2019 to April 2021.

Molina went on leave after he “a year working on a child-abuse investigation that yielded little work product” and “charged the city for 42 hours of overtime pay” during that time. Following an administrative investigation, he was knocked back down to parol officer; the investigation is “pending arbitration,” Joe Nelson reports.

So how did he end up El Monte’s top cop? It appears that the city’s police union put him forward for the honor, and though one police officer begged the city council to cancel the ceremony, the city’s mayor insisted on moving ahead. Snip:

Mayor Jessica Ancona, who is endorsed by the police union, had placed the awards recognition ceremony on the City Council agenda for the June meeting after the union’s traditional awards ceremony, which usually occurs in December at its annual Christmas party, was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After receiving Pitts’ email the night before the meeting, City Councilman Martin Herrera reached out to Ancona the following morning via text, asking her how she planned to deal with the matter. Ancona refused to pull the agenda item, despite Herrera’s concerns.

“They have invited family members and ordered a cake. If you have enough votes to pull the item, I suggest you contact the CM (city manager) immediately so that her office can inform the EMPOA,” Ancona said in her text message to Herrera. “I sent this item over to staff on or about June 17th. That gave them 11-12 days to address the item. Nobody expressed concerns.”

It’s just so strange! I mean, if my gym said they were going to honor me as athlete of the year for 2020, I’d know not to show up to the ceremony because it’s clearly a diss — so why is Molina there and looking so happy? Is that the bliss that comes from getting paid for not working for 19 months, or something else? I can’t stop thinking about this strange, strange tale. — EB

And here’s someone who’s been working her ass off. Julie K. Brown’s 2018 newspaper series “Perversion of Justice” unveiled convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s sweetheart deal, a story that eventually caught up to Epstein enough that he ended up in jail, again, and we all know how that story ended.

But while Brown was working to expose Epstein — and doing a good enough job that FBI investigators credited her for his eventual arrest — she was also struggling to keep a roof over her head. A career newspaper journalist, she’s endured pay cuts and rounds of layoffs, all while doing some of the best true crime reporting in the nation.

Writing for the New York Times, op-ed writer Michelle Goldberg notes that

Because of Brown’s reporting, Epstein seemed on the verge of real legal accountability when he died in his cell, apparently by suicide, in 2019. That reporting was done in the face of powerful headwinds. She was up against Epstein’s intimidating legal team and fears about her safety.

But Brown also had to contend with the punishing economics of the contracting newspaper industry, which for the last decade has been shedding experienced reporters and forcing those who remain to do much more with much less.

Brown, who has worked in journalism for more than three decades, got her start in Philadelphia at a time when newspapers were thriving. “We had so many news organizations and papers and it was so competitive,” she told me. There were people covering “every single city council, planning board, zoning board” meeting. In the past, she said, newspaper journalists were “used to uncovering all this corruption. We’re used to finding injustices pretty easily and writing these stories pretty easily. And now we just don’t have the staff to do that anymore.”

Nevertheless, Brown persisted. Her book, also called Perversion of Justice: The Jeffrey Epstein Story, came out last week, and will soon be turned into an Adam McKay-led HBO mini-series. And now, she says, she might move on from Epstein. “At some point you sort of feel like, ‘What is your purpose?’,” she tells Goldberg. “I feel like maybe my purpose right now isn’t this story anymore. Maybe I need to move onto another story like this that nobody was paying attention to.” — EB

Wednesday on Best Evidence: A surprising Best Evidence move!

What is this thing? This should help. Follow Best Evidence @bestevidencefyi on Twitter and Instagram. You can also call or text us any time at 919-75-CRIME.

Whitey Bulger · James Renner · Search Party

Plus the death of a monster and the ghosts in a Mississippi barn.

Is a Murray-family representative threatening James Renner? It appears he is, as a judge in North Carolina has seen fit to grant Renner a restraining order against the guy, but let’s pause for a sec for a little context (i.e., “how is this even true crime?”). Renner wrote a book called True Crime Addict that I reviewed last year for paid subscribers. To my surprise, I found it extremely readable and satisfying, despite centering around a case — the 2004 disappearance of Maura Murray — that is not in my opinion a criminal tragic vanishing. Here’s a portion of my write-up:

I’ve come to despise just about every other property related to the case: the MMM podcast; the Disappearance of Maura Murray limited series; Dateline episodes about Maura Murray; you name it, I can’t with it. At the same time, I’ve…watched/listened to/read just about all of them, because while there’s something about this case that turns its (usually amateur) investigators into primly tone-deaf obsessives who mistake correlation for causation, there’s…also just something about this case, period. Just enough missing variables; just enough relatable acting-out and bungling of Life Stuff by Murray herself in the months leading up to her disappearance; just enough data that doesn’t really mean anything, and just enough meaningful data we’ll never get. Investigations into Maura Murray’s vanishing never satisfy, because they can’t. But Renner’s comes pretty close.

The book is not without problems, but I do recommend it, not least because, for readers like me who followed the Maura Murray case for a while and then got discouraged by the compulsive worrying of mostly-irrelevant details, it’s a brisk and straightforward recap of what’s known (and maddeningly unknown).

That said, drama has not ceased to accrue around Renner, Renner’s involvement in the case, third-party investigations of or conversations about the case, and so on, and because I triaged caring about this particular story years ago, the plot here is a little opaque. What I think happened is that a Murray-family associate clumsily threatened Renner and his family while they were on vacation; Renner went public with that; there was pushback from the family; and then somehow Amanda Knox’s podcast is involved?

There’s…something about this case, y’all. If anyone is following this latest dust-up and wants to add intel/analysis…

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…or just chime in if you read the book and were also like, “Wait but so is this…good? I don’t know how to feel about this.” — SDB

If you’ve read Best Evidence for a while, you know that a headline reading “Newly released FBI records shed light on James ‘Whitey’ Bulger's criminal history” is going to get my attention, because you know that I find the Bulger case file a little confusing in its he-said/they-said-osity. In other words, Bulgeriana is often appealing on the merits without really clarifying for me what the dude’s deal exactly was. Not that an FBI doc dump is necessarily the answer — or particularly trustworthy — and recaps of the new records don’t seem that enlightening, tbh:

The Boston Herald reports the 300 pages of heavily redacted records show the agency was aware that Bulger was involved in loan-sharking, horse-fixing and other crimes before recruiting him as an informant.

The FBI says the records were posted on the agency’s Vault public records database earlier this month and will be the first in a series of records released on Bulger.

The newspaper says the records show the FBI was tracking Bulger and other “different hoodlum groups in the Boston area” that were involved in loan-sharking in the early 1970s.

…Okay, that the FBI was apparently staffed by a bunch of nanas who used the word “hoodlum” in a professional-law-enforcement context is fresh intel, and kind of explains a lot. Also noteworthy: that more documents are coming; and that most news orgs make a point of noting at the ends of their articles that nobody was charged in Bulger’s 2018 murder, despite the feds probably knowing exactly which “Massachusetts mobsters” were responsible. (I may be editorializing just slightly.) — SDB

Wright Thompson’s piece for The Atlantic, “What We Still Don’t Know About Emmett Till’s Murder,” is about that, and other things besides. It’s about the ordinariness of places where extraordinarily horrible things happened. It’s about how history is packaged: in children’s textbooks in Mississippi; in monuments and tours. It’s about what names mean, and come to mean (a dog named Dixie; a grandpa’s house on Dark Fear Road). It’s about how trauma is carried, forever.

It’s a tiring read, emotionally, but worthwhile; Thompson’s prose doesn’t bog down too much in the dark poetry of place. And it is dark. Here’s a brief history of attempts to memorialize what happened — what people, neighbors, did — to Emmett Till:

There was a marker at the Delta Inn, the hotel where jurors were sequestered and where, during the trial, a cross was burned just in case any of the jurors didn’t understand what their neighbors expected of them. That marker was taken down one night by vandals and has not been replaced. A sign was placed along the Tallahatchie River, where Till’s body was found, but someone threw it in the water. A replacement collected more than 100 bullet holes until, made illegible by the violence, it came down and was given to the Smithsonian. A third sign got shot a month after it went up. Three Ole Miss students posed before the sign with guns, and one posted the photo to Instagram. The current sign is bulletproof.

I say all the time that people have different reasons for “following” true crime and different things we need from it; writing of history like Thompson’s is why I have always tried to defend it and to expect more from it as a genre, because this is what it can be. Not that there’s anything wrong with defending and expecting more from the Fatal Mother’s Blood-type content! But, you know, magic doesn’t come to those who don’t believe in it, etc. — SDB

There’s a lot of true-crime content of all types out there; it takes time to sort through it, and time is money. If you like what we do and/or our curation frees up some time for you to find the reads and watches that are worth your time, why not grab a paid subscription — for yourself or a friend?

We like what you do, reading our work each weekday. Thanks! — SDB

Rodney Alcala, aka “The Dating Game Killer,” has died at 77 of natural causes. Eve reviewed a Wondery podcast about Alcala a couple years ago, and her write-up will give you lots of background on the case and its frustrations; there’s another podcast on Alcala and his crimes from 2020, which we noted here (along with docudrama (…?) The Dating Game Killer, which I have considered renting several times before remembering each time that I think Guillermo Díaz’s acting is unbearable.)

There’s also an upcoming Netflix project about the woman who “won” a date with Alcala, as we noted last month. — SDB

I finally started watching Search Party recently. I’ve still only gotten partway into the first season, but I thought it might have some interesting things to say about true crime, missing-persons (and especially missing-white-woman) cases, and what our interest in particular disappearances is a transference or projection of. (And so we come back around to Maura Murray, in a way.) And so far, it does; most reviews point to the show as a satire of millennial self-absorption, versus true crime or procedurals, but at least in the early going of Season 1, it feels like there’s a purposeful attempt to comment on the way a woman going missing is so promptly and predictably “packaged” as a “case” with a dedicated FB page and hashtags.

I found a Vogue interview with star Alia Shawkat in which she nods at this idea; Shawkat is more interested in the gender essentialism of how the genre is often sold, and most of the true-crime content of the interview is to do with Harvey Weinstein, #MeToo, and Brett Ratner being a scumbag to Elliott Page. It seems like the specific satirization of true crime’s warping effects doesn’t come into play as much until the third season, but I’m wondering if any of you have watched — and whether it gets easier to put aside credibility issues with certain characters still having any contact with each other? …It’s hard for me to root for Dory when she still spends social time with Elliott Goss on purpose, is what I’m saying. John Early’s performance is note-perfect, and part of it is my being enough older than these characters that staying friends with utter assholes Because College is miles in the rearview at this point, but while Search Party so far is doing, IMO, a lot of what Girls thought it was doing but better, the problem of not necessarily understanding how far it could push the parodically dickish aspects of some of the characters is one the shows share. Like, maybe a Portia OR an Elliott?

But I do like it so far, because it’s not really like anything else I’ve watched, and it seems content not to slot into a genre neatly, which is refreshing. — SDB

This week on Best Evidence: Dirty John, Michael Caine, and arson.

What is this thing? This should help. Follow Best Evidence @bestevidencefyi on Twitter and Instagram. You can also call or text us any time at 919-75-CRIME.

Is there a true-crime doc in YOUR childhood?

And no, I don’t mean that you can sue your parents for never coming through with a pony. (You can’t. I checked.) I’m talking about the safety hazards and irresponsible in loco parentis-ing of your yesteryears, as inspired by this Boston Globe piece from Thursday, “The ‘Fyre Fest’ of overnight camps closed after 6 days.”

One Quinebarge dad quoted in the Globe piece felt like there “may be a disconnect between what a rustic overnight camp is actually like and what parents in this highly connected era expect it to be,” and I’m not saying counselors should be stoned constantly or that camp food is enjoyable, but…they are, it isn’t, and I kind of feel like the “Kamp Krusty” aspects of the summer-camp experience are neither a secret nor a scandal.

Then again, my camp years were before helmets and cell phones, and “Quinebargegate” DOES have all the elements of a Fyre Fest doc, namely 1) inept planning that 2) screws over people we don’t particularly mind seeing made uncomfortable, i.e., high-strung parents. Do you have a Fyre Fest/Quinebarge in your childhood? Rickety amusement parks, sketchy homeroom teachers who smelled like Popov and just stopped showing up one day, a summer camp that suggested “Hello Muddah” was a murder ballad, a babysitter who robbed a bank? More scandalous than scurrilous, but still good for three episodes on Hulu? — SDB

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