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Best Of 2022: Most engrossing true-crime longread
Plus Golden Globes nominations, and "Fyre II: Even Fyrier"?
Welcome back to our “best of 2022”/“state of the genre” coverage! We asked an esteemed panel of colleagues and contributors for the best (and most disappointing) true-crime properties of 2022; the true crime they look forward to in 2023; vintage gems and underrated treasures they discovered; and their big-picture takes on the genre.
Tara Ariano, TV critic and co-host of Listen To Sassy: “‘The L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy-Gang Crisis,’ by Dana Goodyear, at The New Yorker. This is a fascinating story with such deep roots (more so than how all police departments are kind of cartels tbh).
Toby Ball, host of Strange Arrivals and co-host of Crime Writers On…: “‘The Victim Who Became the Accused’ by Rachel Aviv in the New Yorker (9/12/22). A young, Black female cop accuses a colleague of sexual impropriety and finds herself charged with making a false report. Misogyny in law enforcement and power dynamics in the legal system.”
Andy Dehnart, reality TV critic and the editor of reality blurred: “Demetrius Buckley's ‘I was on The First 48. Your true-crime obsession is based on lies.’ has a self-explanatory title, but so much insight into how true crime reality TV affects the people it so often exploits.
Bonus: Ed Yong's ‘The Pandemic’s Legacy Is Already Clear,’ which I'll call true crime because I think our failure as a society, and our failure to hold ourselves and each other responsible, was a crime. Yong is, of course, our best chronicler of the pandemic, and this piece is a coda, of sorts, about how COVID ‘exploited the country’s many failing systems’ and the U.S. ‘sets itself up to collapse once more.’"
Margaret Howie, co-founder of Space Fruit Press and editor of the Three Weeks newsletter: “‘The Bitcoin Bonnie & Clyde’! Vanity Fair has been knocking it out of the park this year, and this tale of two crypto bozos had everything: an Instagram-famous cat, OTT wedding details, wretched rap skills. Also, the ‘Scene Stealer’ article debunking the Grey’s Anatomy faux-cancer writer was engrossing. More recently, the Rolling Stone article on adidas and Ye was gut-churning but necessary.”
Susan Howard, Best Evidence contributor: ““Glen McCurley Strangled Carla Walker in 1974. Was She His Only Victim?” by Skip Hollandsworth (Texas Monthly, August 2022). Hollandsworth is a perennial favorite and I thought this account of a four-decade old cold case, the Fort Worth, Texas families it ensnared, and the questions about a host of other unsolved murders was haunting.”
And I’m with Margaret; I don’t think it’s just recency bias that made the “Grey’s grifter” story one of the standouts of the year for me. In case it is, though, Rachel Monroe’s coverage of various genre stories out of Texas for The New Yorker, and specifically the Uvalde shooting, was wrenching but well done. Hat tip also to our esteemed colleague Skye Pillsbury for digging deep on various media-corp stories affecting the genre.
Did we miss/forget about any great 2022 longreads? Let us know. — SDB
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The Fyre Festival guy is out, and scheming up another festival — which the Bahamas very much do not want. Billy McFarland’s latest patent medicine in event form, PYRT, makes…no sense to me? Here’s a snip from VICE’s low-pH write-up of McFarland’s venture:
In reality, PYRT sounds like an amalgamation of all three things that McFarlane says it's not, as he goes on to describe a festival, an event, and a metaverse. McFarland says in the TikTok that the project will partner with a "small, remote destination" to host "a handful of artists, content creators, entrepreneurs, and any of you guys who end up joining the PYRT crew." At the same time, PYRT launch a virtual replica of the island "where anyone around the world can not only watch what's happening live but they can actually come together with their friends to effect and even own their real world adventures." He then pointed to a “virtual map” of an island that appeared to be made of paper and taped to a wall.
Edward Ongweso Jr. goes on to textually eye-roll that McFarland is positioning PYRT as, basically, community service: “PYRT's website states that $50 from every $250 PYRT jacket will go towards paying people owed money in the Bahamas and to pay back the people McFarland defrauded via Fyre Festival.”
I get that the Bahamas want exactly none of that, but McFarland’s bluff idiocy created some extremely compelling true-crime content, so, while it is wrong of me to want him to proceed, I would not hate another pair of documentaries devoted to PYRT’s inevitable implosion. — SDB
Just in time for our panel’s upcoming convo on the best dramatic/scripted true-crime adaptations of the year, it’s the Golden Globe nominations! Unsurprisingly, the genre is dominating the Limited Series, Anthology Series or a Motion Picture made for Television section. Let’s have a look — skipping straight to the acting categories because I think The White Lotus is probably a shoo-in for the overall award.
Best Performance by an Actor, Limited Series, Anthology Series or Motion Picture made for Television
Taron Egerton (“Black Bird”)
Colin Firth (“The Staircase”)
Andrew Garfield (“Under the Banner of Heaven”)
Evan Peters (“Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story”)
Sebastian Stan (“Pam & Tommy”)
Nice to see Egerton get some love for that performance; that property generally felt under-discussed to me and I liked what he did with the role. He or Garfield should win, but I think Firth takes it.
Best Performance by an Actress, Limited Series, Anthology Series or a Motion Picture made for Television
Jessica Chastain (“George and Tammy”)
Julia Garner (“Inventing Anna”)
Lily James (“Pam & Tommy”)
Julia Roberts (“Gaslit”)
Amanda Seyfried (“The Dropout”)
I haven’t seen Chastain’s work in this, but it doesn’t really matter — I liked the other performances here, but Seyfried should and will win.
Best Performance by an Actress in Supporting Role, Limited Series, Anthology Series or a Motion Picture made for Television
Jennifer Coolidge (“The White Lotus”)
Claire Danes (“Fleishman Is in Trouble”)
Daisy Edgar-Jones (“Under the Banner of Heaven”)
Niecy Nash-Betts (“Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story”)
Aubrey Plaza (“The White Lotus”)
Nash-Betts did a lot to center a controversial property, but I just can’t see Globes voters chancing any Monster wins, plus this is Coolidge’s to lose.
Best Performance by an Actor in Supporting Role, Limited Series, Anthology Series or a Motion Picture made for Television
F. Murray Abraham (“The White Lotus”)
Domhnall Gleeson (“The Patient”)
Paul Walter Hauser (“Black Bird”)
Richard Jenkins (“Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story”)
Seth Rogen (“Pam & Tommy”)
See above; Jenkins is such a thoughtful pro, it’s a shame, but: not happening. I don’t think enough people saw Black Bird, like I said. Gleeson should win here IMO, but I suspect it goes to Abraham.
Y’all have to remind me what I predicted when I get the whole slate wrong in a few weeks… — SDB
Coming up on Best Evidence: The best documentaries of the true-crime year.