Fat Suit · Dog License · Caliphate

And another true-crime podcast triumph

Did we learn nothing from the Linda Tripp controversy? As previously discussed here and elsewhere, Sarah Paulson was the focus of loads of ire after she donned a fat suit to play Linda Tripp in American Crime Story: Impeachment. The issue, obviously, is that there are actors of size who struggle to find work, making the decision to cast a slender person a disappointment — it’s an issue that’s plagued the entertainment industry for years, prompting headlines like Vice’s “Hollywood's Depressing History of Putting Thin Women in Fat Suits.”

And yet, here we are again. This time the show is The Thing About Pam, the NBC/Blumhouse TV adaptation of the blockbuster Dateline podcast; the straight size actor is the arguably glamorous Renée Zellweger. Zellweger plays Pam Hupp, who has a generous build typical of people who are not famous actors whose livelihood is dependent on conforming to arguably unrealistic body type expectations.

That divide between the requirements to successfully exist in Hollywood and in the rest of the world is likely why, per the Daily Mail (ugh, sorry, but they did indeed get the scoop on this one), Zellweger was spotted in a so-called “fat suit” on the TTAP set. (The site even got a photo of the fat suit sans occupant; it’s an odd image.)

The only argument I’ve heard re: fat-suit wear that I’ve remotely seen the point of is the one regarding how hard it is to get some projects greenlit or seen. Would as many folks have gone to see Monster if there wasn’t the added draw of seeing someone as glamorous as Charlize Theron change their appearance for the Aileen Wuornos role? Perhaps not, and in some cases playing that card might be what’s necessary to get a story out there.

But in these recent cases, of ACS:I and TTAP, I don’t even see it. Neither Paulson nor Zellweger was necessary to get those shows on the road, and looking at TTAP exclusively, there wasn’t even a need to pitch this show: TTAP was planned as an adaptation before the first episode of the podcast ever dropped. (That said, I suspect if the pod had tanked, the show’s plans would have been scuttled — but that’s not what happened.)

I’m not anti RZ, and I’m glad that Hollywood is giving 52-year-old female actors like her work. I suspect she’s going to do a solid job as Hupp, and that’s great, too. But I also think that there are loads of other middle-aged female actors who could have played Hupp just as well, or better, and who could bring the lived experience of being a person who looks vaguely like Hupp to the role.

And even if you don’t care about the plight of non-Zellweger-looking women (as many folks at NBC or Blumhouse might not!) then there’s the material and story to consider. When we watched Monster, did we forget it was Charlize, or did we marvel at the transformation she underwent? When we watch TTAP, will we be thinking about the slaying of Betsey Faria, or looking for seams in Bridget Jones’s mom jeans? — EB

It’s official: Caliphate was based on a lie. The saga of the award-winning New York Times podcast ended with a whimper Friday, when — per the NYT, ouch — Shehroze Chaudhry, the central figure in the pod who admitted to multiple violent crimes, admitted that he made the whole thing up. Snip:

Under the name Abu Huzayfah, Mr. Chaudhry, who lives in the Toronto suburb of Burlington, Ontario, was the central figure in The Times’s 10-part podcast series “Caliphate.” The release of that series in 2018, and other reports based on Mr. Chaudhry’s tales, created a political firestorm in Canada’s Parliament among opposition parties that repeatedly attacked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government for seeming to allow a terrorist killer to freely roam the streets of suburban Toronto.

But in truth, there was little if no risk to the public. The statement of facts presented in the Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton on Friday concluded: “Mr. Chaudhry has never entered Syria nor participated in ISIS operations anywhere in the world.”

According to Canadian authorities, who released a statement on the claims against Chaudhry Friday, he didn’t act alone. Rukmini Callimachi, the NYT reporter who hosted the podcast, “…expressly encouraged Mr. Chaudhry to discuss violent acts. When Mr. Chaudhry expressed reluctance to do so, she responded, ‘You need to talk about the killings.’”

Callimachi has denied that she said that to Chaudhry, and the paper retracted portions of the podcast in late 2020. Around that same time, one of its awards was rescinded; the paper proactively returned the show’s Peabody and the Pulitzer Prize Board pulled Caliphate’s name from its 2018 finalist list, as well. — EB

The True Crime Bullsh** podcast is getting cold case credit. This isn’t a show I know, and I’m a little embarassed — it’s three seasons in, and has spent the majority of its time on convicted serial killer Israel Keyes.

According to USA Today, one of the show’s listeners used information on the podcast to help officials solve the disappearance of Christopher Roof, a teacher who was last seen in 2010. Former students formed a Facebook group called “Where is Mr. Roof?” the following year, where they shared theories about his case.

Group member Sydney Copp was listening to the podcast (which USA Today confoundingly fails to name, but Copp helpfully hooked us up) when she heard the description of an unidentified body found in Maine in 2012. The podcast “said something about his clothing was like somebody of higher means, not somebody who is homeless or had gone missing," Copp told USA Today. "The New Balance sneakers and the dress socks, the khakis, the briefcase that sounded to me like a teacher's bookbag. It all just seemed like Mr. Roof."

She eventually contacted Maine State Police, which confirmed the identity of the remains using DNA evidence. There are a lot of other strange elements to the case, including the mysterious death of Roof’s mom and details on why his family never declared him missing, so the full piece is worth a read. Meanwhile, True Crime Bullsh** has devoted a new episode to the Roof case; you can listen to it here. — EB

I told myself I wouldn’t give Duane Chapman any more attention but here we are. As previously discussed television bounty hunter is now estranged from his daughter over his alleged racism, and since his most recent effort at a TV show was canceled before it began (over even more alleged racism) I thought I was safely out of the Dog game.

I even skipped past all the headlines about Chapman supposedly joining the search for Brian Laundrie, until the Daily Mail (ugh, again? I know, sorry) noted that Chapman isn’t licensed as a way that would allow him to detain or capture fugitives in any state that requires it.

The issue, of course, is, Chapman’s 1970s-era murder conviction — the same conviction that supposedly sent him down the bounty hunter path and that (per Chapman) meant he had “a pass” to use racial slurs to describe people of color (readers, he does not have said pass). In states in which licensing is required for bail recovery agents (or whatever technical term that region uses for what’s colloquially referred to as “bounty hunting”), folks with felony convictions for violent crimes aren’t eligible for the gig.

That includes Florida, where Chapman has been providing a play-by-play of his search for Laundrie. From the Mail:

Mike Harrison, vice president of the Florida Bail Bondsmen Association, said Chapman could end up charged criminally himself if he were to make the mistake of grabbing Laundrie.

'That would be kidnapping or false imprisonment,' Tallahassee area bail bondsman Harrison said.

Harrison says Dog's lack of licensing is well known in the business and stems from an old murder conviction.

According to state records, the only active and valid license Chapman possesses is to sell insurance in Hawaii.

That's why Chapman was often accompanied by his namesake son when looking for bail jumpers on eight seasons of the A&E show Dog The Bounty Hunter; and why Dog was armed with a taser and bear repellent instead of a gun.

Chapman's son Duane Lee Chapman II now works as a bail bondsman in Jacksonville, Florida.

He appears estranged from his dad and often complained on the show that his old man worked him like a, well, dog.

So, in summary, Dog was never really a bounty hunter, an issue that A&E (the home of the show that made Chapman a household name) apparently never brought up with viewers. Will that lack of a license help or hinder the new show Variety reports he’s currently pitching? Hmm, maybe Dog should try a fat suit and see if that helps. — EB

Wednesday on Best Evidence: Let’s talk old VF cases.

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