Forensic Files II · Hot Pockets · Tufts

Plus: A Place In The Sun

Forensic Files II kicked off last weekend. The HLN show is a reboot of Forensic Files, the true crime pioneer that ran from 1996 to 2011 and featured the soothing voice of the late Peter Thomas.

But though Thomas is gone, the 30-minute show is back, this time narrated by Bill Camp, who I recognize as the lawyer from The Outsider but, holy cow, he’s done a lot of stuff. The New York Post — which praises the OG FF as taking “30 minutes to tell many of the same true-crime stories that Dateline NBC and 20/20 routinely pad into an hour or more” — has an interview with show creator Paul Dowling that’s worth a read. “HLN was one of the first to knock on the door” regarding a reboot of the show, Dowling says, “and I said no to them for three years — I said no to everyone.” He says he’s impressed with the new series, and that “The episodes zip along. There’s no shot where we show you the mountains to take up time.”

Forensic Files II premiered on February 23, and is scheduled to air weekly for 16 episodes. You can watch it on TV like in the olden days, or stream it on CNNgo. — EB

CrimeReads has a great longform piece on the case that inspired A Place In The Sun. Actually, the case (People v. Gillette) spurred a lot more than that: the story of Chester Ellsworth Gillette, who was executed in 1908 for the death of Grace Brown, is behind a number of properties and adaptations. According to prosecutors, Gillette impregnated Brown, then beat her to death with a tennis racquet when she encouraged him to marry her. Gillette claimed that her death was a suicide, and that he was innocent.

Clyde Griffiths, a character in Theodore Dreiser's novel An American Tragedy, was based on Gillette, and that book was adapted into a play and a pre-code movie of the same name. It hit the big screen again in 1951, with a cast that included Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, and Shelley Winters.

What is it about this sad little domestic-violence case that kept it churning through new properties? According to CrimeReads’ S.L. McInnis:

The story has a haunting, and lasting, appeal. Most of us couldn’t relate to a brutal serial killer like Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. But Chester Gillette is different.
Throughout the trial, he maintained his innocence, explaining that his statement changed because he was terrified of being blamed for Brown’s death after her body was found. (Cases like this helped usher in the era of Miranda Rights where one has the “right to remain silent” during an arrest.) There was no DNA evidence a century ago and no witnesses to the crime. There was no hard evidence against Gillette at all, in fact. Everything was circumstantial.

You can read McInnis’s take on the case and its adaptations here. — EB

Why hasn’t this been adapted yet: Hot Pockets edition. Michelle Janavs, one of the many wealthy parents swept up in the college admissions scandal, is the daughter and niece of the inventors of Hot Pockets, the bodega treat we’ve all considered (or even tried) when hunger and or alcohol has gotten the upper hand.

The Associated Press reported this week that Janavs was sentenced to five months in prison for paying (consultant turned FBI informant) “Rick Singer $100,000 to have a proctor correct her two daughters’ ACT exam answers,” and paid “$200,000 to have one of her daughters labeled as a fake beach volleyball recruit at the University of Southern California.” She was arrested before the volleyball kid was formally admitted to the college, prosecutors say, so that later payment was all for naught.

(I'll note here that, according to, $300,000 is how much you’d pay for 150,000 two-count boxes of pepperoni Hot Pockets.)

I know that we have that shitty Lifetime adaptation of the scandal already, but, you guys, did you know that frozen burrito king Peter Jan Sartorio went down in the case, as well? Couldn’t this be adapted into some sort of parable about punishment for scores of dehydration, stomach upset, and misery their concoctions have caused? Or, even better, an episode of In Ice Cold Blood (because, frozen, get it?). I just think we need to start looking past the low-hanging actress fruit and start making hay with some of the goofy ways some of these other parents made their money. — EB

Time to go back to school: Tufts is offering a class on true crime. The course is called “Gender, Justice, and True Crime,” and its an offering of the school’s Experimental College, which is intended to keep Tufts an “exciting place to learn and teach.” In the class, students will “consider the serious and sensitive content of true crime through storytelling, giving participants a chance to discuss broadly the ethics and motives of true crime media in a modern-day world. Instead of treating the genre like a source of entertainment, as it is so often consumed, students take an in-depth look at victims with a range of identities and the severity of the offenses committed.”

Assuming you could have fit it into your schedule, would you have taken this elective? Or are you like, “Guys, I could teach this thing”?

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