Guilty Party · Shrink Next Door · The Arconia

Cheaters never win, but they do get podcasts

Sad news from Best Evidence’s East Coast HQ. Barbara Bunting, a cool an accomplished woman and Sarah’s mom, died this past weekend at age 78. We are diminished, as you can imagine — and for this week, at least, I’ll be your host here at BE while Sarah spends time with family. Thanks in advance for your patience, kindness, and support. — EB

Three episodes in Guilty Party, Paramount Plus’s new show about a disgraced journalist reporting a crime story, is a show with an identity crisis. 

The streaming service is billing the show as a “dark comedy,” yet it brings none of the laughs Only Murders in the Building did. At times it feels like a basic cable take on Mare of Easttown, with a messy, self-destructive heroine attempting to solve a murder, but in other moments it feels like a light critique of the white saviorism found in the true crime genre. A stronger show may have been able to carry all these threads, but, despite solid performances, Guilty Party is not that. Instead, it crumbles under the weight of all the competing narratives. 

Guilty Party stars Kate Beckinsale as Beth, a former star journalist accused of fabricating quotes. She’s now working at a web startup that publishes fluffy stories, such as “Hermione’s Hottest Looks,” not the sort of investigative work Beth wants to do. While everyone at her new job knows of Beth’s past scandal, there’s no explanation of how she was so quickly or easily able to find a new journalism gig. It’s one of many oversights that left me wondering how familiar the show’s writers are with how newsrooms actually work.

When Beth receives a letter from Toni, played by Jules Latimer, a Black woman who claims she’s in prison for a crime — killing her husband — she did not commit. At their jailhouse meeting, Beth makes it clear to Toni that she failed to do any research on her case, and Toni chooses to move forward with another reporter. The journalist responds by manipulating Toni into working with her, by falsely promising to reunite the imprisoned woman with her daughter. 

When Beth pitches the story to her young colleagues, one responds, “I don’t know … It sounds a bit ‘white savior-y’ to me.” The disgraced journalist denies the charge, but Beth — and viewers — know that she is pursuing the story to rehabilitate her image, not out a crusaders’ need to right a wrong. 

It’s this thread I wish Guilty Party spent more time and energy engaging with. If the efforts of a white journalist help to achieve justice for a wrongly imprisoned Black woman, is that justice or is it white saviorism? Does it matter that the reporter was driven by her own self-interest instead of doing the right thing? These are questions I grapple with as true crime fan and I would have loved to see a piece of art thoughtfully consider them.

Beckinsale, Latimer and Geoffrey Stults, who plays Beth’s beleaguered husband, all do their best with weak material. Latimer, in particular, shines in her first onscreen role. I’m eager to see what she does next, even if I’m not waiting with bated breath for the next episode of Guilty Party. — Elizabeth Held

I don’t know if I am ready for Paul Rudd in those glasses. Few things make me feel like best Evidence is fully established than following a project from start to finish — let alone following it through two iterations. We first discussed podcast The Shrink Next Door when it debuted back in June of 2019, where I declared it “a good gateway pod” for folks who might not otherwise be into true crime.

Since the podcast on alleged mind control/fraud from esteemed shrink Dr. Isaac Herschkopf dropped, Herschkopf has faced claims that could cost him his license and the prospect of a TV series based on his allegedly problematic treatment of textiles magnate Marty Markowitz, Herschkopf’s Hamptons neighbor.

That series — a eight-episode show on Apple+ — is all but completed, its recently released second trailer confirms, with Paul Rudd donning those wild frames as Herschkopf and Will Ferrell as Herschkopf’s patient/alleged victim Markowitz. The show, which follow a downright retro schedule of weekly episodes instead of a nice all-at-once drop, will premiere on the streaming platform on November 12. You pretty much had me at Rudd, but other cast members include Kathryn Hahn and Casey Wilson, and the director is Michael Showalter, so you know I’ll be watching. How about you? — EB

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Y’all! If Sarah and I can get a million paid subscribers for Best Evidence, we can move into the building from Only Murders in the Building! I finally found time to finish up the show over the weekend, then shot over to read Sarah’s review of the finale (which I skipped during that day’s newsletter edits — the perils of being a small operation!). “The pleasure is in the place and the people,” she wrote, and I agree — as much of the show was about real estate as it was about folks like us with an obsession with true crime and podcasting, right down to red herrings about motives around a desire to expand an apartment.

I know I am not the only person who’s been online shopping for wallpaper since the show wrapped, but now I can make my interest in the titular Building far more official. Real estate site 6sqft reports that a condo in The Belnord, the historic Upper West Side building that played the Arconia (the building in which the equally titular Murders occurred), is available for $4,495,000.

OK, so we’ll actually need more than a million paid subscribers to cover closing costs, taxes, and the HOA (unspecified in the article but I have a feeling it’s a biggie), so maybe we should drop this plan. House Beautiful has more on the building, which was purchased by its current owners in 2015 for $575 million…and has 13 floors (spooky).

If you really want to nerd out on the building you can see that $4.5 million is on the low end for the place, with a $14+ million five bedroom, seven bath currently in contract. Hmm, hard to imagine a place in a building like that on a bassoonist’s salary. — EB

We don’t expect you to pay for our luxury Manhattan condo. In fact, we don’t expect you to pay for this newsletter at all — we’re just happy to have you here! But if you’d like to ensure you get all our bonus and subscriber only content, your paid subscription is much appreciated, as it allows us to continue writing this little newsletter for you.

There’s a new podcast that’s all about cheating in school. I’ve always thought that students my age had it easy — back when we wrote papers based on books we’d find at the library, tracking down plagiarists wasn’t something most teachers were equipped to do. (To be fair, plagiarism was also harder — after all, you’d still have to go find print material to copy, then transcribe the books/articles! What a chore!)

But now, in the era of cut and paste, remote learning, and bots, there’s a whole new world of ways to scam your way through school, says The Score, a new podcast from education reporter Kathryn Baron. From the show’s logline:

The Score addresses the topics of contract cheating, essay mills, collusion, plagiarism, AI bots, and the simple ways students cheat on exams such as hiding notes or writing on their forearm, to the complex like using imposters, virtual machines, and electronic devices. Episodes also cover the for-profit cheating companies and the billion-dollar investments spawning new generations of cheating technology.

So, wait, is this podcast going to teach me how to cheat better? Because it kind of sounds like it. Two episodes are out now, and are solid and processy. If you dug the college admissions scandal beyond the Felicity Huffman/Lori Loughlin stuff and are eager to be further dismayed at the state of higher education today, this just might be the show for you. Maybe you can listen to it while you try to figure out how to pay off the last of your student loans! (Me, I plan on deferring them again and again until I die. That’s what passes for financial planning in my household, what can I say.) — EB

Tuesday on Best Evidence: Attica and Sudoku

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