Happy Face · American Murder · Big Brother

Plus: true crime schadenfreude

Robert and Michelle King, who most of us know as the folks behind The Good Wife and The Good Fight, will adapt Happy Face for CBS All Access. The Kings have always had a ripped-from-the-headlines deal with their shows (as you might recall, the season finale of Fight was about Jeffrey Epstein), but this is their first foray into full-on true crime.

Happy Face, the podcast they’re adapting, is that How Stuff Works show about Melissa Moore, whose dad was the notorious Happy Face killer. Variety reports that the show is part of the Kings’ overall CBS All Access (that’s the network’s streaming platform) deal, which means that by the time the show hits a screen near you, it’ll be on Paramount Plus. So far, we don’t have any production information on the Happy Face series, nor do we have an anticipated release date. Something to look forward to, I guess. — EB

Netflix just dropped a trailer for American Murder: The Family Next Door. I’ve gone on record as saying that I hate the Watts case — there’s something about Chris Watts’ admitted slaying of his wife and kids that gets under my skin, and not in a good way. So, I don’t have plans to watch this Netflix documentary on the homicides when it drops…but I did find the trailer well-constructed and compelling.

In its log line, Netflix describes the show as a way to “experience a gripping and immersive examination of the disintegration of a marriage,” which, I’d characterize a father killing his two kids as something more serious than the goings on in, say, Marriage Story, but maybe the streaming service doesn’t want to give the ending away? People who are mad that I gave the ending away in the second line of this item (and everyone else) can catch the doc on September 30. — EB

I almost closed the tab on this Deadline item on a vaguely described true-crime show. Raw, the production company behind true-crime juggernaut Don’t F*ck With Cats has signed a docuseries deal with, of all networks, TNT. “As with many of Raw’s documentaries and series, there’s an element of mystery about the subject matter,” TV editor Peter White writes, as I hover over that little tab-closing “x.” But then I moved my mouse away at this: “Deadline understands that this project involves schadenfreude and people that have everything to lose and ties in with some of the Hollywood movies that TNT airs.”

OKAY WHAT DOES THAT MEAN. TNT airs all sorts of movies; I mean, look at this roster. And then with the schadenfreude? What does this even mean? Please, speculate away. — EB

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Two recent stories raise significant questions about the tech we take for granted as part of many true crime narratives. It’s interesting: so many true-crime narratives make innovations in surveillance tech sound like a wonderful idea (for example, when Serial’s first season got into the cell phone tower weeds, I was right there thinking “well, we need to track those pings more precisely, then!”), but when viewed outside a gripping narrative, they feel like another sign of the dystopia. Read these, and let me know if you agree:

  • A crime reporting app shifts to tracking COVID-19, raising privacy questions” [CNet] // Los Angeles mayor Mayor Eric Garcetti and public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer just told all 10 million of the folks who live in their region to download the controversial crime-tracking app Citizen, saying that it will help slow the spread of COVID-19. “The company's privacy policy also said that your location data could be shared with government agencies, without clarifying which agencies those could be,” reporter Alfred Ng writes.

  • It’s Time for a Reckoning About This Foundational Piece of Police Technology” [Slate] // “Criminal intelligence databases may seem unobjectionable in an era of facial recognition and predictive policing. But they are deeply flawed, too,” write reporters Rashida Richardson and Amba Kak. These databases, which are often the cornerstone of the true-crime-beloved practice of profiling, “are heavily influenced by politics and public sentiments, and their composition and use often reflect the prerogatives and biases of law enforcement agencies.”

If you like that kind of crime and tech stuff, I hope you have some free time on Friday. The Tech, Law & Security Program at American University Washington College of Law is hosting an online discussion on Friday, September 18 from 12-1 PM ET. The topic is Power, Policing, & Tech, and participants are three leading experts on police surveillance technologies: UC Davis law prof Elizabeth Joh, Rutgers Law School fellow Rashida Richardson, and Andrew Ferguson, who wrote The Rise of Big Data Policing: Surveillance, Race, and the Future of Law Enforcement.

Here’s their pitch:

Body cams were supposed to be the answer to police abuse. Yet, as the George Floyd killing—along with many other incidents of police brutality—have made clear, video surveillance does not eliminate deadly uses of force. Meanwhile, police are deploying an array of surveillance technologies—from facial-recognition to predictive-policing tools—almost entirely free from regulation or legislative control. Questions about the role of technology loom large. Is it too naive to still believe, despite the abundance of evidence to the contrary, that technology can be deployed in a manner that makes policing more effective and more accountable—or is it inevitably a tool of oppression?

If all that sounds good to you, you can RSVP for this free online event here. — EB

Friday on Best Evidence: Aw, we’ll figure it out.

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