Michael Lohan · Kristin Smart · Angie Harmon
Plus: another look at the Rebecca Zahau case
They couldn’t have planned this better if they’d tried. Just last week I wrote about Body Brokers, that under-the-radar rehab scam movie with the wild cast. A day later, news broke that Michael Lohan — the patriarch of the Lohan family of young entertainers — had himself been arrested for alleged body brokerage.
NBC News has the scoop, reporting that Lohan was booked Friday in Palm Beach County, Florida, for allegedly soliciting people with substance use disorder (SUD) and convincing them to check into rehab centers in exchange for illegal kickbacks.
In a written statement, State Attorney Dave Aronberg says that Lohan “was investigated by our Sober Homes Task Force and he’s being charged with receiving kickbacks for referring patients to drug treatment. Patient brokering corrupts our health care system because decisions are motivated by greed instead of a patient’s needs. This is our Task Force’s 117th arrest and will not be our last.”
Lohan faces six counts of patient brokering, for alleged payouts totaling over $27,000. According to the Palm Beach Post, Lohan has denied the brokering allegations, and says that the payments were made to “help facilitate the sale” of the rehab facility he’s accused of brokering for. — EB
What’s true crime’s role in Netflix’s subscriber drop? Netflix had a tough message for stakeholders last week: the streaming giant’s fortunes have flourished throughout the pandemic, as we all stayed at home and on the couch, Netflixing without chill. That ride ended in Q1 of 2021, the company reported, as subscription growth dramatically dropped.
And somehow, that was the pandemic’s fault, it said, claiming in a shareholder letter that “We believe paid membership growth slowed due to the big Covid-19 pull forward in 2020 and a lighter content slate in the first half of this year, due to Covid-19 production delays.” In other words, “we didn’t have enough new stuff, so people didn’t join up.”
Of course, there’s one genre that continued to pump out fresh content, and I’ll bet you can guess what that is. According to AdWeek, “in the last three months, there have been at least three breakout true-crime series on the service, including the miniseries This is A Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist, the three-part series Murder Among the Mormons and Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, all of which cracked the top 10 most-popular shows.” So, there was plenty of new stuff for folks who were into true crime…but, it appears, that wasn’t enough to shore up the company’s subscription numbers.
Sure, this is bad news for Netflix, but it’s worse news for platforms like Discovery+, which launched this past January with a slate heavily weighted toward true crime. At least Netflix has other types of content to fall back on…and it appears that that’s where they’re putting their resources in the months to come. “As we’ve noted previously, the production delays from Covid-19 in 2020 will lead to a 2021 slate that is more heavily second half weighted with a large number of returning franchises,” Netflix said in their shareholder note.
Right now, the company says, productions are up and running in most major markets, and the company expects to spend $17 billion on content this year. As true crime doesn’t really lend itself to “returning franchises,” what that likely means for us: While for now, we’ve got a bumper crop of Why Did You Kill Me? and Tiger Kings, the rest of 2021 will replace those true crime superstars with more The Witcher (I swear they’ve been promising me Season 2 for 25 years) and Dead To Me (and I haven’t even gotten through Season 2 yet). — EB
An independent podcast about the Kristin Smart case is dominating Apple’s podcast charts. As previously noted, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson tipped his hat to Chris Lambert, the creator of the Your Own Backyard podcast, when his department made two arrests in Smart’s 1996 slaying.
That acknowledgement (Parkinson said “What Chris did with the podcast was put it out nationally to bring in new information…It did produce some information that I believe was valuable”) was enough to send scores of people to their podcast apps to find the eight-episode show, which ran for three months in 2019 and dropped two follow-up episodes in January and November of 2020. According to ABC 10, the podcast was at the top of Apple’s “All Podcasts” chart last week, beating out well-funded operations like the New York Times’ The Daily, This American Life, and The Joe Rogan Experience.
And as of this writing, it’s still beating all those shows, based on data from Chartable. As of Monday night, it’s dropped to #3 on the chart, beaten only by Falwell scandal pod In God We Lust and Crime Junkie, which, shrug emoji. According to Lambert, the sudden fame is “driving me insane,” he tells the AP. “I’ve learned about Kristin the daughter, Kristin the big sister, Kristin the friend, the neighbor, the roommate. Kristin the swimmer. Kristin the dreamer. And I’ve learned that you can miss a person you never even got to meet.” — EB
We’ve been waiting over a year for this book. Back in the fall of 2019, we caught wind of a new book by true-crime author Caitlin Rother about the death of Rebecca Zahau, who was found hanging and bound at Coronado, CA’s historic Spreckels Mansion.
The case has been the subject of numerous true-crime properties over the years, including an Oxygen series called Death At The Mansion (Sarah tackled two of them a couple of years ago). Speaking to KUSI back in 2019, Rother said, “I’m already getting some great interviews with people you haven’t heard from before on TV or elsewhere, so I’m pretty excited … I believe there is still much to be revealed in this case, and many questions to be answered.”
Now, Rother tells the San Diego Union-Tribune (her former employer, BTW), that even after writing the book, she still doesn’t have answers for those questions. “My agent pressed me to take a position, and I just wasn’t comfortable with doing that…There are big holes in the investigation that will never be filled.”
The book drops on Tuesday, April 27 (you can order it here) — and if you’re interested in hearing more from the author, you’re in luck. Rother is throwing a virtual launch event at 7 PM PT on Tuesday “at” the San Diego Public Library. Here’s the zoom information to join in:
Meeting ID: 161 4546 3068
Law & Order star Angie Harmon will lend her resonant tones to a new Lifetime true-crime show. Deadline reports that the self-described “liberal Republican” (hoo boy) will narrate Cellmate Secrets, a series spurred by the success of last year’s Jodi Arias: Cell Mate Secrets.
According to a press release, the series will offer “new insights and information as former friends, guards, cellmates and lovers give first-hand accounts of their time with famed felons and defendants.” Many of these will presumably by provided via Harmon’s huskily-delivered VO, so if you’re into that, you just have to wait until Friday, June 4 at 10 PM to catch the show’s first episode. — EB
Wednesday on Best Evidence: Dan Abrams rises again, some more.