"Ovation on the streets, Oxygen in the sheets" · Hallmark true crime

Plus Discovery+ premieres, Holmesian motives, and more

I was surprised my boss at Primetimer.com took my pitch on Reelz, namely that it’s apparently trying to corner the market on celeb-sleaze true crime. I was just as surprised and gratified that a throwaway logline for the network that made ME laugh but seemed destined to get cut was the phrase Primetimer’s social media led with, but I’ll take that little W happily. Here’s a snip from my piece on basic cable’s guiltiest pleasure:

Like it or not, there's a market for slapped-together trash like World's Most Evil Killers, and Reelz wisely dispenses with any notion that it's performing some kind of cultural or journalistic public service.

What the network doesn't seem to have decided yet is whether it truly wants to lean in to a true-crime identity. On any given day, Reelz feels like it's hedging its bets, airing its trashy true crime fare alongside higher-brow, "artsier" shows like Sting & The Police: Story Of Their Songs, or blocks of prestige films like Rain Man.

Flipping through the channel's upcoming offerings on my guide, I made a note to the effect that Reelz's brand was "Ovation on the streets, Oxygen in the sheets" — only to remember that Ovation is, in fact, Reelz's sister network.

I also review Preppy Killer: My Friend The Murderer and The Affluenza Teen: The Jailhouse Confessions in the piece, in case you were wondering whether you should watch either of those HAHAHAHA you weren’t wondering that even in passing (also, don’t watch them). — SDB

It can’t all be classy Cassino content, folks. …Or CAN it? We love having contributors talk about the true crime they think you should watch/avoid (and we do take pitches! scroll down for our contact info), but we also love giving them money, and your paid subscriptions let us do that. If you’ve got a finsky lying around and you’d like to see our contribs upgraded from “a pittance,” treat yourself — and them — to a paid sub today. — SDB

True-crime author Rebecca Morris has a Zoom talk scheduled Tuesday (that’s tomorrow!) on her books and the true-crime genre. Morris’s name didn’t ring a bell for me, but in the event you’ve read her books — Boy Missing: The Search for Kyron Horman, If I Can’t Have You, and A Killing in Amish Country, among others — or are interested in 1) the cases therein, or 2) how someone working in the genre grapples with the ethics of it, the talk is at 7 PM ET. It’s hosted by the Ashtabula County District Library; more deets at “facebook.com/ACDLibraries and on the library’s website, acdl.info.” — SDB

Oh good, the Hallmark channel will have a take on true-crime podcasting. Chronicle Mysteries: Helped To Death hits the network February 21, and I guess I should get my Quaid In Full co-host Jeb Lund — also co-host of Hallmark pod Dave And Jeb Aren’t Mean — to talk to me about this ongoing series. I might…also…watch it wait wait hear me out. I’ve always liked series star Ali Sweeney, going back to my days recapping Biggest Loser for Previously.TV, and while the humor is unintentional, there is almost nothing funnier than Hallmark’s ideas about podcasting, blogging, podcasters who return to their small towns and take over the local paper (totally same skill set, come on!), etc. etc.

In the latest installment, “Alex [Sweeney] and her colleague Drew Godfrey ([Benjamin] Ayers [, straight out of Hallmark Cute-But-Not-Sexy Canadian Central Casting]) investigate a self-help retreat where people past and present have died.” That death is even mentioned in the logline is pretty dark for Hallmark, and anyone who’s watched previous iterations can correct me, but in the Hallmark feelms I’ve watched before going on DAJAM, nobody even kisses with tongue — in movies called The Wedding March, for God’s sake, so we aren’t getting a dark contemplation of the wellness industry. We’re getting the whimsical Amero-Canadian diet ginger ale that Hallmark viewers tune in for. And after the four years we’ve all just had, I can’t really see a problem with that.

“Fortunately,” Discovery+ has us covered on the black-coffee-and-bile end of the content spectrum for February. Realscreen summarizes the streamer’s upcoming slate:

[T]he two-hour documentary If I Can’t Have You: The Jodi Arias Story (Feb. 12); Where Murder Lies (Feb. 16); The Chameleon Killer (Feb. 19); and The List of Ten (Feb. 23).

It’s been a while since we were seeing an Arias property every two weeks or so, but this one sounds like kind of a nothingburger despite the promise of “unseen” materials. Ditto Where Murder Lies, whose concept is basically that some murders are so terrible, they expose the secrets of everyone involved…? Like that someone…is a murderer? idk. The List Of Ten sounds like an interesting case that’s probably better served by reading up on Joseph Naso’s cryptic titular list online than by watching the special — but the First 48-esque countdown-clock aspect could be interesting. — SDB

“After killing his cousin, Clyde Meikle found purpose in prison through service. Now he’s asking to go home.” Kelan Lyons’s worthwhile longread from Connecticut Mirror has a fantastic opening that draws the reader right in, as inmates at Cheshire Correctional Institution in Connecticut held mock trials while simultaneously trying not to 1) get busted by COs for a gathering that might look like prohibited “gang activity,” or 2) piss off fellow inmates trying to enjoy some football in the rec room at the same time. The piece’s main focus, of course, is Meikle, who as of the piece’s publication was waiting on an imminent sentence modification that would cut his sentence from 50 years to 28. The outcome is here, but read the Mirror piece first, because it’s got a little of everything: a well-meaning, but still self-regarding, warden; cases less clear-cut than Meikle’s, in which the inmates’ résumés behind bars don’t sparkle as brightly as Meikle’s but who nonetheless; contributing factors in Meikle’s background (“According to a legal filing, a nurse noted that he still sucked his thumb at age 17, a sign of severe trauma”) and Meikle’s own insights into the currency of violence; and the impact of “sentence mods” on victims and families who can’t really be made whole.

Others talked about all that Clifford missed by dying so young. Kimberly Walker, Clifford’s sister, said her brother could have done the same things Meikle did, but he never got the chance.

“You guys think it’s OK, you think it’s all right because he got a degree?” Kimberly asked those on the virtual hearing about Meikle. “If he was out here, he wouldn’t have gotten that degree.”

A thought-provoking read, so give it a look. — SDB

Prosecutors say Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes was motivated in her ongoing blood-testing shell game by the desire to hold onto her wealth and fame. A Wall Street Journal article on this from a couple weeks ago is paywalled, but you’ll get a decent overview from this coverage piece on Celebrity Net Worth, and while this might seem like a nothing headline, the point is that prosecutors want jurors to hear about that motivation so that they can get certain materials in as supporting evidence. At least, I think that’s the state’s angle, because Holmes’s attorneys have consistently asserted that certain communications and alleged emotional outcomes aren’t relevant in a financial fraud case, so this is a possible way around that argument…

…and while I can’t speak to how pertinent a motive is legally in a proceeding like this, I don’t actually believe holding onto the perks was part of it for Holmes. The “fame,” yeah, maybe; I would posit there’s a large “Cool Girl, but tech” component to Holmes’s purpose, and in fact it’s perhaps the only component.

The trial is still slated for mid-July, although I’m not willing to bet against further delays given the venue. — SDB

Tuesday on Best Evidence: Documentary lawsuits, Scott Peterson, and more.

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