Quibi Shows · TX Fraud · New Podcast Roundup

Fashion plates, burning planes, and more

Quibi isn’t taking the hint. Despite numerous pieces on the media-analysis beat detailing Quibi’s “doomed” beginnings and crappy subscriber retention, the…network? app? is forging ahead with a fall season, including two true-crime entries. Quibi’s centerpiece true-crime offering on launch, Murder House Flip, was in fact too flip for my taste, as well as dishonest on the home-renovation-timeline side; both the new series also have that same kind of punny make-light-of-gory-tragedy titling, starting with Murder Unboxed, briefed thusly in a PR email:

Mimicking the style of popular online “unboxing” videos, each episode takes a new case and introduces seemingly unrelated evidence - one item at a time. Through interviews with the actual investigators, prosecutors, and witnesses of each case, along with stylized recreations, the crazy story of how these random items came together to solve the crime unfolds.  Full of twists, turns, and red herrings, each case plays out like a game of “Clue,” a real whodunit that has viewers playing along and guessing until the very end.  

The article I linked above wastes zero time slagging Quibi as, basically, what happens when “two 60-something alphas [are] trying to run a company for millennials,” and Murder Unboxed could not possibly read as more out-of-touch pandering to what they’ve heard their grandkids like to watch on YouTube if it tried. Also: “stylized recreations.” Hard pass. A simple, unadorned unpacking and filming of an evidence box, with no v.o. and no deep-unfocus re-enactments, might be compelling in a Warholian kind of a way; this is…not going to be that. If you’re one of the 31 people who forgot to delete Quibi after the trial period, you can check out Murder Unboxed September 21.

The other offering sounds slightly less grimy: Last Looks, a Dakota Fanning-narrated series produced by Refinery29 that “investigates the real crimes that have shaken the fashion industry … charts the sequence of events that led to the crime, and explores each scandal’s impact on society and culture.” The email also mentions “evocative recreations,” like, ugh, can we not? A Deadline write-up of the announcement of the series from last October notes the “strong feminist lens” R29 will try to bring to its stories, a phrase that…actually has no meaning; it goes on to note that the “look is paramount,” and promises a neo-noir feel. Here again, there’s the potential for a thoughtful take on one slice of the true-crime topic pie…until you think about it for more than 90 seconds and you realize their whiteboard is probably, like, Gianni Versace; Reeva Steenkamp; and some trashy conspiracy theories about Princess Diana. I have zero confidence that either of these is worth my time, even in bite-size portions. What about y’all? — SDB


Which book is worth my time for next month’s bonus review? I tweaked the poll so you can vote for more than one, and the current result is a bit surprising to me! Let your voice be heard.

Vote now!


Okay, time for some guaranteed-quality material: “The Wildest Insurance Fraud Texas Has Ever Seen,” from the always-reliable Texas Monthly’s September issue. Katy Vine’s piece has everything you want in a crime longread: “slinking” and “prowling”; a suspect named Fosdick; online MiG-parts schemes; that kid who wore a suit to class in high school; and a metric tonne of fraud investigative process, smoothly incorporated to give readers context.

How does the sentence that begins “Once, when T. R. suspected a minor celebrity he was seeing had intentionally given him food poisoning through a homemade brownie” end? You should really see for yourself. — SDB


Want to see my review of James Renner’s book for yourself? Grab a paid subscription and marvel at what low expectations hath wrought, hee. But if you’re feeling the pinch financially, hey: we get it. Stick around; the newsletter’s mostly free anyway — and you can see what I’m up to on Goodreads for free too. — SDB


And if you’d rather listen than read, good news: I’ve got a podcast roundup!


Thursday on Best Evidence: A nutty Zodiac longread (still no dads involved; spoiler), plus fantasy-director-casting a doc on Mt. Vernon police misconduct…and whatever else Eve is thinking about!


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