Saturday Night Live has discovered true crime. OK, that’s not completely fair, they’ve tackled the genre before (more on that in a second). This past weekend, they dropped a pre-taped sketch on the topic that they helpfully tweeted so I don’t have to dig it up on Peacock or whatever. Here we go:
Is the whole masturbation comedic fake-out move one that should have died 20 years ago? Yes indeedy. And is the observation that women are interested in gory true crime a new one? Oh my Savage Appetites no.
But did I appreciate the acknowledgement that much of the time, its what’s on in the background as I do other things? I did! And did I find the sketch’s approach to the gentle callousness with which we pair true-crime content with regular life stuff a nice side-eye? You bet. And do I think that the one pro-level singer in the mix (Joe Jonas) was weirdly auto-tuned? I most certainly do, what was up with that?
I mean, it’s fine. But it’s no “Serial: The Christmas Surprise” (2014). Which just might be one of my favorite SNL sketches of the last decade.
OK, while I’m at it, I’ll also tip my hat to “Dateline: The Mystery of the Chopped Up Guy” (2013).
Finally, not SNL but it sure could have been if the show was as coastal elite as they say, it’s Portlandia’s “NPR Podcast” (2017).
All this to say, some of the past seven years’ eye-rolls about the genre are cleverer than others. — EB
Tell Sarah what to watch/read/listen to next! Yes, it’s true, Sarah owns a true-crime bookstore now (don’t get mad, we told you about this), but that doesn’t mean she’s above letting you pick what she reads (or watches, or listens to) and writes about for her March paid-subscribers-only content review.
Looking at the cast list for Sex and Lies in Sin City, I know where my vote is going, but don’t let me sway you (well, maybe for a second: it stars Matthew Modine, who Sarah and I recently agreed was quite the hottie in his pre-Rick-Singer days!). Vote early, and vote often, as they say. — EB
Speaking of paid subscriber benefits…Sarah’s review of Carolyn Murnick's crimoir The Hot One is live for folks who pony up that $5/month to $55/year to be privy to all our work. As the pandemic winds down, we expect to increase the number of subscriber-only content and benefits we offer here.
It’s never too late to jump aboard, and when you do, ALL our past content (two years’ worth, as of May) is available to you immediately. What a deal!
After a fairly rattling week, I needed some true-crime content that wouldn’t rile me up too much when it comes to man’s inhumanity to man. Luckily for me, Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art had just arrived on Netflix, so box: ticked.
So, no one in Made You Look is de Hory or Welles, especially in terms of charisma. Instead, we spend a lot of time with Ann Freedman, whose sales at the Knoedler Gallery gained international attention in 1995 when an unknown Mark Rothko she bought and — after it was examined and given the stamp of approval by a slew of experts — sold turned out to be the work of a forger. The painting, which had critics swooning, was “worthless,” one interviewee spits. “It has no value,” says another dyspeptic critic — one who had previously sung the praises of its composition and color.
There’s a strong argument to make that cases like these are almost victimless crimes, as they happen between rich and fancy art people (many of them white) who will crow about an acquisition’s beauty until its revealed that its as fake as that Prada bag my then-boyfriend’s mother gave me for my 28th birthday.
“It’s better than the real thing, because you won’t worry about getting anything on it!” she said at the time. After her son dumped me and stopped paying rent on the far-too-expensive-for-me apartment we’d shared, I sold it at a resale shop for $15. More, apparently, than a fake Jackson Pollock Freedman also sold, saying then (as she did regarding the Rothko) that she had no idea she’d been scammed. You can see why she might not be lying: the faux-Pollock, too, is the kind of work that sends critics reaching for their thesaurus. But, unbranded, it’s trash.
The scam is unraveled in a fun and accessible way, and there’s no stress or scares around these victim interviews, making Made You Look the perfect true crime for the times when suffering or pain (even offscreen) might just be more than you can bear. And it’s fun to think about art, at least for someone like me, who has a casual fondness for museums but no real skin in the game. Afterwards, I turned to the brilliant film adaptation of Six Degrees of Separation (also arguably true crime) because I wanted even more rarefied New York art-world shenanigans. Six Degrees is $3.99 to stream on Amazon Prime (free if you have Starz), and I can’t think of a more gentle and still thought-provoking true crime double-feature than that and Made You Look. — EB
Mike Tyson is angry about a Hulu docuseries on his life. I’ve been wondering if/when folks might reconsider Tyson the Hangover star/Warner Brothers cartoon character who was convicted of rape in 1991 and whose Spike Lee-directed, one-man Broadway show included (at least in the performance I saw in 2013) Tyson laughingly acting out kicking his (pantomime) wife as she cowered on the floor, much to the delight of the crowd around us and without much question from interviewers and critics.
We don’t know yet if Iron Mike, an eight-episode look at Tyson, might take more of a post-Me Too attitude than his previous endeavors, but it seems like Tyson is worried that that’s the case. The Hollywood Reporter says that Tyson released a statement blasting the series, which is from the folks who made I, Tonya.
Hulu's announcement to do an unauthorized miniseries of my life, although unfortunate, isn't surprising. This announcement on the heels of social disparities in our country is a prime example of how Hulu's corporate greed led to this tone-deaf cultural misappropriation of my life story.
To make this announcement during Black History Month only confirms Hulu's concern for dollars over respect for Black story rights. Hollywood needs to be more sensitive to Black experiences especially after all that has transpired in 2020. My authorized story is in development and will be announced in coming days.
Tyson isn’t wrong that recent social events have made us more aware than ever of the disparity that exists between certain marginalized groups’ experiences. He’s also not wrong that that should be reflected in how projects are approached by filmmakers and other content creators. Here’s hoping he gets both his wishes from the Hulu series, and from other depictions in the years to come. — EB
The Theranos trial might be in jeopardy. The Wall Street Journal reports that a database that recorded millions of the company’s blood tests is no more, which might make it impossible to prove that Theranos test results were actually inaccurate. Which is kind of the point of the case! Here’s a snip:
…Ms. Holmes’s lawyers said the government knew about the database as early as December 2016 but never tried to use it during an investigation that led to the indictment of Ms. Holmes and Theranos Ćhief Operating Officer Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani in June 2018.
Theranos gave the government a copy of the database on an encrypted hard drive in August 2018, both sides said in court filings. They also agree that soon after, Theranos employees and contractors dismantled the servers containing the original database, making it impossible to access. The company dissolved later in 2018.
Ms. Holmes’s attorneys argue that the government didn’t try to take possession of the original servers and didn’t hire an expert to try to access the encrypted hard drive for more than a year.
Prosecutors said the copy of the database on the hard drive was formatted in a way that wouldn’t give a clear picture of the information. More importantly, prosecutors said, they were never given a necessary encryption code to access it. Ms. Holmes’s lawyers acknowledge the missing password but don’t address why it wasn’t given to the government.
Now her lawyers are arguing that any other evidence prosecutors might present about test results are merely anecdotal, and shouldn’t be admitted. I can kind of see their point! Now U.S. District Judge Edward Davila must weigh the arguments, and will rule on that and at least 20 (to date) other pre-trial motions before the July, 2021 trial. — EB
Tuesday on Best Evidence: Sarah has a lot to choose from, but I’m rooting hard for a Nigerian Catfish story she has on our budget doc.