The Blotter Presents, Episode 110: Cheating In College and Bridge

Plus: Does Netflix have any podcasts for us?

In this week’s episode of The Blotter Presents, Sarah and guest John Ramos take TBP’s first (but, I suspect, not the last) look at the college admissions scandal, by way of the first season of Gangster Capitalism. The Gangster Capitalism podcast is hosted by Andrew Jenks, a filmmaker who’s worked in both the dramatic and documentary spaces. Though Jenks isn’t new to the podcast space (his show, "What Really Happened?" is remarkably popular) Sarah and John say he struggles at times with the audio narrative format.

But does that matter when the topic is as engaging as Operation Varsity Blues? In many ways, the college admissions scandal is the best kind of true crime, as followers can revel in the details without feeling that twinge of anxiety over the victims. (Not that there aren’t victims in these cases of academic cheating -- obviously, these wealthy kids cost other, more deserving students, valuable opportunities, but we’re not talking grisly crime scene evidence.) Did Jenks pick a topic for his new pod that’s impossible to screw up? Listen to Sarah and John’s discussion here to see what they thought. -- EB


For the Cold Case section of the podcast, Sarah and John took a look back at a scandal that rocked the world of competitive bridge: the revelation that many of its top players cheat. As a pro-level bridge player himself, John chose the topic because, he says, the 2016 revelations changed the game forever.

To aid in the discussion, they looked at John Colapinto’s report for Vanity Fair on the matter, as well as David Owen’s report for The New Yorker. Ahead of those articles, however, came YouTube videos from the English Bridge Union’s Michael Clark, who sought to illustrate how various cheating schemes work in the sport. You can find his videos on the matter here, and listen to Sarah and John’s take on this kind of cheating here. -- EB


North Carolinans are praising the authenticity of The Long Dance. The podcast, which dropped the summer of 2018, got lost in my personal shuffle, as it (like many of the properties that have recently appeared) covers a case of a couple found dead after a dance. This time, the pair are 20-year-old nursing student Patricia Mann and her 19-year-old boyfriend, Jesse McBane, both of whom were found strangled, tortured, and murdered two weeks after they were last seen at a Durham, North Carolina Valentine’s Day dance.

The crime went down in 1971, and it’s never been solved -- though podcasters Eryk Pruitt, Drew Adamek, and Piper Kessler say that they’ve since “partnered with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office” to solve the murders” through “several hundreds of hours of interviews” of those close to the case, as well as “helping to secure the DNA profiles of the three suspects who had never been eliminated.” However, the show’s last episode dropped in June of 2018, and no arrests have been made, so…

That said, Monica Holland of the Fayette Observer recently singled the show out for praise, saying that it felt “familiar” for folks who live in the area, and that “the reality of it alluring, especially when you know that it happened right up the road.” As every day, I hear about locals who feel frustrated by “outsiders” who mis-cover the issues in their cities, this feels like high praise to me, so I just added The Long Dance back to my (ever mounting) podcast roster. -- EB


Netflix is planning to build out its podcasting roster to accessorize its original content. While at present, most of its shows have a more general pop-culture focus, Variety reports that it’s planning more content to complement its productions. Right now, its only true crime focused show is “You Can’t Make This Up,” a series says it offers “the real stories behind Netflix Original true crime stories” -- one that I gave up on shortly after its launch last year, because I wasn’t hearing much that added to the properties it was discussing. (Has it improved? Let me so and I’ll drop back in.) According to Rae Votta, the streaming service’s podcast lead, “we’re talking a lot with our documentary team about what opportunities are out there,” so expect more to come.


Speaking of Netflix, they’ve finally worked out a release date for The Irishman. According to The Hollywood Reporter, after it was unable to reach a deal with AMC and Cineplex, the film will screen in “select indie cinemas willing to carry the drama” on November 1, a move presumably intended to secure its Oscar contention. Then, on Wednesday, November 27, it’ll drop on Netflix proper. As the next day is Thanksgiving, I guess by then we’ll know if the movie’s allegedly false narrative is a winner…or if the whole operation is one big turkey. Fine, I’ll show myself out. -- EB


Thursday, on Best Evidence: Now that we have The Irishman nailed down, let’s start talking about The Laundromat


What is this thing? This should help.

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