The Blotter Presents, Episode 111: Happy Jail And Ghosts Of Attica

Plus: Want to read Slow Burn?

Sarah and I didn’t make it past the second episode of Happy Jail. The five-part documentary series is set in the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, which was the site of a viral video of inmates dancing to “Thriller.” You know the one:

The problem, as we discuss in this week’s episode of The Blotter Presents, is that the show is a narrative mess, and doesn’t seem to have a plan on how to cover the multitude of stories going on during its time documenting the jail. It’s not boring or uninteresting, but it’s frustrating to realize that for every really intriguing issue that’s raised, you won’t get a follow-up. It’s been on Netflix since mid-August, so I suspect some of you have also dipped into it. If so, what did you think of the show? -- EB

The 2001 documentary Ghosts of Attica was released for rental and purchase last week, so Sarah and I took a look at it for this week’s Cold Case segment of The Blotter Presents. It’s likely that we all have an idea of what went on during the 1971 prisoner uprising, but if I’m honest, I hadn’t thought about it in a while, and this workmanlike doc was a great reminder.

Many of the folks featured in it have since passed -- inmate turned paralegal Frank “Big Black” Smith died in 2004, and attorney Elizabeth Fink died in 2015, so this is likely the best, last chronicle of their fight to wrest recognition and/or compensation from those responsible for the 1600 bullet assault that killed 29 inmates and 10 hostages. It’s a tight, constantly interesting recount of the event, and though its final minutes contain some graphic stills of those killed in the police raid on the prison, I think it’s the kind of documentary that should be shown to upper-level students in schools across the country. You can hear our entire discussion on the doc here, and you can rent Ghosts of Attica on Amazon for $2.99. -- EB

The first trailer for Just Mercy has been released. The movie, which stars Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, and Brie Larson (among many other well-known actors), is an adaptation of Bryan Stevenson’s book of the same name. Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative -- a organization “committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, challenging racial and economic injustice, and protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society” -- back in 1989, and the book and film depict its earliest days and first fights.

Jordan plays Stevenson, and Foxx plays Walter McMillian, a death row inmate freed after Stevenson and the EJI successfully argued that he’d been sentenced for a crime he did not commit. The film is expected to be released in theaters this December. -- EB

Slate has released the transcripts for its Slow Burn podcast. The two season pod covered the crimes of Watergate in its first outing, and of the Clinton administration its second, but it hasn’t released a new episode since last year. That’s why I was surprised to get a load of links to Slow Burn transcripts in my Slate RSS feed in recent days.

Though the scripts to the show are datelined with the days the episodes aired, it seems like the transcripts might have only recently been added (or re-added, hence the goose to the RSS?) to Slate’s site. If you’re looking to relive the pod through your eyes (or just prefer reading to listening) you can find an archive of the transcript posts here. -- EB

Critic Lauren Zupkus says that a new Oxygen series lacks the “unsavory aftertaste” some true crime properties bring. Writing for TV Guide, Zupkus says that while many of the network’s offerings are basically “murder porn,” Murder For Hire “has all the salacious elements of betrayal to draw true crime fans in” but won’t leave “viewers feeling uncomfortable and desensitized after being entertained by a life lost.” The show’s first season ran this summer, and its second begins on October 5. -- EB

Thursday on Best Evidence: I’m going to see Hustlers tonight, so brace for my review tomorrow!

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