The Blotter Presents Episode 112: Murder In The Bayou, Betting On Zero

Plus: A better name for "The College Admissions Scandal"

I’m just going to say it: True-crime shows like Murder In The Bayou succeed at explaining what lazy pundits refer to as “the real America” far better than whatever rust-belt portrait the New York Times is working on at any given time. The five-part Showtime documentary series is the main topic of this week’s The Blotter Presents podcast, and Sarah and (first-time guest!) Dr. Marcia Chatelain agree that the show does an excellent job of explaining small-town class divisions and how economic and addiction issues only increase that divide.

As you of course know, the series looks into the Jeff Davis 8 (also known as the Jennings 8), a group of women, all drug users and/or sex workers, who were found dead in the Jennings, Louisiana area between 2005 and 2009. Sarah and Marcia agree that the show seems to hew closely to the book of the same name (though, as discussed yesterday, its author says it forwards his reporting in notable ways). If you can overlook some of its more tired stupid documentarian tricks (if you hear about someone in Brooklyn who’s shooting filmmakers’ drones out of the sky, it’s probably Sarah) you’re in for a satisfying watch. If you have access to Showtime, you can watch the first episode of the show here, with future eps dropping every Friday at 9 PM. You can listen to Sarah and Marcia’s discussion on the show here. -- EB

Betting On Zero is one of those Netflix documentary series that I’d regularly flip past on Netflix, but after listening to Sarah and Marcia’s discussion of it, I vowed to check it out. Reason number one I was reluctant to give it a shot is hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, the unlikely hero of the doc -- yeah, so maybe I’m predisposed to look at venture capitalists as anything but someone to root for, what of it. The target of Ackman’s ire is Herbalife, however, so the show quickly moves into the enemy of my enemy is my friend territory.

In the doc, we follow Ackman as he invests a billion bucks into exposing Herbalife as a pyramid scheme, even as Herbalife fights back, claiming his plan is to short sell its stock. It would be easy to write this show off as one where everyone’s an asshole, were it not for the fact that the MLM scheme does indeed appear to prey on vulnerable folks like the poor, the disabled, and recent immigrants. If you’re unclear on how businesses like Herbalife (or LuLaRoe, my ongoing MLM obsession) work, this show will take you through it well, but if you’re not interested in stock market machinations and squabbles between billionaires (Carl Icahn makes a prominent appearance), Sarah and Monica agree that the doc might not be for you. You can find it on Netflix here, and listen to Sarah and Monica’s conversation on it here. -- EB

Right after writing about last week’s podcast (isn’t that always how it goes?), I came upon some interesting news regarding a Big Black comic book. A week ago, Sarah and I discussed Ghosts of Attica, a 2001 documentary on the Attica prison uprising of 1971. Prominently featured in the doc was Frank “Big Black” Smith, an inmate who, after his release, became a paralegal to fight for compensation for those injured and killed in the botched police raid on the prison. He was (he died in 2004) a compelling, charismatic figure, and it makes sense that he’s going to be the subject of a graphic history to be released next February.

According to a press release from publisher Boom! Studios, the book will be entitled Big Black: Stand at Attica, and will be adapted and illustrated by French comic artist Améziane, based on text credited to Smith and playwright Jared Reinmuth. You can see the publisher listing for the book here, and preorder it here. -- EB

Podcast Who? Weekly came up with a great name for Lifetime’s upcoming movie on the college admissions scandal. I don’t expect you guys to listen to Who? Weekly, as it’s a show that offers meta-commentary on low-level celebrities, not a show about the topics we’re concerned about here. (It is a show I really like, though, and it just got a neat writeup in the Guardian, just saying.) But on their September 13 episode (which you can listen to here), they tackled something we’ve all been thinking about: The lack of effort Lifetime put into naming the ripped-from-the-headlines film.

As you know, it’s called The College Admissions Scandal, which, while it gets points for clarity and straight-to-the-pointedness, is also very, very basic. (As are most of its alleged conspirators, ha ha!) On the Who? Weekly episode, hosts Bobby Finger and Lindsey Weber come up with a far better title for the movie, one I’m kind of floored no one at Lifetime considered: “Admission Of Guilt.” Right? I can’t top that. (Can you? If so, comment!) -- EB

Thursday on Best Evidence: I have an absolutely amazing Why Hasn’t This Been Adapted Yet? for you guys. I’m so pumped.

What is this thing? This should help.

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