Netflix’s new docuseries Murder Among the Mormons details a very bizarre investigation into three bombings that shocked Salt Lake City in the 1980s. Forged documents threatening to collapse the Mormon faith didn’t initially sound sinister enough for my taste, but they got me at “salamander.” I like to think that I can handle myself after a true crime doc, but after Crime Scene: The Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel, I couldn’t drink tap water for a week. Happily, Murder Among the Mormons left a different taste in my mouth. After three episodes of gothic cathedrals, fall foliage, and serene mountain vistas, I couldn’t help but wonder… should I… become Mormon? And scarier, would they even want me? Could I sacrifice my integrity for a 1950s husband that actually encourages me to stay home? And is relocating to Utah the exact answer to escalating housing prices and smog-filled hikes I’ve been looking for? (lol at pretending I hike). There were more than a few fun twists throughout the series—like encountering the sultry, soft whisper of who can only be described as the real-life Mr. Peanut Man. However, considering moving to Pleasantville and tossing away every feminist T-shirt in my dresser was not the outcome I expected. Netflix’s Dream Home Makeover certainly makes finding a mansion for $15 feel feasible. I could get used to an entire house of white built-ins, right? After all, The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City makes Mormonism feel more like a Girl Scout Badge than an actual belief system. Dare I say….it might be worth it?
That said, considering joining the Mormons wasn’t the only unexpected takeaway. Never before have I watched a crime doc in which every single man frighteningly looks like they just got cut from the Santa Claus mall auditions. (White hair. Very white skin. And a puffiness that only milk and cookies can bring.) I finished the doc dreaming of sugarplum fairies. Murder Among the Mormons clearly offers a lot in terms of entertainment and thought-provoking meditation. So, let’s dive into some other subjects the Mormons might have you considering, second to a career in forgery.
Hear me out—evolution is real and great. However, several moments throughout the series they ask you to picture a childhood where dinosaur books are banned. My answer to that: please! The trauma of watching The Land Before Time cannot be underscored enough. The startling death of Little Foot’s parents will haunt my generation for years to come. Can we all agree dinosaurs are to blame for millennials feeling like there’s no use in saving for a future? It’s not not true.
Bring Back The Pussy Bow
If Blanche Devereaux taught me anything, it’s that anyone can pull off a shoulder pad with the right amount of swagger. There is a plethora of mod sweater vests, oversized Princess Diana-esque sweatshirts, and matching plaid suits decorating the series. Yet, nothing shines brighter than the women of Salt Lake City fully rocking the lost art of the pussy bow blouse. Maybe I’ve been in sweatpants too long…but the large, floppy silk bow ties look chic as hell. Full stan!
It’s Time to Buy A Drill
Mark Hofmann is not your typical murder show bad guy. This is a man who told his wife he wanted to go into “the document business,” which I’m pretty sure was my improvised answer when the college counselor asked for my future plans. Still, he was able to construct a pipe bomb before the days of Google. I have to say, unless Amazon starts to ship dynamite, I can’t imagine most millennials being able to do this. Which got me thinking… it’s time to learn how to work a drill. I’ve Allen wrenched enough IKEA bookshelves to furnish the entirety of the LDS Church. Yet, I have no actual construction skills. It’s 2021, damnit. It’s high time I stop relying on ex-Mormon friends (they exist!) to hang my shelves. Going to a hardware store tomorrow!
The Importance of Your Quarantine Lewk
Midway through the series, they begin to describe the suspect as the man “in a green letterman jacket.” They repeat this so many times I start sweating thinking of how I might be described once the LAPD starts taking parking tickets seriously. Horrifying descriptions like: “the girl in the ripped pajamas,” “the girl wearing 2008 Ugg boots,” and worst of all, “the girl in the Twilight hoodie,” have mortified me into entirely rethinking what I’m sporting to walk my dog at midnight. You just never know.
The No-Global-Warming Aesthetic
Growing up in the heat of Texas, I never fathomed it was possible to sprout real-life evergreens in the front yard. And yet, so many LDS houses are tucked into cocoons of magical forest and the lushest green grass you’ve ever seen. There are clearly no water restrictions in Salt Lake. Turns out living in a small town where climate change isn’t real means Douglas Firs can grow in place of house plants and sad succulents. Is Utah maybe the North Pole, but like, with a few dead bodies here and there? It’s worth a visit.
Don’t Cheap Out
If you’re gonna pay someone to do something sketchy for you, make sure you pay in full. After the FBI hits a dead end, the case springs back open when a man working at the printing press finally names the culprit. His reason for snitching? Mark was “a couple of bucks short.” Enough said. Keep your friends close and pay the people that matter most—like your neighborhood hitmen and Postmates drivers!
We’re All Lazy, Even The FBI
I have to say, the most inspiring realization watching Murder Among The Mormons is that anyone can have a bad day at work and choose to give up. The FBI, as in the very official United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, did such a rush job authenticating the forged documents that it clearly must have been Monday night and everyone in D.C. needed to get home to watch The Bachelor. It’s comforting to know that even the FBI decides to phone it in every once in a while. So basically, give yourself another sick day! You’re only human!
All assassinations considered, Murder Among The Mormons is as comforting as true crime can get. It’s not going to get your heart racing, but 80s fashion, cute wraparound wooden decks, and 10 minutes discussing the minutiae of cracked ink will leave you feeling wistful. I’m reminded of the days of Mary-Kate and Ashley using invisible ink to send important messages to each other like: can you read this? In a world of cults, pedophilia, and serial killers, something as simple as forgery is a nice palate cleanser. Somehow, after watching three bombs detonate a city, I feel oddly…motivated. Do I truly want to sign up for a religion that celebrates racism and misogyny? No. Do I actually want to live in a land of MAGA hats and blonde extensions? Hells no. But being able to fall asleep dreaming of affordable housing after the high of binging a murder show feels pretty damn good to me. Cue the SNL song—this is as good as it gets.
Imags: Courtesy of Netflix © 2021 (2); Netflix
I’ve gone through TV this pandemic like the stages of grief. The first stage was the prestige drama. “It’s the perfect time to finally watch The Wire,” I thought! Turns out, the intricacies of the drug trade in Baltimore were heavy and complicated. Who can handle that in a time like this? Next came the trashy reality TV stage. “Watching people get drunk, naked, and make bad decisions is exactly what I need to get me through this pandemic! Too Hot To Handle will heal me,” I reasoned. Turns out, watching people get closer than six feet apart made me jealous, angry, and a little bit panicky. On to the next! The third stage was comfort TV. “Time to settle in with all my old friends! A little Jess Day-Nick Miller time is what I need.” Turns out, New Girl just made me long for the simpler times when I first discovered it.
So I’ve finally made it to my final stage of TV. The true crime documentary. THIS is exactly what I need. Something that keeps me up at night out of fear that someone will break in and dismember me and not because I’ll never be able to buy a house! And the great thing about true crime is that there’s a little something for everyone. Murder? Good! Scams? Good! Cults? Good! It’s all here. And lately we’ve been blessed with an embarrassment of true crime riches. So which one should you watch? Oh don’t fret, I’ve got you covered and will be breaking it down for you by interest. Because when my therapist says, “maybe you should slow down on the crime so you don’t have to clutch a butter knife all night long” I like to double down instead of taking the suggestion. You’re welcome!
*Friendly warning: There might be some light spoilers in here, so tread carefully if you’re going to be mad that I mentioned something that happened 20 years ago was already splashed all over countless newspapers and magazines!*
If You’re A Late Night Reddit Fiend You Should Watch…
Unsolved Mysteries – Netflix
Me the next few days trying to solve all the crimes. #UnsolvedMysteries pic.twitter.com/fehQDM2WCC
— Cancelled♡ (@Thatsovirgo) July 2, 2020
Unsolved Mysteries dropped on Netflix in July, and it’s a revival of an old show that was on TV way back when The Bachelor was but a twinkle in Mike Fleiss’ eye. There are six new episodes detailing crimes or weird happenings (aliens are real y’all, change my mind) that have never been solved. So if you’re the kind of person that likes to spend all night theorizing to strangers as to why a man would sleep with the ashes of his murdered wife, or if you enjoy combing through letters that were left by a dead man and comparing them to the plot of a movie then this. is. your. show. And hey! If you solve one of these cases, all that time you spent maniacally whispering to yourself, “it wasn’t suicide”, neglecting showers, and subsisting only on Cheetos and then the left over Cheeto dust that collected on your shirt will just be called a “cute phase” instead of a “mental breakdown”.
Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich – Netflix
Speaking of it not being suicide, it’s obviously time to move on to Jeffrey Epstein. The theories abound about what actually happened to him in that prison cell, but this documentary actually focuses on the girls (now women) he abused and how his money, access, and power allowed it to happen without consequence for years. It’s terrifying. Netflix even calls it a “molestation pyramid scheme” and now I’m actually thankful that all the girls I went to high school with only got involved in makeup pyramid schemes. But in all seriousness, Jeffrey Epstein was very connected to some of the most powerful people in the world and it makes me suspicious that literally every man in charge of anything was involved. My mom always did tell me growing up that everyone’s a perv. This series made me believe it.
Outcry – Hulu
This one is for all of you out there that love Friday Night Lights, but wish it had involved more ruined lives, child molestation, and shoddy detective work. Greg Kelley was a high school football star in Texas when he was accused and convicted of sexually assaulting a 4-year-old that attended daycare in the house where he lived. I know, a tough pill to swallow. But this series follows Greg as he is in prison, and then eventually is exonerated for the crime. Throughout the documentary we see how poorly the case was handled, how important leads were not investigated, and how because of that, this child never got justice. I have my theory of who actually committed this crime but for legal reasons I’ll not publish it here, so maybe this time that anonymous person you see speculating on Reddit is ME.
*Cue Beyoncé* If You’re Into Girl Power You Should Watch…
Love Fraud – Hulu
Friends, Love Fraud brought me so much joy. I mean, not the part where we hear from multiple women that they were conned out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. That brought me rage. I mean the part where these women connect with each other, hire themselves a badass female bounty hunter, and attempt to find this life-sized maggot dressed in a suit and masquerading as a man on their own. I mean, the part where one of the women, Sabrina, says right to the camera, “Scott, you lying sack of sh*t, you f*cked me. And I’m coming after you.” Sabrina is my raison d’être. I mean the part where they’re out for revenge. Ladies, if you’re like me and you need a little joy in your life, it’s time to cue up Love Fraud.
Our bounty hunter, ladies and gentlemen.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark – HBO
I can’t say enough good things about this documentary. It started as a book about the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara that transcended the true crime genre. The documentary details the case and features survivors, while also including Michelle’s writing process, her dogged efforts to solve the case, and her tragic death before completing the book. It’s different from any documentary you’ve ever seen (much like the book was) and the best part? They actually caught the son of a b*tch that did it using a genealogical website! And less than two weeks ago, they rolled that old murdering prick who thought for so long that he got away with it into court and sentenced him to life in prison without parole. How often does that happen?! It’s hard to watch and beautiful to watch, and I highly recommend it. And it also teaches you to maybe warn your family members before you spit in a tube and send it off to 23 and Me, because you might find out you aren’t as Italian as your mom said you were, but they might get arrested for murder.
If You Think Everything Is A Scam You Should Watch…
(Un)well – Netflix
This one’s for you, Goopers. Believe it or not (believe it) shoving a jade egg up your vagina is not a good idea. And if you’ve done that, it’s time you check out this series. (Un)well examines the wellness industry and how it takes advantage of unsuspecting folks like you and me to make billions of dollars. Each episode examines a different wellness trend like essential oils or breast milk and shows us both sides of the issue. It might not sound your typical true crime series, but I promise you when you hear a grown man talk about his “mother’s milk smoothie” you’ll certainly be ready to commit murder yourself.
The Vow – HBO
And finally we’ve made it to The Vow, the new HBO series detailing the NXIVM cult. I’ve only watched the first episode so far (the new episodes are still dropping) but I’m obsessed. We haven’t gotten to the part where anything bad happens yet so I’m full-steam ahead invested in this organization. Yes I DO want to find my higher purpose! Yes, they DID cure Tourette’s! Yes, I DO need one of those sashes! Needless to say, I can see how people got roped in. I’ve got to see where this goes quick, before I start writing to Keith Raniere in prison. Help.
I think there’s something for everyone on this list, so I hope you all get everything your true crime seeking heart desires. Did I miss anything? If you know about a crime doc I forgot please hit me up in the comments, lord knows I need more fuel for my constant nightmares.
Images: Netflix; thatsovirgo/Twitter; memetides, grkelley2, pattonoswalt, hbo/Instagram; Giphy (1)
Just as Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, so too did the spirit of Joe Exotic return from the meth-fueled fever dream from whence it came to grace our screens once again. That’s because Netflix finally dropped the long-awaited Tiger King bonus episode, called The Tiger King And I. If the title isn’t any indication, it’s not actually new footage, and it’s basically just like, a 40-minute version of the last 2 minutes of every Catfish episode where the hosts video chat with everyone for updates. So in the new bonus-that’s-not-really-a-bonus, host Joel McHale catches up with some of our favorite secondary players from Tiger King. We get pretty much everyone at the G.W. Zoo except for obviously Joe Exotic. Unsurprisingly, Doc Antle and Carole Baskin did not participate, probably because Doc is too busy still running his
sex cult zoo despite the pandemic, and Carole has a personal vendetta against Netflix (the filmmakers better sleep with one eye open from now on).
I’m not here to recap the entire after show, because I’m an ~artiste~ and not a transcriber. I’m here to talk about the glow-ups. Specifically, to rank the glow-ups. Unsurprisingly, once everyone got out from underneath Joe’s watchful eye(brow ring), their skin cleared up, they got better teeth, their hair grew in thick and shiny, and overall, they all just look and sound way better off. So I want to pay tribute to our Tiger King glow-ups, in order of worst to best.
7. Jeff & Lauren Lowe
Unsurprisingly, Jeff and Lauren Lowe are exactly the same. Is it because Jeff has 65 of the same Affliction T-shirt and even more nearly identical styles of leather biker jacket? That’s certainly part of it. Is it also partly because they are maintaining the same smug attitude? You bet. And I’ve got to give Lauren major props for not at all looking like she recently gave birth—I guess Jeff’s thinly-veiled threats that he would leave her for their hot nanny if she failed to snap back to her pre-pregnancy weight instantly after giving birth worked.
I guess I’ll give them props for consistency, though I hope Jeff is at least using his bandanas as makeshift face masks if he leaves the house, instead of just wearing them under his hat. Either way, I have a feeling this won’t be the last we hear of Jeff, especially considering he’s the one who broke the news on this disappointing reunion special. I predict he’s going to be riding this Tiger King wave for as long as he can, all while simultaneously protesting any connection he has to Joe Exotic. Dude, he like, made you…
This placement is by no means a personal attack on Saff. The truth simply is that when you start towards the top, there’s not much room for ascension. Saff looks exactly the same (please drop your skincare routine) and continues to maintain a levelheaded attitude, otherwise known as “be the realest one out of this whole cast of clowns.” The craziest part is probably that Saff is still sympathetic to Joe, and I don’t know if that’s extreme loyalty or a form of Stockholm Syndrome. He also didn’t really take issue with Netflix misgendering him throughout the 7-part series (and kind of again in the reunion with the name tag! Just call him Saff!), proving that he is nicer than me on my best day. Saff, never change.
5. Rick Kirkham
Rick kept his hat, changed his vest, and put the cigarette away during filming, all of which amount to a very solid glow-up. His wrinkles may have deepened from the time that being at G.W. Zoo undoubtedly took off his life, but damn it, he kept his statement piece. I respect it.
I’ve also got to give Rick big ups for getting as far away from Oklahoma as physically possible and just peacing out to Norway. I wish I’d thought of it myself.
4. Erik Cowie
Erik’s locks are still as luscious as ever, but he cut himself some ill-advised quarantine bangs, and for that reason, he’s not ranking higher on this list. However, Erik’s glowed-up attitude and outspokenness to how sh*tty Joe Exotic was to all the animals is worth commending, as is his opening line that he’s “livin’ life and lovin’ Jesus”, which I may steal to use ironically. He has not watched Tiger King because he’s supposedly been too busy working, and just may be the only person who actually does work at G.W. Zoo. I honestly love that for him, but hope that one day he can find a job working at a zoo that’s not run by complete lunatics.
3. John Reinke
Can’t really point to anything specific, but I just got the impression that Reinke was living better now, Gucci sweater now. Actually, I know—it’s the teeth. They are very white and very straight. (Yes, I know they were both straight and existent before, but now it’s just striking.) And my man’s got AirPods, and a new girlfriend! (While still married to his wife because of the pandemic. I love the messiness.) Overall, Reinke seems to be doing pretty well for himself (I can’t even find one person to
trap enter into in a monogamous relationship, let alone two), and if you think Matthew McConaughey should play Joe Exotic in the movie and not Reinke, you’re out of your f*cking mind.
2. Josh Dial
Josh, the haircut and scruff are working for ya, honey. Armed with a new hairstyle and a renewed hatred for the feds, Josh looks like he’s surviving and beginning to start thriving. But he still hasn’t given up his no-bullsh*t attitude, which earned him the nickname (at least among me and my podcast cohosts) as “the only voice of reason in this entire documentary”. He may be the only person in the history of documentaries to be satisfied with his portrayal and who found the documentary fair, but then again, Josh was one of the few people who didn’t have any shady sh*t to hide (lookin’ at you, Jeff and Carole). Hoping that Josh can get some help to deal with the fact that he witnessed Travis accidentally fatally shoot himself (can we get a GoFundMe for some therapy costs?), and let’s get this kid on the next campaign trail. But seriously, f*ck the feds.
1. John Finlay
Surprising no one, John Finlay has had the best glow-up of all time. Of all time! With new teeth that look amazing and a beard that looks like a prop you’d buy to be Amish for Halloween…or Mose from The Office…he is living a much, much better life than we saw during Tiger King. Probably my favorite thread throughout the after show, which emerged here with John as well as with Erik, was how everyone insisted that they were not on meth, despite their appearance. John in particular revealed he was four years sober during filming, and just went shirtless in all his interviews so he could show off his tattoos. Which is… a choice. And speaking of tattoos, John assures us that he actually did get his entire “Property Of Joe Exotic” tattoo fully covered up, and not just the bull head over the top part of it that was shown on the documentary. Praise be. The man is living.
If you manage to make your way past coronavirus Twitter, you’ll notice that people are talking about something called Tiger King. The new Netflix docuseries that follows Oklahoma-based, eccentric, openly gay tiger breeder and zookeeper Joe Exotic (not his government name) has been taking the internet by storm, and for good reason: it is the quarantine distraction we all need.
Everything about this documentary is so delightfully American in all the ways that America can be terrible—but like, in a mostly fun way, and not a “our country is so f*cked systemically that we should maybe consider burning it to the ground and starting from scratch” way that the current pandemic has exposed. Back when America was trash just because it was trashy, and its citizens were trashy, and not because it was a literal flaming pile of waste: this is the America of Tiger King. When a random guy in Oklahoma could buy a few tigers, recruit a local kid from a nearby public school to teach him magic tricks so he could bring a bunch of tigers to various malls throughout the country and perform magic shows with them—those were the good old days. When the same guy could decide to run for president, and then eventually governor, despite having zero experience (or shot at winning, tbh). It’s plastic sequins on a cowboy hat worn to an impromptu drunken wedding in Vegas: that’s the America we get in Tiger King.
Picture this: Three white people (all blond, to varying degrees of authenticity). All living in the South (Oklahoma, Florida, and South Carolina). All running their own private zoos, complete with tigers and other big cats, and feuding with each other. Hold up, you can do that? Yeah, I didn’t know either. Apparently, you can just straight-up buy a tiger to keep as a pet, and this is the kicker, if you’re in one of the following states: North Carolina, Alabama, Delaware, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. As far as Florida goes, you can’t have a tiger as a pet, but their ownership laws are (not shockingly if you know anything about Florida) fairly easy to circumvent.
Obviously, the fact that you can just buy a tiger to own as a pet is not fun. Neither is the pretty rampant animal abuse that is blatantly put on display, more or less unchecked (the producers show that it’s bad, rather than telling, and the only person who consistently points out the abuse is also engaging in some less-than-optimal treatment of animals herself). But if you can get past that, the cast of crazy white people in various southern states provides the perfect backdrop to the real-life soap opera that ensues. And it’s the exact train wreck we all need to distract us from the current high-speed train wreck that is life.
Without spoiling too much, Tiger King presents the best of every true crime documentary or docuseries out there, and one-ups it. It’s even more WTF-inducing than Abducted in Plain Sight. It’s got more twists and turns than The Jinx. To take a page from Stephon’s playbook, this documentary has everything: lawsuits. Jail time. FBI informants. A missing persons case. Cover-ups. Drugs. And that’s not even the half of it.
And the best part? Tiger King avoids the same error to which many Netflix documentaries fall victim (looking at you, Making A Murderer season 2, or should I say, the Steven Avery propaganda machine): it does not champion a winner. In a cast of three main characters (Joe Exotic, Doc Antle, and Carole Baskin), no one is totally innocent, and no one is presented as “The Good One” because they all have their moments of shadiness. Tiger King is a f*cking wild ride, reminiscent of a meth trip (I’d imagine, I can’t say from experience), and when it ends and you crash, you’ll be thinking about it for days.
In fact, I’m still thinking about it. I’ve still got a lot of questions. If I haven’t convinced you to binge the whole series, do it now, and then come back, because I want you to enjoy it, and I really don’t want to spoil it. Which I will be doing below. Here’s a non-comprehensive list of all the questions this docuseries left me with.
Is That Really Joe’s Singing Voice In All The Music Videos?
There’s no way it’s possible. No f*cking way. I can’t be the only one who thinks this.
What Happened To Mario Tabraue?
Positioned as a real-life Tony Montana in episode 2, this guy was f*cking wild. (To be clear, dangerous and very scary, but also, fantastic television.) I could watch a whole series just on him. What happened to Tabraue, and why did they only bring him up in one episode, never to be heard from again? I hope he gets a spin-off.
Is Jeff Lowe Going To Jail?
Probably one of the sketchiest people to ever exist, Jeff Lowe seemed to be on the verge of a federal takedown by the time Tiger King ended. But what the hell happened with that? Is it smart for a federal prosecutor to tell documentarians that she is looking into various people? Seems like it would be ill-advised to tip off a bunch of suspected criminals that you are looking into them, right? What do I know.
Did Joe Really Think He Would Become Governor?
Or was he running for sh*ts and giggles and to get the extra publicity? He can’t have thought he would win, right?
Is Doc Antle Still Running A Sex Cult?
If he ended up in a NXIVM-style bust next year, I would not be the slightest bit shocked. I’ve also got to wonder just what all these ladies are seeing there. Why is it never good-looking men running the sex cults?
Did Carole Kill Her Husband?
She did, right? Costa Rica? Come on.
Would I Take A Picture With A Baby Tiger?
Sadly, my most immediate takeaway from the docuseries was just how cute tiger cubs are. And yes, I know that petting them is bad. I fully understand that! But I was also just doing a realistic assessment of myself and wondering, “would I take a picture with one of these little guys if given the chance?” And I have to say that before watching this documentary, I probably would have. At least now I know better.
How Is Joe Doing?
I’m kind of worried for him, guys. I can only hope he’s leading his own little cult in prison.
What Was With That Jet Ski Shot?
You know the one I’m talking about. It was, perhaps, the shining moment in the entire series.
Are Joe And Dylan Still Married?
I assume Joe would have like, 600 marriage proposals by now if they are not still together.
What Is Howard’s Deal?
Watching the documentary, I couldn’t help but think that Howard is, well, kind of a dweeb. But he’s a serious ride-or-die for Carole (and, given certain theories put forth in the documentary, that could be quite literal). And I just want to know… why? But also, how can I find my own Howard?
What About All The Other Animals At The Zoos?
In addition to the big cats, Joe also had chimpanzees, bears, and a whole slew of other animals. (At one point, you see like, six little dogs running around.) Why weren’t they given any attention?
What Makes Carole Any Better Than Joe Or Doc?
This is the question that keeps me up at night. Aside from savvy marketing and an apparent mastery of Search Engine Optimization, at the end of the day, is Carole really rescuing any tigers? Are any of them helping animals at all? Or is it just a cash grab?
Images: Courtesy of Netflix; Joe Exotic TV / Youtube
If you haven’t been following the news, you’re probably enjoying your vacation on the remote island you’re currently on, and are in for a rude awakening when you return. If you have been keeping up with the news, you know that COVID-19 is getting really serious in the United States. Almost every college I know has switched to remote/online learning, governors across the country are shutting down schools, workplaces are mandating work from home policies, and cities all over the country are closing bars, restaurants, museums, gyms, and any gatherings over 50 people.
Luckily for introverts and lazy people alike, one of the most recommended ways to prevent further spread of the virus is to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. Seriously, just don’t leave your house if you can. If this is our generation’s war (as I’ve seen some tweets call it), at least we can fight it by sitting on our couches instead of going into trenches. While you might think you should be doing your work or your online classes, I’m using this quarantine to do something actually productive: catch up on Netflix shows. Some are old favorites and others have been on my “To Watch” list for a while. This is the ultimate list for all the most bingeable shows on Netflix for whatever mood you could possibly be in during this quarantine.
If You Need True Crime
Let me preface this by saying I am not a huge true crime fan, but I totally understand the fascination with it, and if nothing else, it will definitely make you think about other things besides the virus. Netflix clearly knows this, and has been pumping out the most gruesome and can’t-look-away content for years now. The amount of true crime on Netflix could last you basically forever if this quarantine goes that long.
‘The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez’
Okay, this seems like kind of a sad one to start the list with, but Netflix keeps promoting it to me and it’s exactly what true crime lovers will, well, love (but also hate, given the subject matter—you’ll see in a sec). Without giving too much away, Gabriel Fernandez was an 8-year-old boy who was failed repeatedly by the systems that were supposed to protect him. If you need a good cry that isn’t about the pandemic, this doc will give you that.
Unbelievable is a miniseries about a serial rapist in the state of Washington and Colorado. It’s based off a Pulitzer-prize-winning article titled “An Unbelievable Story of Rape” (which you can read online) and tells how two detectives in Colorado manage to connect a series of rapes in the two states, even after detectives in Washington were already convinced that one of the victims was lying. It was too hard for me to watch because it’s pretty graphic (at least the first episode), so I only read the article, but the story lives up to its title—unbelievable.
This show just came out last month, so it’s the perfect binge if you’ve already caught up on everything else. In 1999, Dan Schneider, a pharmacist in Louisiana, was on a mission to discover who killed his son in a drug-related shooting. He also begins to notice the healthy young people who come into his store with prescriptions for Oxycontin. Schneider attempts to expose fraudulent doctors, the Opioid Epidemic, and Big Pharma itself.
If You Need To Laugh
One thing that’s going to get me through the next two-to-undefined-amount of weeks is some nice, lighthearted humor and quirky characters that I can rely on. Netflix has tons of old sitcoms, and is now producing a lot of their own content to make you laugh as well.
This is perhaps my favorite show ever. When the uber-wealthy and out-of-touch Rose family goes bankrupt, the only place where they can land on their feet is a town called Schitt’s Creek, which Johny Rose had gifted his son David as a practical joke. They have to learn how to live like “normal” people in the small town, and somehow manage to make a home for themselves. Each family member is more kooky than the next, and I will be quoting it and chuckling to myself until the day I die.
‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’
Kimmy is a “mole-woman” who was kidnapped and held hostage in a bunker by a crazy reverend for 15 years and has now relocated to New York, where she lives in a basement apartment with her musically gifted and lazy roommate Titus and eccentric landlord Lillian. Kimmy has to figure out how to be an adult in a real city and not let anyone take advantage of her kindness and naivete. I’ll warn you that once you hear the theme song you will never get it out of your head, but otherwise, this is the perfect show to binge if you want to smile.
‘The Good Place’
Let’s face it, we’re all going to hell. Unless, like Eleanor (Kristen Bell), we end up in The Good Place by mistake. Eleanor has to hide the fact that she’s actually not a good person from everyone there, but they help her realize that it’s never too late to change who you are, even after death. That’s good news for all of you procrastinators out there.
This is a newer Netflix-produced show that just came out with season 2. If you haven’t seen it, get started now because it is adorably awkward and funny. Otis, the main character, starts a sex therapy clinic at his school, despite never getting close to the actual thing himself. To everyone’s surprise, he is extremely successful and makes a lot of unlikely friends. It will remind of the best and worst parts of high school and nothing too stressful happens so it’s the perfect feel-good binge.
If You Need A Good Cry To Get It Out
I’m the type of person who doesn’t cry about real things happening in my life and then sees a dog get a new toy in a commercial and absolutely breaks down. These are scary times, and you might feel like you need to cry about them, but you just don’t seem able to. Watching TV is always a good excuse to get tears out of your system.
I’m pretty sure Shonda Rhimes made this show for the exact purpose of cathartic release. All 15 seasons of the medical drama following Meredith Grey and the other interns, residents, and attending doctors are available on Netflix, but if you want to cry, just go straight to any episode where a main character dies, which seems to happen about once a season.
Something about angry straight men getting cheered up and set back on track by five gay guys really cues the waterworks. All Antoni does is show them how to make guacamole and I start tearing up. The pureness of this show is unmatched and I highly recommend if you need to restore your faith in humanity.
If You Want A Feel-Good Show
If there was any time for TV to come through and cheer us up, it’s right now. These shows will help you relax and remember there was a happy time before all of this chaos, and there will be a time after.
Gilmore Girls is one of those shows that you will continue to rewatch for the rest of your life, with your mom, your sister, your friends, and maybe your future daughter. Once you know the characters you can basically watch any episode at any time and feel immediately comfortable. Let’s pretend the reunion episodes never happened and Stars Hollow is still having their cute small-town festivals every five minutes.
‘The Great British Baking Show’
What could be better than British people getting stressed over tiny cakes and pastries and Mary Berry making jokes about soggy bottoms? Nothing beats this show unless you start projecting your real-world stress onto whether the dough has proofed for long enough. Otherwise, you will pretty much love every contestant and will be happy for every single person when they win and sad for every single person when they lose.
If You Want To Watch Every Episode In The Next Four Days
I’m not sure why you would want to finish a series in a day when you may very well be here for a long time, but if you really need that distraction, there are some seriously bingeable shows on Netflix right now, and they’re calling your name.
I just started this show (I know, I’m behind), and I am appalled, horrified, disgusted, and in other words, absolutely addicted. Joe Goldberg sees a girl, Beck, at his bookstore and decides then and there that they are meant to be together and that he is the only one that can “save” her. He is willing to do whatever it takes to be with her, including kill her boyfriend. I haven’t watched season 2 and don’t want to look it up so that’s all I’ll give you, but it’s already one that I can’t get enough of.
This show is such a gem, and the fact that Netflix didn’t bring it back for a third season is an actual crime. The series is a satire of the ‘true crime’ genre craze. Two students conduct a “mockumentary” investigation of the vandalism pranks (i.e. drawing penises everywhere) occurring at their local public high school. American Vandal is hilarious and super easy to watch in one sitting, especially because the stakes are so low.
‘Dear White People’
Dear White People makes you feel every emotion all at once—laughter, sadness, anger, guilt, and more, and by the end of those five minutes, you’ll be obsessed. The fictitious Dear White People is a spin-off of the 2014 film of the same name and follows the lives of African-American students at a fictional Ivy League school. Each character in the show is so interesting and intense, and it’s easy to become immediately invested in each of their stories.
‘Parks and Recreation & The Office’
These are the shows you’ve already watched fully through probably more than once. The shows you throw on while folding laundry, cooking dinner, and trying to fall asleep. Whichever one you prefer, turn it on when you need to relax and watch an entire season in one sitting. The good thing is that you can scroll through IG while watching and not have to worry about missing anything too important.
If You’ve Been Behind On TV And Want To Catch Up On What Everyone Is Talking About
You know those shows that your friends keep texting you about and you seem to run into you everywhere you look but haven’t managed to get around to watching because of something called, uh, work? Well now you have no excuses, so start watching. You will finally have something to discuss at your Zoom cocktail party this Friday.
Making The Circle sound watchable and worth your time to a person who has never seen it is a fun little game I like to play about every single day. Basically, it’s a game show in which eight contestants can only interact with each other via a social platform called The Circle. There are catfishes, con-artists, romances, bromances, and so much more, and the winner gets $100,000.
‘Love Is Blind’
If you haven’t seen Love Is Blind, actually stop reading this list right now and go watch. See you in 10 hours. The premise of Love Is Blind is that men and women go on speed dates in pods while unable to physically see each other, in order to test if love truly is blind (say that last part in Vanessa Lachey’s voice). Some couples get engaged in the pods (sight unseen!) and the show follows them on their honeymoons and then to their weddings at the end of 30 days. Whether the cast is legit or just there because they’re influencers remains to be seen, but either way, it is a recipe for disaster.
Did the world get enough content out of Cheer? I feel like not. I could listen to Jerry mat talk every day for the rest of my life and never get tired of it. Cheer is a six-episode docuseries following the Navarro College Cheer Team as they make their bid for Nationals in Daytona, Florida. The cast is basically America’s heroes, and they have some of the most inspiring, intense life stories you’ll see all year. Let’s not forget that they have more athletic talent in their pinky fingers than I’ll ever have.
If You Want To Watch Political/Historical Drama To Distract Yourself From Current Political/Historical Drama
Maybe in 50-100 years, they will make a TV show about this moment in history. While that’s a nice thought, it doesn’t really help the immediate situation. However, while this is not scientifically proven, they say the best method for distracting yourself from the current political and historical crisis is to throw yourself into another period of political and historical crisis that conveniently has a TV show about it.
The Crown is the period piece I always wanted. Winston Churchill? English monarchy? Amazing outfits and hair? Say less. The show is about the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II. It can be slightly hard to follow if you’re not a history buff or don’t know who everyone is and what was going on during the 20th century in England, so get your Wikipedia page ready on your phone while you watch.
‘The West Wing’
If only I could be a fly on the wall in the West Wing of The White House right now. But I can’t, so instead there’s The West Wing, which is a political drama about the fictional presidency of Josiah Bartlet, and which is regarded as one of the most influential shows of all time. Each episode basically follows the president throughout his day as he guides his team through legislative and political challenges (among longer, multi-episode story arcs). Wow, watching the president actually do his job? What a concept.
Outlander is the historical drama of all historical dramas. It’s 1946, and Claire, who was a nurse in World War II, is visiting Scotland with her husband. But while there, she is transported back in time to 1743 and lands among a group of Scottish rebels. She knows how history plays out and tries to help their cause, and also falls in love along the way. It’s basically two period pieces for the price of one, and has its fair share of love, war, and amazing costumes.
If You Want To Learn Another Language Through TV
Maybe you’re a betch who studied abroad and you want to reminisce on that time you were able to say “llámame” to a hot bartender. Or maybe these cheap prices are really making your travel bug itch. Please do NOT travel, but the next best cure is to watch a show in a different language. It will have your brain working overtime and make you feel slightly more intellectual as you click ‘next’ on the eighth episode in a row.
‘Call My Agent!’ (French)
Call My Agent! is centered at the A.S.K. talent agency in Paris. Each agent has to deal with the hijinks of the actors, writers, and directors that they manage, as well as the inter-office drama, which is heightened when the CEO unexpectedly dies. The actors in the show that the agents manage are all doing cameos, which I imagine would be really cool except that I don’t follow the French film industry so don’t recognize any of them. I am actually obsessed with this show and eagerly awaiting the next season, but in the meantime, I just tell every I know to watch it so we can discuss it.
Season 3 came out last week, and I have not shut up about it since. I would describe it as Gossip Girl, but instead of the Upper East Side, the show follows the scandalous lives of Madrid’s elite. However, that does not do it justice, because there’s a whole murder mystery aspect to the show. Elite is everything. The whole cast is so hot, and they just keep getting hotter every episode. I love it more every second and cannot look away.
Dark is a total mindf*ck and you probably need to watch it twice in order to fully understand it. It has been described as a German Stranger Things, and takes place in the aftermath of a child’s disappearance. The disappearance exposes the secrets of the small town and reconnects four estranged families to each other and to their pasts. The story takes place on three different timelines (1950s, 1980s, present) and there’s a lot of time travel involved. I can’t tell you that I was able to fully explain what happened after I finished it, but I can tell you that I loved it.
If You Want Crime Drama
Even if true crime is slightly too much for you to handle (I am right there with ya), that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a nice, fictional crime drama. These are for those of us who were way too into Pretty Little Liars in high school. Whether its murder, money-laundering, drug rings, or kidnapping, crime dramas are the most addicting shows, especially when you’re not sure what’s coming next.
Three suburban Michigan moms are tired of having to struggle to afford everything in their lives, so they decide to rob a supermarket in order to finally get the money they need. It would be okay if they just stopped there, but the supermarket robbery turns out to be way more trouble than they bargained for, and personally, I think they solve every problem they face with one bad decision after another, but I guess that’s how the show moves forward. Good Girls is a little lighter than your average crime drama, but every episode still keeps you wanting more.
Another white suburban couple who gets into way more trouble than they realized. Marty Byrde has to move his fairly ordinary family from Chicago to a resort community in the Missouri Ozarks after his money-laundering operation goes awry. But in Missouri, Marty gets involved with the wrong people, and soon finds himself needing to appease a drug boss. Season 3 just came out on Netflix, so you probably want to get started now.
Thank the lord for British TV. This crime drama has three seasons which revolve around the death of 11-year-old Danny Latimer and its aftermath. The show follows the detectives and Danny’s family as they battle with media attention, grief, and increasing suspicion of everyone in the town. I haven’t watched it yet, but everyone I know who has raves about it, so it is definitely next on my list.
Lost Girls, which premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was released on Netflix only last week, is the story of Mari Gilbert as she attempts to make law enforcement care about the search for her missing daughter. In the process, she discovers a collection of unsolved murders of young sex workers in Long Island. The movie is based on the book of the same name and looks so intense that I will need to watch it in broad daylight and not in the dark hours of the middle of the night like I usually do.
The first season of this mystery crime series, which just came out on Netflix, is based on Harlan Corben’s novel of the same title. Adam Price has a seemingly perfect wife and family, but when ‘The Stranger’ arrives to tell him a secret about his wife, everything quickly begins to unravel. When his wife finds out what happened, she mysteriously disappears, leaving Adam to pick up the pieces. The Stranger threatens to expose the secrets of many characters in the show, and it becomes evident that people are hiding a lot more than you think in this quiet suburban community.
If You Want Dating Content To Distract You From The Fact That You Can’t Date RN
The best thing about dating shows and rom-coms is that you get to feel what it’s like to fall in love without actually having to put in the work to do it. Usually when I watch this type of content (save The Bachelor), it has me feeling some type of way. But in the current state of things, the hindrance to your love life could not possibly be your commitment issues, it’s the virus! Perfect time to ghost all your Ship matches and watch guilt-free.
‘He’s Just Not That Into You’
He’s Just Not That Into You follows four couples/women who are at different stages in their relationships as they try to figure out what their next move is and answer the burning question: if the person they’re dating is actually into them. I watched this movie the day it got added to Netflix, and I have two observations: 1) the trend of putting 8-10 beautiful people in a movie and forcing the viewer to do the work to remember all the connections is definitely out and 2) most of the movie’s plot points center around the characters barely knowing how to use a cellphone. Oh, to be back in 2009 again.
Dating Around is Love Is Blind’s less cool brother who laid all the groundwork in order for Love is Blind to succeed. The producers set up an NYC-based single on five blind dates, and then they choose the best match for their second date. Unlike Love Is Blind, the episodes are only 30 minutes and each storyline is contained in its own episode, so you don’t have to watch the whole season to figure out what happens. It’s a little easier to digest, and you don’t have to get as invested. The stakes are definitely lower, which makes this a good show to put in the background of whatever you’re doing.
There’s no need to explain the concept of The Bachelor at this point, but the exciting news is that it’s now on Netflix! For some reason, only Season 13. How hard is Jason’s agent working? I guess you can watch this if you’re nostalgic for the good ol’ days and mourning the postponement of production of every Bachelor franchise show for the next few months.
‘To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You’
Ah yes, Netflix released the long-awaited sequel of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before on Valentine’s Day, so if you haven’t watched it yet, now’s the time. Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship is going swell, but when another mans comes to collect on his love letter, Lara-Jean goes into crisis mode. Because like, obviously your 6th-grade crush is real and true love and if he comes back into your life, you can’t miss out on that opportunity!
If You Want To Learn How To Cook
This quarantine might be the time to learn some of those adult life skills that you’ve been putting off, aka learning to cook and not just microwaving Trader Joe’s frozen food for every meal (as tasty as it is). Luckily, the days of calling your mom to ask how to preheat an oven are almost over; Netflix has your back. There are shows to inspire you and to teach, so get watching and cooking and then you can post your homemade meal on IG to brag.
‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’
The four-episode show is the visual companion of Samin Nostrat’s 2017 book. Each episode focuses on one of these essential ingredients to successful cooking, as Nostrat travel to Italy, Japan, Mexico, and California to showcase how chefs are perfecting these elements around the world. Nostrat teaches you how to incorporate each element along the way, and the show has been lauded for its higher proportion for female chefs and home cooks compared to most cooking shows. It’s food, it’s travel, it’s happy, it’s everything you’re looking for.
‘The Chef Show’
God, for some reason I was seriously obsessed with the 2014 movie Chef, in which Jon Favreau goes on a road trip in a food truck with his son, and they bond for life. There’s one scene where he makes the most delicious looking grilled cheese and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Anyway, I guess the movie inspired Jon to actually get into cooking, which is even more amazing, and he created The Chef Show for Netflix, where he and celebrity chef Roy Choi travel around the world (sometimes with other celebrity guests) to celebrate different flavors and cultures, and to learn the best techniques for their favorite recipes. Another wholesome travel and cooking series? Yes, please.
Each episode of Chef’s Table is a mini-documentary centered around a world-famous chef. The show attempts to tell the world these chefs’ stories, and what inspires them to make the food they do. I love the show because it really makes you think about food differently. Food is an art form, and the chef is an artist, rather than just sustenance and fuel. As with most cooking shows, each story is contained in one episode, so you can watch it without feeling like you have to binge or even know what’s really going on.
Wow, congrats if you made it to the end of this list, and I really hope it helps answer the dreadful “what should I watch?” question. The last thing I’ll say is that even in quarantine, you don’t have to Netflix and Chill alone. There is a chrome extension called Netflix Party which allows you to sync your screen with other viewers and gives you a chat box where you can discuss the show. There’s also an app called Airtime that lets you video conference with your friends, and you can watch videos live in-app so you can all react together. With Netflix’s help, we are going to make it through this.
Images: Free stocks / Unsplash; Beth Dubber, Eric Liebowitz, Gavin Bond, Sam Taylor, Tyler Golden, Adam Rose, Alex Bailey, Nick Briggs, Manuel Fernandez-Valdez, Jackson Davis, Jessica Kourkounis, Bettina Straus, Melissa Moseley / Netflix; The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez, The Pharmacist, You, The Great British Baking Show, The Circle, Love is Blind, Cheer, Call My Agent, Dark, The Stranger, Dating Around,The Chef Show / Courtesy of Netflix; Giphy (9).
We live in a world that is streaming-obsessed. I know this because my credit card statement every month is nothing but Netflix, Apple TV +, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Disney + (and Seamless, and some more Seamless, and then a little Uber Eats so the Seamless people don’t judge me, I’m sure you understand). I basically get berated at work all day so that I can afford to watch High School Musical on repeat when I get home. And lately, the only thing streaming that people want to talk about is You. It seems all my friends are really into psychopaths, which now that I know this, makes a lotttt of sense. I mean, I thought they were into psychos, you know, like men who dip their pizza in ranch dressing, but it turns out they’re just turned on by good old-fashioned murderers. Cool. Never going to your boyfriend’s houses, though! I haven’t watched You yet, and the reason why is because I read the book You by Caroline Kepnes years ago and I have not slept ever since. It’s been fun!
Although the book continues to keep me up all night, I was incredibly impressed by how well Kepnes captured the ramblings of a psychopath. Now that I think about it, she was almost too good at it, and I’d like to request the police do a wellness check on her spouse, just in case. Sorry if they break down your door, Caroline! But you brought it upon yourself! If you’ve watched the show AND read the book, you’re probably looking for some new material to make people slowly back away from you at parties. Thankfully, I would rather read a book than engage in actual relationships with a real person, and I’m ready to share my knowledge with you, my fellow anti-socials. So, if you’re craving more books like You, here are seven that I’d recommend you start reading as soon as possible. Before you start making human connections!
The New Husband by D.J. Palmer
The first book is called The New Husband, and, frankly, any number of husbands is a terrifying thought, so sign me up. In this book, Nina Fitch’s second husband knows all her favorite foods, movies, and her son adores him. Definitely a psycho. Nina is a little gun shy because of what her first husband did to her (See! Husbands are terrifying!) so she decides to do a little digging. Sure, Nina. I can call stalking digging, too. When things aren’t adding up, the story gets more and more tense, twisty, and of course, there’s a shocking reveal. I shrieked! You have to get your hands on this one when it comes out on April 14, 2020.
The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale
Contrary to popular belief, The Sunday Girl is not about a twentysomething woman who goes to brunch with her girlfriends, gets day drunk, and orders a $40 uber home before passing out at 5pm. I know! I was also confused. The Sunday Girl is actually about a woman in an abusive relationship, who gets dumped by her boyfriend, and then he posts a sex tape of her online. I think we can all agree at this point he deserves what’s coming to him. And, what’s coming to him is a revenge plan straight out of The Art of War. Girl, I am SOLD. Find out what happens *please say she cuts off his balls, please say she cuts off his balls* when The Sunday Girl comes out on May 5, 2020
The Last Woman in the Forest by Diane Les Becquets
You is told from the point of view of Joe, the psychopath serial killer. But what if it was told from Beck’s point of view? In The Last Woman in the Forest, Les Becquets flips the script when her heroine Marian starts to believe that her recently departed man, Tate, was a serial killer. Marian goes on a mission to prove to herself that she was not, in fact, banging a dude who preferred his women in a ditch in the woods, but as she gets further along, sh*t starts getting terrifying and it’s possible Marian will end up as a skin suit for a different freak. I’m not going to reveal what happens, but I will tell you that Diane Les Becquets is an incredibly talented writer, who dedicated a lot of time to creating realistic and nuanced characters. This is not your run-of-the-mill thriller, it’s more of an intense, slow build that ratchets up the terrifying as it goes on. Just like life!
A Good Man by Ani Katz
A Good Man! Ha! At least the title is funny, even if the rest of it makes you dependent on melatonin for the rest of your life. A Good Man is about Thomas Martin, a rich dude from Long Island working in Manhattan, who commits a horrific act and then when he can’t take it back, tries to convince himself that all he ever tried to do was be a good man. Ha! Funny again! Coincidentally, that’s what my ex said when I found him literally on top of another woman. He was also, in fact, not a good man. Another pro for this book is the fact that it has a pull quote on the cover from Caroline Kepnes, aka the author of You. If it’s endorsed by the woman who thought up Joe Goldberg, you know it’s the perfect kind of creepy.
My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
Okay, if you thought you liked one attractive, charismatic psychopath in You, you are going to be thrilled when you meet the most f*cked up couple of all time in My Lovely Wife. Is the husband a murderer? Sure is! Is the wife a murderer? You betcha! Do they do it together as some kind of twisted sex game to keep the spark alive? Yes, ma’am! Should they have just gone to therapy? Probably, but it’d be less fun! This book is slippery though, so you never really know what’s going on until the very end, and that’s just how I like it, much like murdering young women is how the couple in this novel likes it. My Lovely Wife came out last March, and the best part is, if it really turns you on to murderous families, Downing has another thriller coming out on April 28th called He Started It.
Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel
So, yes, Darling Rose Gold is definitely more similar to The Act than it is to You, but I figure to us crime fiends that’s basically tomayto, tomahto, am I right? Plus there are plenty of murderous people in this, so you’ll be fine. Growing up, Rose Gold believed that she was seriously ill. Turns out, her mom Patty (YOU WOULD, PATTY), just did everything she could to make people believe that, even intentionally making Rose Gold sick. Patty went to prison, but now she’s out and Rose Gold takes her in. Such a sweetheart! Or is she? In this book, you can’t tell who is lying, and you can’t tell who is winning their little cat-and-mouse murder game until the very end. And who among us hasn’t wanted to kill their mother every once in a while?! (Not me, mom! Please still pay for that trip to Ireland!). You’ll have to wait until March for this one, but I promise you it’s worth the wait.
The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
The Stranger Beside Me is the OG book about a handsome and charming man who preys on young women. And all you sickos are just as thirsty for him as you are for Joe! I know this isn’t a novel (it’s true crime, FYI), but I’d put all my money on the fact that Ted Bundy and Joe Goldberg are distant relatives. Let’s get these two on Ancestry DNA!
The Stranger Beside Me is written by Ann Rule, and her writing style is so sweet and sincere, you’ll feel like your mother is telling you a comforting bedtime story, except that bedtime story includes the dates and times that dozens of women were murdered. The Stranger Beside Me has been out since 1980, so while you’re waiting on some of these other books to be released, you should definitely spend your time with this master class in true crime. And just remember, Ted Bundy is dead so you can’t send him nudes in prison, FOR GOD’S SAKE.
And those are my recommendations! If you read any of these, please let me know what you think. And if you think you’re not a reader, just throw one of these in your bag to check out on the subway just in case. Candy Crush will still be on your phone when you go to the bathroom later!
Images: Beth Dubber/Netflix; St. Martin’s Press; Source Books; Berkley Books (3); Penguin Books; WW Norton
Betches may receive a portion of revenue if you click a link and purchase a product or service. The links are independently placed and do not influence editorial content.
If there is one thing I’d love to get to the bottom of, it’s why super unrealistic horror movies about immortal clowns who eat children keep me up all night, but fictional crime shows about sexually-based offenses that are considered especially heinous basically put me to sleep. If anyone asks why I like these shows so much, I always say that it’s for educational purposes. Like, if I’m ever a suspect in a murder and Detective Benson offers me a glass of water to “calm my nerves” in the interrogation room, I know not to drink it because it’s just a ploy to get my DNA and prove that I did, in fact, commit the murder! Okay, so maybe that example might not happen in the real world? I don’t know. Regardless, if you’re less into the “ripped from the headlines” Dick Wolf adaptations and more into what events they ripped from the headlines in the first place, head to Netflix. There is so much true crime content on there that you won’t be able to sleep for days. If you, too, have an undiagnosed passion for true crime shows, these are the shows and movies you need to binge, like, yesterday.
‘Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez’
ICYMI, Aaron Hernandez is an ex-Patriots player who was convicted for the murder of Odin Lloyd in 2015, another football player and his future brother-in-law. If that’s not enough, he hanged himself in his prison cell only a few days after he was acquitted of a DIFFERENT case of double homicide that had occurred in 2012. TF is going on in the NFL??? This docuseries travels into Hernandez’s past to piece together the potential factors that led him to a life of violence, including the death of his controlling father, his closeted homosexuality, and a lifetime of concussion-related injuries. I’ve only watched the trailer, but I need to know more ASAP.
‘Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer’
I am the kind of person who can most certainly handle a slew of people fake dying in a show/movie, but bursts into tears when the fictional, CGI-crafted direwolves die in Game of Thrones. As you can guess from the title of what turned out to be a truly disgusting true crime docuseries, it starts out with animals getting hurt, specifically, cats. Rule number one of the internet is you don’t f*ck with cats, so a group of Facebook vigilantes is motivated to start a group to find whoever hurt the cats. I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to
start crying at my desk spoil anything, but this show is about a dude who made a video of himself torturing and killing two kittens… and escalates from there. The videos are later linked to a much worse crime of similar nature on a different species. This one’s not for the faint of heart, so only real true crime fans can get through this one.
Ok, obviously we all know who she is, but have we actually seen the documentary? I have and it’s f*cking amazing. I have to admit, some of the documentaries listed above and below are only on the listed because the content is crazy, but this one is actually really well-produced. To sum it up in one sentence: this is about the worst study abroad experience ever. Amanda Knox went to Perugia, Italy her junior year of college, but before she could come home and pretend she’d developed an Italian accent, she got arrested for her roommate’s brutal murder. Welp. Hate when that happens! As we’ve seen from her amazing tweets over the last few years, she is no longer in prison nor a suspect in the murder. Ya love to see it. The documentary basically walks you through the chain of events and parts of the trial as if you are actually there observing from afar. Well done, Netflix!
‘Abducted In Plain Sight’
This one is just like one long and absurd SVU episode during which you’d quietly scoff, “That would never happen.” Oh, but it did. Twice. It all starts with 12-year-old Jan Broberg, whose creepy pedo neighbor molests and kidnaps her not once, but TWICE. Obviously this is gross and horrible and illegal for a reason, but the most shocking part of this documentary is Jan’s parents’ reaction to the whole thing. Cavalier is an understatement, to say the least. They’re either really stupid or really stoic. Here’s what I mean: When the police tell them their daughter has been kidnapped by their friend and neighbor, the mother said, “Oh dear. Oh. Now I won’t be able to sleep.” I say the exact same thing in the exact same tone when I have one too many cupcakes before bed, not when my daughter is kidnapped!!
‘I Am Jane Doe’
Tbh, I haven’t watched this one yet because the subject matter is all too real and made me a little sad. However, after reading a few sentences about it, I learned that it’s narrated by Jessica Chastain, so I’ve decided to cancel my weekend plans in favor of bingeing this in one sitting. Hopefully I don’t pull a Rue and give myself a kidney infection, but who knows? Ok, so I Am Jane Doe’s title is a little misleading because the victims (AKA the Jane Does) are not the ones narrating; their mothers are. Wikipedia describes the documentary as such: “I am Jane Doe is a documentary chronicling the legal battle that several American mothers are waging on behalf of their middle-school daughters, who were trafficked for commercial sex on Backpage.com, the classified advertising website formerly owned by the Village Voice.” Holy sh*t. If you need more motivation to press play on this one, half of the film’s profits were donated to non-profit organizations who help formerly trafficked children to get their lives back on track through counseling.
‘The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann’
Imagine taking a nice family trip to a beach resort in Portugal and your child gets kidnapped from their hotel room. That’s like, a totally valid reason to give a bad Trip Advisor review. In 2007, 3-year-old Madeleine McCann disappeared while with her family Portugal, and the story quickly became a sensation in the UK. For those of us who weren’t there across the pond, this docuseries takes us through what it was like to experience the news firsthand, including those feelings of hopelessness and frustration as you come to realize that this case remains to be solved, and probably never will be. The show also explores the relationship between the media and police, trying to find a balance between what is the most productive and respectful way to report these murders vs. what gets the most views. Wait, is Netflix exploiting serious criminals and their victims in order to satiate their viewers and their need for more true crime documentaries? Am I viewers?
Another documentary that hits a little too close to home is Oklahoma City, which, as you can guess, takes place in Oklahoma City during a really unfortunate event: the 1995 bombing that killed more than 150 innocent civilians. This documentary pretty much examines how in the actual f*ck something like this happened and why by taking a really close look at the domestic terrorists who pulled it off.
Images: kat wilcox / Pexels
Another day, another American true crime story. And this one has all of the (sadly) classic tropes: a seemingly innocent black man, a dirty, seemingly guilty white cop, more dirty cops, and a f*ckton of injustices. America!
The case I’m talking about is that of Rodney Reed, a 51-year-old man who was convicted of raping and strangling Stacey Stites in Texas on April 23, 1996. Twenty-three years later, celebrities like Rihanna, Kim K, Meek Mill, and Oprah are urging Texas Governor Greg Abbott to stop the execution of Reed, which is scheduled to take place on November 20th. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have also urged the state to reconsider the case. There is an online petition, which already has over 2 million signatures, that advocates for Reed’s innocence, based on the fact that there are “mountains” of evidence that exonerate him and implicate another man. So, what is this evidence and why has it yet to be seen in court? LET’S GET INTO IT, SHALL WE?
One Click!!! SIGN this petition if you don’t believe the Government should kill an innocent man!!! @GovAbbott https://t.co/L3xrvn7MJO
— Rihanna (@rihanna) November 4, 2019
Texas is scheduled to execute #RodneyReed on 11/20.
We must act now & fight for justice.
According to the @NAACP, Black people make up 13% of the population, yet make up 42% of death row & 35% of the executions.#FreeRodneyReed and sign the petition @ https://t.co/fZWsFQ2mfU! pic.twitter.com/cPdKtcb4EE
— A N G E L A | R Y E (@angela_rye) November 4, 2019
There is an innocent man on death row with mere days before his execution. Please take time out to sign this petition to tell @GovAbbott #FreeRodneyReed https://t.co/u9jfiSFwQh
— Questlove from @SongsThatShook Oct 13th @AMC_tv (@questlove) November 4, 2019
I’ve spent my entire morning reading about this case and yelling at my laptop in-between aggressive sips of my scalding hot tea, so I am what one could call an “expert” at this point. Anyway, let’s start at the beginning. The case is broken down in an interview between Amy Goodman of Democracy Now and Bryce Benjet, a senior attorney at the Innocence Project, and Rodney Reed’s brother and sister-in-law (highly recommend checking out if you’re looking for something to take over your entire day).
Here is a quick rundown of the basics: Stacey Stites was found murdered on the afternoon of April 23, 1996. At the time, she was engaged to Jimmy Fennell, a white man who was a cop at the time. He claimed that Stacey must have been murdered after leaving for work in the morning, around 3:00 am. DNA evidence found the semen of Rodney Reed, a black man, on Stites, which at the time was taken as evidence that he had raped her.
However, Reed has always maintained that he and Stites were engaged in a consensual affair, and his semen was from the day before. Others have verified this affair, even those who were close to Stites, but they were not called as witnesses in court (um, k).
It’s important to note that this was 23 years ago, when DNA evidence wasn’t fully understood or at the advanced level it is today, but more on that later. At first, Stites’ fiancé was the primary suspect. He failed more than one polygraph test and eventually invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination so he wouldn’t have to keep answering questions. You know, typical innocent people stuff. And again, he was a cop.
Once the DNA test revealed that Rodney Reed’s semen was found on Stites, he became the main suspect. His trial was rushed and his defense was unprepared — his family couldn’t afford to keep their original attorney and were left with others who simply were not ready for such a case. Rodney Reed was found guilty and sentenced to death. He’s been on death row ever since.
Reed has maintained his innocence, and now there is evidence that could prove it. First off, the DNA that was presented to incriminate him is no longer applicable, because the science has advanced and no longer supports the original theory. According to Bryce Benjet, who is currently working on the case for The Innocence Project, the forensic pathologist, Roberto Bayardo, who did the autopsy, told the jury that this small amount of sperm could not have been there for more than 20 hours — 24 hours after they were found, which would put Rodney at the crime scene.
However, forensics now say that that number is 72. Roberto Bayardo has retracted his entire testimony and said that the evidence does, in fact, suggest that there was consensual sex between Rodney and Stacey the day before, which is exactly what Rodney has said all along.
And that’s not all. A belt was found at the crime site, which was ripped in half and assumed to be the murder weapon. Back when the crime took place, forensics were not yet able to test murder weapons for DNA. Now they can. And yet, this weapon has not been tested. BUT WHY.
Well, like we said, Jimmy Fennell was a local policeman, and IDK if you’ve heard, but cops are known to protect their own. It can’t be said officially, but if there is a way to test a murder weapon for DNA evidence, and the black man on death row is begging the courts to allow it, but they are refusing, and the other suspect is a white ex-cop…yeah, you do the math. I’m no Olivia Benson, but seems like the police force doesn’t want the weapon to be tested because they’re not certain their fellow cop’s DNA won’t be on it.
So who exactly is this Jimmy Fennell guy? SO FUNNY YOU SHOULD ASK: He’s a former cop who, after this case closed, ended up in prison for kidnapping and raping a woman.
And, while he was in jail, he allegedly confessed to a fellow inmate that he killed Stacey Stites. And according to Reed’s attorneys, they have a sworn affidavit from this inmate that they would also like to enter into evidence. OH, OKAY. Did you think that was all? Nah. Apparently, Fennell was a raging racist (shocker) who had threatened to kill Stacey Stites before the murder occurred. In a short documentary film called A Plea for Justice (Yoooo, Netlfix, u up?) Alicia Slater, a friend and former coworker of Stacey Stites, claims that when she asked Stacey if she was excited to get married to Jimmy Fennell, she said “not really” and told her about an affair she was having with a black man, ANDDDDD expressed fear over what Fennell would do if he ever found out about said affair.
There are even more bonkers details about this case that clearly point to Fennell as the murderer, like a history of violence that came up in the case that landed him in jail, alleged witness intimidation by the local police force, inconsistency in Fennell’s alibi, as well as proof that his timeline doesn’t add up, cops in the original case who were later found to be dirty cops and convicted of further crimes, and more. But I simply do not have the word count for it all.
This sure seems like “reasonable doubt” to us, which should demand another trial and at the very least, take a man for whom there is even an ounce of doubt is guilty of murder off death row.
I’m waiting on the Netflix doc for this one, but in the meantime, you can sign the petition to stop Rodney Reed’s execution, which is, again, scheduled for November 20th, 2019 (that’s like, so soon) here.
Oh, also it was an all-white jury that convicted Rodney Reed, okay byeeeeeeee!
Images: CBS (1), Twitter (1), Giphy (2)