True Crime TV Shows Connected To Podcasts

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America is obsessed with true crime stories, or so it seems. Just look at some of the top shows streaming, and you'll see a pattern. There are plenty of sordid tales about true-life criminals to choose from. Naturally, all of these high-profile murders and scandals were covered ad nauseum in the news, but many have also found an outlet in the world of podcasts. As podcasts have become more popular, some TV producers are finding the inspiration for their next projects there.

On the flip side, podcast creators, often former journalists, may be sparked by something they see on TV. Podcasts are sometimes seen as a way to bridge the worlds of journalism and entertainment. They can also be a way to reach new audiences. Producer Gloria Calderón Kellett, who is adapting "The Horror of Dolores Roach" podcast for Amazon, told The Hollywood Reporter that a podcast "more clearly shows the tone of the work. It is also a great way to build an audience and test out material."

So what drives our thirst for these sometimes gruesome shows? Lifetime EVP of original movies Tanya Lopez told DIRECTV that it's a way for us to escape. "More often than not, true crime is crazy people doing crazy things. This kind of storytelling allows our audience to step out of their everyday life and go on a ride." So hop on board as we take a closer look at what could be your next guilty pleasure.

The Thing About Pam

For Renée Zellweger's first network TV role, NBC created tons of buzz for its true crime series,"The Thing About Pam." The show delves into the real-life case of Pamela Hupp, who is now facing charges in the diabolical 2011 murder of her friend Betsy Faria, per NBC News. To find the inspiration, NBC News president Noah Oppenheim told Variety the network looked no further than one of its own podcasts. "We started looking into the 'Dateline' archives for some of the most interesting stories that they've told, and 'The Thing About Pam' immediately stood out."

Showrunner Jenny Klein said that despite all the news coverage the case had received, writers on the show were diligent about doing more research. "That meant reaching out to everyone involved in the Faria case, people who knew Pam Hupp. If they were willing to talk to the writers, we wanted to listen to their accounts." Oppenheim said, "Part of the opportunity of a scripted adaptation is to look at the story through a new lens — and I think that that's what they've done."

According to Vox, "Dateline" chose the Faria case, with all its shocking twists and turns, to launch its first podcast project in the narrative true crime vein. Primal Stream Media called it "arguably one of the franchise's most interesting and surprising stories," adding, "If you are a true crime fan, then yes absolutely, ["The Thing About Pam"] is the choice for you."

The Dropout

Two months before "The Dropout" starring Amanda Seyfried dropped on Hulu, former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes was convicted on one conspiracy count and three counts related to defrauding investors, per Deadline. It was a scheme that rocked Silicon Valley like a Bay Area earthquake. Back in 2019, "The Dropout" podcast kicked off as Holmes and her company were being investigated by the SEC for "massive fraud" based on claims she made about its blood-testing technology.

Similar to NBC's synergy, ABC's long-running newsmagazine "20/20" provided the source material here. ABC journalist Rebecca Jarvis, who hosts the podcast, told Deadline she found Holmes' story fascinating because people can't quite figure Holmes out. "She had this audacious goal that was supposed to change the world for the better. And I think as a journalist, it's a reminder that even people who set out to do great things for the world, need to be asked difficult questions."

Series showrunner Elizabeth Meriwether told The New York Times the bar was set high for this production. "I felt like Rebecca's podcast was made with that spirit of wanting to figure out what motivated [Holmes]." Unlike other failed start-ups, she said, Theranos was about people's lives. "This was people's health. This was, in a very primal way, their blood."

Dr. Death

Doctor and death. Those are two words you never want to hear together, and this story, unfortunately, is the real deal. "Dr. Death," the Peacock series starring "Little Fires Everywhere" actor Joshua Jackson, was released in 2021. It's about Christopher Duntsch, a Dallas neurosurgeon convicted of maiming over 30 patients and killing two, per Time. The show grew out of the eponymous popular anthology podcast

Host Laura Beil was a medical reporter at the "Dallas Morning News" when she was first asked, "Hey, have you heard of Christopher Duntsch?" Per Elle, the company Wondery wanted a journalist familiar with the territory for a new podcast they were planning, and Beil fit the bill. "When they called, I hadn't even heard of Wondery. But I decided to take a chance on it," she said. Beil has no regrets. According to Elle, Season 1 was downloaded 50 million times, making it one of the biggest podcasts at that time. Where the series and the podcast differ is about each producer's point of view.

Why would Duntsch continue operating after causing all that harm, the Los Angeles Times asks. Beil doesn't give a definitive answer on the podcast. Series showrunner Patrick Macmanus indicated to the outlet that he doesn't see it as a black or white issue. "If you ask me, 'Do I believe that he was purposely maiming and murdering people?' No, I do not. Now, the caveat is that the man deserves to be in jail for the rest of his life."

Tiger King

When the pandemic shut everything down in 2020, the Netflix doc "Tiger King" reigned supreme in the ratings. Viewers were mesmerized by the story of "Joe Exotic" (real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage) and the shady side of the self-proclaimed "gay gun-toting cowboy" at his big cat zoo, per Time. In 2019, Maldonado-Passage was convicted of a "murder-for-hire" plot against his enemy, big cat sanctuary owner Carole Baskin. While that Netflix version of the "Joe Exotic" story wasn't based on a podcast, "JOE vs CAROLE" is.

The 2022 series from Peacock starring John Cameron and Kate McKinnon centers on Baskin, her questionable past, and her attempts to shut down Joe Exotic's zoo. Journalist Robert Moor hosts "Joe Exotic: Tiger King," the Wondery podcast that inspired the series. According to Refinery29, Moor spent years interviewing the players in Joe Exotic's circle, including the Tiger King himself, gathering more intimate details and elements of the story you didn't see on Netflix.

On his first trip to Joe Exotic's zoo, Moor told Mark Carman on WGN Radio (via Fansided), "I followed him around at the zoo, every day, for a week. And over the course of that week, we got really close." What Moor concluded is that Joe turned out to be his own worst enemy. "The story behind the story is Joe allowed his ego to become monstrously huge, and it ended up becoming his destruction."

Dirty John

The 2018 Bravo series "Dirty John" was inspired by the hit podcast, so let's begin the story there. First, a little background per Oprah Daily. After four failed marriages, Debra Newell (Connie Britton) is swept off her feet by handsome doctor John Meehan (Eric Bana), whom she met on a dating site. After the sordid details of his criminal and deceptive past are revealed, Meehan meets his death at the hands of Newell's daughter (in self-defense).

According to Rolling Stone, this is where Christopher Goffard, a Los Angeles Times reporter, picked up the story. When the newspaper decided to launch a podcast, Goffard said the story seemed like "a natural candidate for our first really ambitious podcast." As the investigation began to unfold, Goffard developed an "all-consuming" drive to learn more: "I think it has to do with the complete concentrated malice that this guy exhibited, and the way that he seemed to have no pleasure in life other than to hurt people."

Showrunner Alexandra Cunningham, who adapted Goffard's articles and podcast for the series, told The Hollywood Reporter this wasn't just a story about a con man. "We really didn't want to tell that traditional narrative of the innocent woman and the bad man, because that's only one element of this story," Cunningham said. The focus for her script was including "the emotion and the being swept off your feet... and all the elements that needed to be possible for this to have even worked on Debra in the first place."

Lore

The brainchild of Aaron Mahnke, "Lore" launched in 2015 and "is an award-winning, critically-acclaimed podcast" that has racked up over 350 million listens, per its website. Each episode explores a different scary story. "None of my episodes contain stories or details that I've fabricated for the show," Mahnke told The Guardian. "All of the material is from documented stories or historical events. Some are ancient and some are modern, but they are all factual in the sense that people reported these things and believed they were true," he said. 

The subjects run the gamut, including witch trials, werewolves, serial killers, and ghost stories, but horrifying the listener is not the intention. "I don't want to glorify the gore. I want to put a spotlight on the behavior and motives, and show how it contributed to superstitions and fears that are common to us today," Mahnke explained to The Guardian. The podcaster's time and efforts have apparently paid off. In 2017, Amazon Prime Video premiered the TV streaming version of "Lore" on Friday the 13th, of course.

Critic Bryan Bishop of The Verge found the first season "even more unnerving and resonant" than the podcast. "'Lore' does more than just chronicle disturbing tales from our own history. It's able to illuminate and highlight failings of human nature itself." Mahnke, who also published "The World of Lore Series" in a book format, told ComicBook, "I really want to keep those sometimes forgotten tales alive as best as we can."

Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story

Following the success of "Dirty John," USA Network announced the premiere of "Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story," starring Amanda Peet and Christian Slater, per ET. Here is the 4-1-1. Betty and Dan were a happy suburban San Diego couple. Then Dan had an affair with his assistant, Linda. After Dan split with Betty and married Linda, Betty shot and killed them both in their bedroom. Betty was convicted of the murders in 1989 and is serving out her 32-year (to life) sentence. Betty was dead wrong trying to make a clean break this way from Dirty John. 

Showrunner Alexandra Fuller, a teen when the case made headlines, told NBC (via Oprah Daily), "The case was juicy, and dramatic, and Betty was just like all of my friends' rich, blonde, suburban moms. I was fascinated by the idea of one of those women totally losing control." Everything changed after she became one of those moms. "The whole thing had transformed from a fun yarn to a completely relatable, suspense horror documentary."

Fuller told Creative Screenwriting that she hoped the takeaway from "Dirty John," which is told from Betty Broderick's perspective, "wasn't so much that justice was served, but rather how she got there." To accompany the series, USA and LA Times Studios partnered on a limited release podcast called "It Was Simple," a behind-the-scenes look at how the series was made, featuring the cast, creators, and expert analysis of the case.

Serial: The Case Against Adnan Syed

In 2014, "Serial" became the first major hit podcast with the reinvestigation of a 1999 murder case. Adnan Syed was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, while both were high school students, per NPR. Listeners were locked in to the case, flooding a Reddit board with their comments and alternate theories of what happened.

In 2014, podcast host and journalist Sarah Koenig told NPR, "We wanted it to feel like a live thing... a vital thing in the sense of the word of being a living thing — as we went. And we were still reporting last week for the final episode." Director Amy Berg adapted the podcast into "The Case Against Adnan Syed," a four-part docuseries, which debuted on HBO in 2019. She told Deadline, "As a filmmaker, I wanted to visualize what was in my mind already about the story, and kind of go further with the investigation." Berg interviewed Syed from prison, noting that "his voice is an important part of this story, and he has stuck with his story for all these years."

In 2018, an appeals court vacated Syed's conviction. That decision was overturned in 2019, two days prior to the doc's premiere, per The New York Times. "I just hope that there is some resolution at some point," Berg said to Deadline. That could happen. In March 2022, The New York Times reported that Maryland prosecutors have agreed "to conduct new DNA tests on evidence used to convict" Syed. 

WeCrashed

With a March 18, 2022 release, "WeCrashed" is the story of another shocking Silicon Valley fall from grace. Starring Anne Hathaway and Jared Leto, the Apple TV+ limited series is a cautionary tale about WeWork, the office rental company once worth $47 billion that saw its value crash in under twelve months, per Deadline. The series takes an in-depth look at cofounders Adam Neumann and Rebekah Paltrow and their roles in what happened. (According to Hathaway, Leto took his role so seriously, he never broke character through the entire filming process.)

Creators Lee Eisenberg and Drew Crevello spoke to Screen Chatter about the project. Eisenberg said in this story, there are no simple answers. "What did Adam and Rebekah do? Did they fly too close to the sun? ... Did they promise the employees something that they ultimately couldn't deliver? And did they know that all along?" Crevello added, "Whatever we're accusing Adam and Rebekah of, how much are all of the rest of us guilty of the same thing?"

The series was inspired by a Wondery podcast hosted by public radio journalist David Brown, who describes this saga to listeners as "what happens when idealism and greed run headlong into business reality." The podcast attempts to explain how a tech mogul's dream quickly turned into a disaster. Wondery CEO Hernan Lopez told Fast Company, "I think what listeners are going to find is a very compelling story of excess that in hindsight... we could have seen coming."

Inventing Anna

"Inventing Anna," the buzzy Netflix series about a young woman who bilked over $200,000 from some of New York's finest establishments, dropped in February 2022. Anna Delvey, played by "Ozark"s Julia Garner (who became an overnight media sensation), is actually Anna Sorokin. Much of what she said about herself was a figment of her imagination, per The Cut. The college dropout wasn't born in Germany, and she did not have a €60 million trust fund.

In 2019, the convicted fraudster told The New York Times, "The thing is, I'm not sorry. I'd be lying to you and to everyone else and to myself if I said I was sorry for anything. I regret the way I went about certain things." After being released from prison in 2021, Sorokin was taken into ICE custody for overstaying her visa. She could be deported to Germany at any time. In the meantime, be prepared for the reinvention of Anna Delvey.

In February, she told the Daily Mail, "I never scammed people — my crimes were against financial institutions." (Is that better, Anna?) From Shondaland Audio, Inventing Anna: The Official Podcast gives viewers an inside look at how the series was made. Executive producer Shonda Rhimes explained in a Shondaland interview why she chose not to meet Sorokin: "I have yet to meet somebody who didn't like Anna when they met her. They get drawn in... So, I chose to get to know Anna through the journalistic eyes of Jessica [Pressler] instead."

The Tinder Swindler

As soon as "The Tinder Swindler" came out on Netflix, some women on dating apps were thinking twice before "swiping right." The documentary film revealed the story of Simon Leviev, who allegedly swindled women he met on Tinder "for hundreds of thousands of euros," per Esquire. Leviev, of course, isn't his real name, and he isn't the son of a diamond tycoon, either. Shimon Hayut is an ex-con who served time for scamming three women in Israel, and according to The Times of Israel, he reportedly defrauded women out of $10 million.

"He ruined my life and shattered me emotionally and financially," said one of his victims (via Esquire). In February, Hayut claimed the documentary about him is a "made-up movie" in an interview he did with "Inside Edition." "I was just a single guy that wanted to meet some girls on Tinder. ... I'm not this monster," he said. Now a free man, Hayut is being sued by the Leviev family for benefiting from using their family name, per NBC News. Because "turnabout [is] fair play," according to TMZ, the Tinder swindler admitted to being swindled by a woman on Instagram for over $6,000.

As part of its "You Can't Make This Up" series, Netflix presented an investigative audio companion piece to the film called "The Making of a Swindler." Hosted by the film's producer Bernadette Higgins and director Felicity Morris, the 3-episode podcast discloses new information about the conman's early life, his background, his criminal cohorts, and insight about what makes him tick.