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December 06, 2018

Can’t-Miss True-Crime Story: Bravo’s Dirty John

dirty john on bravo

Truth is often stranger than fiction, and Bravo’s new scripted series Dirty John is proof of that. Literary journalist Christopher Goffard began investigating the story of the real-life “Dirty John” in 2016. He was deeply chilled as details emerged about grifter John Meehan, his trail of deception and violence, and his relationship with Debra Newell, his final victim. The addictive true-crime “Dirty John” podcast soon followed. Now, Bravo presents its own version of this thrilling story.

The plot

Debra — played in Bravo’s series by Connie Britton — is a wealthy Newport Beach interior designer. John — played by Eric Bana — is a handsome anesthesiologist and Iraq War vet who quickly sweeps the unlucky-in-love Debra off her feet after they meet online. Despite warning signs (like John getting aggressive on their first date) and Debra’s daughters’ protests, the pair wed in Las Vegas within eight weeks of meeting.

Needless to say, the couple’s honeymoon period doesn’t last very long. Thanks to the work of a private detective hired by a suspicious relative, Debra soon discovers that her seemingly-sweet new husband has a long history of deceit, drug addiction, and toxic relationships. When she confronts him about her disturbing findings, John’s true colors are revealed — and Debra realizes that she and her family are in grave danger. When she promptly asks for an annulment, things turn bloody.

The story’s journey

Goffard spent seven months investigating Debra and John’s story, then three more writing and recording the six-episode true crime podcast, which went on to earn critical acclaim and more than 30 million downloads from story-hungry true-crime followers. Its buzz prompted Bravo to pick up the tale for an eight-episode limited series.

The Dirty John TV show is created by Alexandra Cunningham (Desperate Housewives), and directed by Jeffrey Reiner. Cunningham has noted in interviews that the Dirty John series will dig deeper into the story than the podcast did, and feature multiple perspectives — not just Goffard’s. Among other side stories, the show will delve into John’s past to explore who he is, and how he came to be known as “Dirty John.”

Dirty John cast

Fans of Friday Night Lights and Nashville eagerly anticipate the return of Connie Britton to the small screen — and many critics are praising her pitch-perfect performance as Debra Newell. As for Eric Bana’s depiction of the title character, Entertainment Weekly notes, “If this performance does not free him from a career purgatory of forgettable movies (…) it will be a crime.”

The cast is rounded out by the young and fierce Julia Garner (Ozark) and Juno Temple as Debra’s daughters, Terra and Veronica. Veteran performer Jean Smart once again shows off her acting chops as Debra’s devoutly religious mother.

One sign that this show can’t be missed? A second season has already been picked up (although it will feature an all-new true-crime show and cast of characters). Executive producer Richard Suckle has said that there are “a number of stories we can tell.” We can only hope they’re as gripping as Dirty John’s. Watch Dirty John on Bravo Sundays at 10 p.m.

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