Dirty John (Wondery) has been the talk of the pod planet in the last couple of weeks – it burst onto the scene with the hope of reaching S-Town or Serial status on October 2nd. The first of six episodes of Dirty John began with a descriptive autopsy of an unknown victim – and unknown perpetrator. What followed was a character study of a con man and a family impacted by his manipulation.
John romanced Debra, and she didn’t notice, or possibly ignored, holes in his personal history and current job activity. Both were attractive, and Debra was well off, and although there were a few times she thought maybe he wasn’t right for her or might be leading her on for nefarious reasons. Debra’s family by and large felt he was up to no good, but weren’t very successful at warning Debra.
By episode six we find out who the victim of the first episode autopsy was, and it brings closure to the story. I won’t spoil the show if you haven’t listened to it yet, but I will say I found this one tough to stick with. Much has been written already about how nearly every person in this story is unlikable, and as it would be in a movie or a book for me, this was a deal breaker. I blame this on the production plan for the story arc and the editing, because everyone truly has redeeming qualities, but few were exhibited in the show. I definitely feel sorry for many people in the show, but that’s not necessarily a feeling I want to have listening to a serial story.
I was pretty riveted through the first two or three episodes and even wrote about it in my last newsletter. After that, it just started to drag for me. The narrator wasn’t particularly dramatic or compelling, often seeming like he was directly reading from a script. I found it difficult to keep track of who was who in Debra’s family. I also felt the ending was abrupt; there was little wrap up or discussion of where those who survived are now.
The podcast felt put together haphazardly, almost as if it was on a short deadline and had to publish by a certain date. It was compelling enough for me to tune in on the weekend – which is pretty rare for me – and I thought the release schedule was great, every episode was released within a week. The story was obviously well-researched by the LA Times (which collaborated with Wondery for the show), so I appreciate that. I just couldn’t get over the unlikable characters who distracted me from the story; it’s almost like they were made out to purposely be really unlikable and make the listener feel really uncomfortable. True crime fanatics, who dominate the podcast world’s fan base, deserved a more thoughtful character investigation to invoke more feelings about the crime and victim.
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Audible Feast Ratings
Educational Value (3 / 5)
Pop Culture Value (5 / 5)
True crime reigns; it’s not my personal favorite genre, but I do listen to many true crime shows. Some have knocked my socks off. This was compelling enough to make me download the new episode the day it came out.
Host Listen-ability (2 / 5)
Flow & Production Value (3 / 5)
My least favorite thing to say about a podcast element is that it was just okay, and that is the case here. The production value was good, but the flow was bad. There were ads throughout each episode that were strangely placed (or the segues on either side of the ad were just odd).
Humor (3 / 5)
Investigation (4 / 5)
Storytelling (3 / 5)
Makes Me a Better Person (1 / 5)
I actually feel like I like people a lot less now and I am questioning whether I victim-shame from time to time. But really, I don’t, and didn’t need the second-guessing. Yikes.
Overall Audible Feast Rating: (3 / 5)
You May Also Like …
S-Town, Serial, Someone Knows Something, Missing and Murdered: Who Killed Alberta Williams?, Finding Tammy Jo, Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder
See all my reviews at this fancy index, dating back to 2015!