Friday, November 30, 2018

Pilot Review: Dirty John

Dirty John (Bravo)
Premiered November 25 at 10pm

This is the era of anthology series, and it actually makes sense that they should be adapted directly from serial podcasts like the one that inspired this show. The nature of limited series in which each season follows a different storyline and set of characters is that you can only become so invested, especially when it’s not the kind of thing like “American Horror Story” where there actually are connections both between the cast and the characters in hidden ways. It’s fitting, therefore, that the actress who starred in the original iteration of the FX series that launched this whole phenomenon and has taken an interesting career trajectory with an early departure from “Nashville” and a one-season deal to launch “9-1-1” should be the central figure here too. I usually like Connie Britton, but found her portrayal of Debra to be relatively dry and one-dimensional, talking frequently about her four previous husbands and being swept away way too easily by John’s charms. Eric Bana makes for an interesting villain, almost immediately as threatening as he is charming. I’m happy to see both Juno Temple and Julia Garner as sisters since I think they’re terrific actresses, but I preferred them as best friends in “One Percent More Humid” and other previous work. Jean Smart is another dependable player in this ensemble who does seem perfectly cast for the minor role of the all-too-oblivious mother. The dialogue is often painful – “I don’t like thinking, I like knowing” – and this format lends itself to unnecessary soapiness that does the true story on which it is based a disservice. Bravo isn’t known for top-tier scripted programming, and this show isn’t going to change that.

How will it work as a series? Because it’s based on a podcast, the assumption is that the events of the television episodes are meant to mirror what was revealed in the podcast episodes. Though there are eight installments of the show are only six of the podcast, presumably that’s because there will be more time to get to know the players and, potentially, the aftermath. It seems like a lot to me, but if viewers are interested enough in the story, they’ll likely stick around.
How long will it last? The reviews are mixed, but the ratings should speak louder. Its numbers were pretty good, and if Bravo really wants to get into this market, then this is a great way to do it with stars like Britton and Bana at the helm of its first iteration. Like all these other shows, I suspect it will easily earn a renewal for a second season with its future beyond that unknown and dependent on its actual proven success.

Pilot grade: C

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