“Dirty John” presents disturbing, but poorly acted thrills

Sophia Yakumithis, News Editor

Normally, I’m not a fan of true crime. I have this weird anxiety that if I learn about horrific events that actually happened in real life that they will somehow become real and happen to me. “Dirty John” is an exception.

Last weekend, my mother—the same woman who got me hooked on “The Real Housewives” franchise—dragged me into the realm of Bravo TV’s new true crime show “Dirty John.” She was wildly excited for the Nov. 25 premiere, since the “perfect man,” according to her, Eric Bana, plays the titular role. The Australian actor is well known for his roles in “Troy” and “The Time Traveller’s Wife,” two movies that showcase his defined abdomen and muscle system at large. The lead female role in “Dirty John” is played by “American Horror Story” actress Connie Britton, someone my mother is less interested in and quite jealous of because of her fictional arm candy.

The Bravo series was inspired by Christopher Goffard’s Los Angeles Times podcast by the same name, which focused on the life of serial predator John Meehan. The registered nurse used deception and elusive strategies to lure in victim after victim, even bringing a gun into an operating room at one point. Sixteen years ago, Meehan pled guilty to felony drug theft and then fled to Ohio with an anesthesia kit to avoid surrender. Police found him nearly unconscious and surrounded by drug vials in a hotel, and on his way to the hospital, Meehan escaped from his restraints. He tried escaping the ambulance and was then sentenced to 17 months in prison.

The podcast and TV series focus on Meehan’s post-prison activities; on his first night out, the criminal set up a profile on Match.com to attract female victims. Debra Newell matched with Meehan in 2014 and on their first date he claimed to have been an anesthesiologist in Iraq for Doctors Without Borders. Soon after they started dating, Meehan and Newell moved in together—despite her daughters’ adamant disapproval. “Dirty John’s” premiere ends with the new couple’s impulsive marriage in Las Vegas.

As one could imagine, my mom thoroughly enjoyed the show for its visual presentation. We both agreed that the acting was generally subpar but that it suited the romanticized take on a true crime story.

“It’s pretty disconcerting not only to hear an American accent come out of that perfect Australian mouth [of Eric Bana], but to be so uncomfortable with how brilliantly this smooth, cooler than cool actor can play such a slimy, creepy fraud so easily,” my mom said.“It’s a gripping and suspenseful true story. They’re doing such a great job on this series that I simply can’t wait until the next episode.”