Will television ever run out of scandals?

Before she can start shooting A very British scandal, director Anne Sewitsky found herself playing the salon reporter. She needed to check that Ian Campbell (played by Paul Bettany), the 20th century Scottish duke with a cruel streak, broke into his wife’s property and stole her diary during their torrid tit-for-tat divorce proceedings. tat – one of many fact-checking assignments she and writer Sarah Phelps have launched to ensure the BBC miniseries is as true to the truth as possible. They learned that Campbell had in fact robbed his wife, socialite Margaret Whigham (Claire Foy), who had herself committed a forgery and alleged that Campbell’s two sons were illegitimate.

For Sewitsky, whose previous directing credits include otherworldly shows like black mirror and stone castle, this breadth of research was relatively unprecedented. But it’s essential in a pop culture world addicted to scams, scandals, and other larger-than-life crimes that continue to raise questions about ethics within tech, showbiz, and media.

Many people outside the UK are not intimately familiar with the Campbells’ unhappy marriage, which lasted from 1951 to 1963 and resulted in a media frenzy that worked overtime to shame Margaret for cheating on Ian, but A very British scandal (debuting April 22 on Amazon) marks the latest addition to a wave of scripted entertainment culled from widely dissected headlines. “We are a notoriously lascivious species,” says Phelps. City & Country. “We love the thrill of choosing other people’s lives, especially when they’re rich and famous. We love seeing them broken.

Claire Foy as the Duchess of Argyll in A very British scandalpremiering April 22 on Amazon Prime Video.

Alan Peebles

The show, a sequel to those of 2018 A very English scandaldelves deeper into the story than most of its TV counterparts. The stall (now streaming on Hulu) chronicles the Shakespearean defeat of a former tech prodigy Elizabeth Houses (Amanda Seyfried), who convinced an alarming number of high profile investors to believe in her bogus blood testing startup. Plainville’s daughter (also on Hulu) portrays the highly scrutinized saga involving a Massachusetts teenager (Elle Fanning) who encouraged her boyfriend’s suicide plans. Pam and Tommy (Hulu again) revisits the stolen sex tape that ruined the careers of Pamela Anderson (Lily James) and Tommy Lee (Sebastian Stan). by Netflix Invent Anna pay attention to a enigmatic russian scammer (Julia Garner) who robbed New York hotels, banks and art collectors in the 2010s. On Peacock, Joe versus Carol dramatizes anti-heroes Joe Exotic (John Cameron Mitchell) and Carole Baskin (Kate McKinnon) two years later tiger king has become a documentary phenomenon. Meanwhile, AppleTV+ has a series about overzealousness WeWork Power Torque Adam Neumann (Jared Leto) and Rebekah Neumann (Anne Hathaway), and Showtime’s Business Scandal Anthology super pumped kicked off with a season on disgraced Uber CEO Travis Kalanick (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).

From the perspective of their creators, the fact that these shows debut around the same time is coincidental. But there are several explanations for the trend. Much of this content has been adapted from recent podcasts, books, magazine articlesor docuseries already devoured by a rubber audience in an age when Hollywood favors pre-existing intellectual property over original material. Like We crashed co-creator Lee Eisenberg points out, it lends itself to a classic rise-and-fall narrative structure. It also aligns with a broader discourse on societal malfeasance, particularly in the tech and showbiz industries. The contours of social media have trained us to find solace in the failure of others, and the intensity of our 24/7 cycle of news and memes means that artists, executives and miscreants of animal parks can face myths, often misunderstood. prominence, practically overnight.

the stall following the wall street journal article elizabeth and sunny face judgment elizabeth holmes amanda seyfried, photo shown by beth dubberhulu
Amanda Seyfried as Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes in The stallstreaming now on Hulu.

Beth Doubeur

“The truth has become slippery”, says The stall showrunner Liz Meriwether. “We’re kind of left to try and piece together what’s real. I think there is a feeling that you are constantly potentially being scammed. This anxiety leads people to want to see stories about people who have been fooled because we all know we are about to be fooled.

In the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, these stories often turned into forgettable made-for-TV movies that aired on HBO, TNT, or the broadcast networks. Their production quality left something to be desired, even very much, even when they recruited known stars. The psychological nuance that these prime-time projects haven’t fully captured can be best realized in the form of, say, an eight-episode arc on a streaming series unresponsive to the constraints of traditional television.

Lest anyone assume that a scripted knockoff can give the final say on a real subject that is fundamentally unknown to onlookers witnessing its decline, these shows grapple seamlessly with the Trumpian slipperiness to which Meriwether refers. A very British scandalfor example, opens with a prescription acknowledging that “certain elements were created or modified for dramatic purposes”. Invent AnnaThe intro sequences contain a cheeky disclaimer alluding to the elaborate lies its protagonist has told in hopes of gaining weight: “This whole story is completely true. Except for every part that is totally made up .

the plainville girl
Elle Fanning as Michelle Carter and Colton Ryan as Conrad Roy in Plainville’s daughterstreaming now on Hulu.

Steve Dietl

Liz Hannah, a Golden Globe-nominated screenwriter who directed Plainville’s daughter and written for The stall, believes that scandal-based adaptations can achieve a subtlety that most news stories cannot. “What we’ve often seen in recent years is vilification in the media, a one-sided bias of ‘they’re bad,'” she says of Holmes and Plainvilleit’s Michelle Carter. “In Michelle Carter’s case, it’s, ‘She’s a black widow, she’s the bad guy.’ There’s a lack of big-picture perspective and a lack of empathy. That doesn’t mean you’re removing guilt; you’re just approaching them without judgment.

But will audiences get tired of questioning the recent past, of seeing unjudgmental narratives of narcissism go awry? New fiction-worthy shows will appear, but when the current wave peaks, could giving these stories the glossy TV treatment become a mundane way to approach serious matters?

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Sean Penn and Julia Roberts as John and Martha Mitchell in the Watergate drama Gas lightingpremiering April 24 on Starz.

Hilary Bronwyn Gayle

A thing A very British scandal A step forward that others haven’t is looking back. While The stall began shooting before Holmes’ fraud trial even began, Scandal uses 1960s Britain to contemplate the still resonating effects of mass media and misogyny. Upcoming Starz Gas lighting, which attracted Julia Roberts for the juicy role of Martha Mitchell, the Republican socialite turned Watergate whistleblower, enjoys a similar mid-century perspective. It is the same CandyHulu’s Jessica Biel vehicle about Candy Montgomery, a suburban Texas housewife who, in 1980 murdered his lover’s wife (Melanie Lynskey) with an axe. This saga was previously the centerpiece of a 1990 TV movie starring Barbara Hershey, and a movie focused on Montgomery HBO Max Series with Elizabeth Olsen is also on the agenda this year.

“Audiences may have a vague memory of a scandal, so it’s not about giving perspective to the characters or what happened to them or what they made happen,” says Phelps. “I think it’s about us understanding something about ourselves, our culture, why we devour everything that’s written about it, sneer at pictures, endlessly and often puritanical opinions about people. involved, how we revel in public shame and how we forget who are caught in the center of it are entirely breakable human beings.”

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