I know nothing about the true crime podcast that Dirty John is apparently based on. I gave this show a shot because it features two terrific stars (Connie Britton and Eric Bana), and because I’d heard it was similar to You, a show that recently launched with an excellent debut season. But does it live up to the hype?
Judging from the pilot, there’s definitely enough intrigue to stick around for more. John is the story of Debra, a wealthy divorcée who starts a relationship with a dashing bachelor who upends her life to creepy effect. The pilot doesn’t play all its cards, but it’s obvious that John isn’t the most honest guy around, and that lends a really unsettling vibe to their love story. Both Britton and Bana are fantastic; they’re believable and have instant chemistry. Let’s face it, this kind of show thrives on the electricity between the central couple, and Dirty John has this in spades.
The supporting cast is less impressive with Juno Temple and Julia Garner as Debra’s spoiled (and obviously suspicious) daughters. They come off as cartoonish in the first episode, and that robs the story of its realism. Of course there’s always room for more nuance in future episodes so I’ll try to be optimistic.
The episode’s opening is also ill-advised with a mysterious crime that I’m guessing is a flash-forward teasing us of ominous developments. The show never returns to it, and thus falls flat on its face. Can’t we just focus on crafting thrills without this unnecessary gimmick?
Fine performances salvage Dirty John‘s weaker elements and make it an enjoyable watch.