After watching the Dirty John series on Netflix, I was so fascinated by the true story that was the inspiration behind it, I decided to check out this documentary. For those who don’t know both the series and the documentary are about a predator called John Meehan who used coercive control to try and take over a woman called Debra Newell’s life.
My hope was to find out more about John’s background and possibly some missing details from the series.
Unfortunately that didn’t really happen. It’s a great story but it turns out that the dramatised version is so true to the actual occurrences that there wasn’t a lot of new information that came out. All the major players are interviewed along with some of John’s former girlfriends. Interestingly Debra Newell’s eldest daughter does not want to be identified and appeared in shadow the whole time and Terra Newell is actually more annoying in real life.
There are a few renactments but they obviously don’t have the production value of the show so they tend to be very hammy and suffer badly by comparison.
None of that would have really been an issue were it not for the way the documentary is produced. It must have been made for a channel that has many advert breaks and very forgetful viewers. Just as it would get going it would suddenly have a brief interval and then reiterate everything that had happened in the last few minutes before the interval. That sort of scene setting is annoying enough when there are lengthy advert breaks but watching it without adverts was absolutely infuriating.
I think the only thing I got out of it was an even greater respect for Connie Britton because her portrayal of Debra is so accurate.
If you are at all interested in this story skip the documentary and just watch the show.