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Series / Dirty John

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Dirty John is a live-action true crime drama Anthology series. It premiered on Bravo in November of 2018, before being aired internationally by Netflix in January of 2019.

The first season is based on the story of conman John Meehan, (played by Eric Bana), a charismatic man who uses deceit and manipulation to seduce Debra Newell (Connie Britton), and the consequences it has for her family.

A second season based on the story of murderer Betty Broderick featuring Amanda Peet as Broderick and Christian Slater as her husband Dan premiered on June 2, 2020.


This show provides examples of:

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  • Artistic License: Before the credits for each episode, we get a disclaimer noting that while the series is based on true events, liberties have been taken in the portrayal. A list of specifics for the first season can be found here, and the second season can be found here.
    • Notably in the second season, the names of the Broderick children have all been changed.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Being based on true crime stories, anyone familiar with the accounts will know what happens when watching each season.

    Season 1: Dirty John
Promotional poster for Season 1

  • Bittersweet Ending: The first season ends with John dead and the family thus (for the time being) free of his manipulation, but still irrevocably shaken by it all.
  • Crime of Self-Defense: Averted, as happened in real life. Debra's younger daughter Terra inflicts injuries on John, that ultimately prove fatal, when he assaults her, but no charges end up getting pressed because she was acting in self-defense.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Debra agrees to marry John after knowing him for only a few weeks, as the episode captions take time to point out.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Veronica is blunt, overbearing, demanding... and right about pretty much everything.
  • Killing in Self-Defense: Terra inflicts fatal wounds on John when she manages to get the knife he'd attacked her with.
  • Manipulative Bastard: John is this to a T, having manipulated countless women before Debra, and escaped numerous arrests while pretending to be different people.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Part of the technique John uses to seduce people. He's claimed to be a licensed anesthetist and an Iraq war veteran, among others.
  • Would Hurt a Child: In the season one finale, John attempts to kill Debra's younger daughter Terra with a knife. He slashes her arm, but she ultimately gets the upper hand and stabs him repeatedly.

    Season 2: Betty: The Betty Broderick Story
Promotional poster for Season 2

  • Big "WHAT?!": The telephone sequence after Betty shoots Dan and Linda.
  • Consummate Liar: Dan repeatedly commits perjury while on the stand during his divorce hearing, lying about his actions during and after his marriage to Betty.
  • DanceofDespair: Betty and one of her friends dance to a mixtape Betty made in her living room on the day of Dan's second wedding.
  • Downer Ending: After a contentious trial, including her oldest daughter and all but one of her previous friends testifying against her, Betty is convicted of second-degree murder. She's shown in prison being haunted by the ghosts of Dan and Linda, imagining how her life could have been, and singing "The Twelfth of Never" on a phone call.
  • The '80s: Betty largely takes place during this decade, with the fashions, décor, and soundtrack to match.
  • Evil Is Petty: The divorce court judge admonishes Dan and Dan’s lawyer for “fines” on Betty’s support payments and wasting time on petty details such as answering machine message transcripts.
  • Flat Character: Linda Kolkena is presented as little more than “the other woman,” with no motivation or personality outside of being with Dan. However, she does touch the Villain Ball when she contemplates destroying Betty’s wedding china to one of Betty’s friends, and again when she steals Betty's diary from her home, then returns it by setting it in the front foyer.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The first scene of the season shows a high-school-age Betty in marksmanship class. Nearly three decades later, she is shown buying a gun, later shooting her ex-husband and his second wife to death.
    • Dan is largely silent during a dinner with lawyers as one details getting away with the “perfect” divorce.
    • Betty tells the court-appointed therapist in “Scream Therapy,” “I’m not going to be a single parent to four kids. He’ll die first.”
    • Linda proposes getting a home security system to deal with Betty's intrusions, which Dan dismisses.
    • Linda says "A lot of people have said she's joked about shooting us" in "The Shillelagh."
  • Gaslighting: Dan gaslights Betty throughout their marriage and during his affair with Linda. He blatantly lies to Betty about having an affair, his whereabouts when asked, and his intentions when he moves out without actually saying he’s moving out.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Discussed. When Betty asks Dan about an abortion following two rough pregnancies, he admonishes her, the concept being against his Catholic beliefs.
  • Greyand Grey Morality: While the show is firmly on Betty’s side, illustrating Dan as a villain, it also doesn’t excuse her intolerable behavior following the divorce. Dan’s secretary expresses horror at the profane answering machine messages she's made to transcribe and her son begs her to “stop saying bad words.”
  • Hidden Depths: Betty is shown to be more intelligent than most characters give her credit for, including asking if a legal library has a specific author and already knowing about a French dish when recommended at a high-end restaurant.
  • Hoisted by Her Own Petard: Betty chooses to represent herself in her divorce hearing, presuming the legal system is largely set against her. In the process, she loses custody of her children and is given visitation rights along with a fraction of the monetary compensation she asked for.
  • I Lied: After Dan serves Betty her first restraining order, he finally confesses his affair with Linda to her, having gaslit her for more than two years.
  • Jerkass: DAN. He is rarely shown in a positive light, especially when played by Christian Slater.
  • Malicious Slander: Betty learns from a friend during the bifurcated divorce of the rumor that the hearings were closed due to her being a child molester, a false allegation.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: In a press conference, a juror admits to convincing the rest of the jury to go for second-degree murder, thinking it would result in a lesser sentence. When an interviewer informs her otherwise, she has this reaction.
  • Parental Abandonment: When she calls them for support, Betty’s parents want nothing to do with Betty during her divorce hearings, not offering a single kind word to her.
  • Parental Neglect: Dan only shows interest in his children when it stands to hurt Betty. After Dan is given full custody, his youngest son gets lice and the school nurse mentions to Betty that the kids arrive at school in dirty clothes. For her part, Betty at one point drops off the four underage children, unsupervised, on Dan’s doorstep to go visit family out-of-state.
  • Precision F-Strike: Betty's lone f-bomb is censored when ranting on the phone with her son.
  • Raised Catholic: Betty is shown to have been raised Catholic and attended a private Catholic high school. Betty and Dan are married in a Catholic ceremony. She's shown to take her children to a Catholic church regularly.
  • Sanity Slippage: As Betty becomes more unhinged, the background behind her uses a spin blur to focus entirely on her.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Two different lawyers, while sympathetic to her, quit representing Betty after they aren’t paid and Betty refuses to cooperate with the process.
  • Screw Your Ultimatum!: A villainous example. Betty demands Dan either fire Linda as his secretary when she suspects him of having an affair with her, or move out. He refuses, coldly telling Betty she would be the one to move out, because he owned everything.
  • The Shrink:
    • Betty asks Dan to attend marriage counseling at their church when she feels him getting emotionally distant. He does, under the supervision of a priest.
    • A court-appointed therapist is assigned to Betty following psychotic accusations by Dan. After Betty refuses cooperation, the therapist recommends denying custody of her children.
  • Slut-Shaming: After a boy calls for Betty at her parent’s home in the ‘60s, both of her parents ask if she is, then admonish her for presumably being, a slut.
  • Threat Backfire: When Betty demands Dan move out of the house if he doesn't "get rid of" Linda, he tells her she would be the one to move out. After he does move out, Dan goes on to sell their house without Betty's consent.


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