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Griselda on Netflix: Is it true crime or is it fantasy?

Griselda on Netflix: Is it true crime or is it fantasy?
Griselda/Netflix

Keeping track of what new true crime is coming down the pike is harder than ever. Between the firehose of projects, all those seemingly AI-penned listicles of “true crime to watch” at various SEO thirst traps, and the way so many shows have similar names (you’re not alone in being unsure about which Murdaugh content you’ve actually watched), it’s tempting to just watch whatever Netflix tells us is #1 in their dubious and non-transparent ranking system.

But with our sophisticated system of cranky Slack messages to each other, a shared spreadsheet, and some Google alerts that will likely be used against us in court one day, the team at Best Evidence continues to track the true crime that’s worth your time.


What: Griselda
Where: Netflix
When: All six episodes drop Thursday, January 25

Advance word on the dramatic adaptation of the life and times of Miami-based drug boss Griselda Blanco is good, with the Guardian writing that it’s “so much fun it’s appalling.” As The Hollywood Reporter notes, it wasn’t that long ago that Catherine Zeta-Jones in arguable brownface played Blanco in Lifetime’s Cocaine Grandmother, a casting decision so messed up that I might dedicate my evening to finding this bizarre affair. (If I can find it, dare me to review it? You can double dog — or deny — me in the comments.)

I’m pleased to see a far more appropriately cast Sofia Vergara doing a heel turn as Blanco; her charisma has long outstripped the projects she’s been in and this feels like a good and natural fit.

Then again, I’m not Michael Sepulveda Blanco, who tried and failed to block the show’s release as it “relies on his ‘private narratives’ without permission,” Rolling Stone reports. He’s Blanco’s only surviving son, who says he has “devoted several years to meticulously documenting the private narratives of his, as well as his mother’s life, with the intention of publishing a book and developing a Spanish soap opera.”

It’s an interesting argument, as it suggests that the series — which is presented as “fictionalized” — draws heavily from Blanco’s real life.

Over at Vanity Fair, Valentina Valentini reports that the series creators relied on documentary Cocaine Cowboys and pulp Blanco take The Godmother for their adaptation. They also worked directly with a real homicide detective from the case: June Hawkins, who is played by Juliana Aidén Martinez in the show.

Ultimately, I’m torn about Griselda‘s relationship with the facts. The good time Charlie in me almost doesn’t care and wants to just take the ride, but the pedant in me will likely be watching with Blanco’s Wikipedia entry open as I “helpfully” point out discrepancies to my husband, or more likely, to the dogs.


What? Samuel L. Jackson is headed to a Peacock true crime adaptation?

If you listened to 2020 podcast Fight Night, you already know the story behind Fight Night: The Million Dollar Heist. Here’s the podcast’s logline:

On October 26, 1970, Muhammad Ali triumphantly returned to the world of boxing in Atlanta, Georgia. But every national front-page headline the next morning featured the story of the largest black-on-black heist in history. At the center of it all – a hustler named “Chicken Man”. Fans arrived in Rolls Royces delivered from New York City. Adorned in vibrant fur coats and dripping with diamonds, they grabbed engraved invitations then strutted into the arena. The sold-out crowd stood and cheered when the first-round bell rang, minus two empty seats. After the fight, many celebrating the victory, including top black mafia leaders, headed to Chicken Man’s house with invitation in hand. Instead of women and wine greeting them at the front door, each walked into the barrel of a sawed-off shotgun. On Fight Night, J.D. Hudson, one of the first black detectives in Atlanta’s desegregated police force helped lead Muhammed Ali into the ring. The next day, he was assigned to the robbery by the chief of police. When asked by a journalist years later, “When did the investigation end?” J.D. summed it up perfectly, “When everybody was dead.”

Based on that, you can certainly see why this got the green light as a series. Kevin Hart was named as starring from the project’s first announcement last year, but they don’t say what real life figure he plays.

Now Variety is reporting that Samuel L. Jackson has joined the series as Frank Moten (aka The Black Godfather), who in real life went down in 1976 as part of a massive narcotics case.

Did you think 15 years ago that one day we’d be talking about Samuel L. Jackson doing a 1) streaming-only 2) TV series 3) based on a motherfucking podcast? I sure didn’t. It’s unclear if production has kicked off for this once-inconceivable project, we also have no date of release.


An offer you can’t refuse

Whatever it Takes

I am 95 percent sure we presented the 100 percent cuckoo bananas eBay executive stalking case as a “Why Hasn’t This Been Adapted Yet” in the newsletter era of Best Evidence, but I won’t flatter myself into thinking that documentarian Jenny Carchman heard my plea and decided to deliver.

Her new doc, Whatever it Takes, begins with the bloody pig mask and funeral wreath high-level eBay employees sent to two journalists who were frequent gadflies of the company. The story just gets stranger from there, and per this report from Deadline, Carchman covers all its twists and turns.

The movie is set to make its premiere in the South By Southwest film fest’s Documentary Spotlight section, which also boasts a movie about the crash of Moviepass I’m suddenly pumped to know more about. That fest runs from March 8-16, so we’ll likely have details for you on release and distribution soon after that.


Is this new look at a 30-year-old bombing a little premature?

The Staircase

Colin Firth arguably made his prestige true crime bones in HBO’s The Staircase, though how successful or close-to-the-truth those bones are is still a solid debate. As opposed to his strange and dislikable Michael Peterson portrayal, he’ll have a more Darcy-leaning job in Lockerbie, another true-crime series coming to Peacock in the U.S. and Sky in the U.K.

The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988, is easy to learn all about on the websites of the CIA, the FBI, and the DoJ, the last of which offers what’s almost a news hook for the upcoming series.

In a press release from 2022, the agency announced that 71-year-old Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi made his first appearance in court, two years after federal officials charged him “with destruction of aircraft resulting in death, and destruction of a vehicle used in foreign commerce by means of an explosive resulting in death.” He has since pleaded not guilty, and though a trial date has not been set, families of some of the the 270 people killed in the attack are currently arguing that they should be allowed to listen live to the trial.

Given that that decision is still on hold, this is perhaps odd timing for the show, which—per The Hollywood Reporter—will detail the work Dr. Jim Swire (that’s Firth) did to “demand truth and justice” for his slain daughter, as well as the others killed in the bombing. From a press release, we learn that “Traveling across continents and political divides, Jim embarks on a relentless journey that not only jeopardizes his stability, family and life, but completely overturns his trust in the justice system.

As the truth shifts under Jim’s feet, his view of the world is left forever sullied,” which is writing so florid I’m going to wrap things here before I make an offensive and unacceptable joke.

Production on the five-parter will start in early 2024, folks who want a jump on things can read Swire’s 2021 book, The Lockerbie Bombing: A Father’s Search, on which the series is based.

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Happy discussing!

Margaret

Friday 2nd of February 2024

Oh please review Cocaine Grandmother! Do it for the crones! (Yeah, CZJ is such a crone, lol...)

I too have longed for a doc on that eBay scandal, so bookmarking that HARD.