The 2010s Were The Decade Of The True Crime Binge-Watch: Here’s How To Catch Up
The ’10s were the decade of the true crime binge. It’s an indisputable fact. Whether we were gorging ourselves on podcasts or Netflix series, we were low (more like high) key obsessed with all manner of real-life murderers and crooks.
We’re weirdly intrigued by these stories, but no one really knows why. It could be a kind of cultural voyeurism; or a response to the uneasy world we live in now, where we’re drawn to stories with a clearly demarcated villain. It could be a way to learn about miscarriages of justice; or even a strange way of prepping for the worst possible scenario (your gruesome murder).
And the way we consume things has totally shifted in the last decade – the rise of streaming services and devoted, professional podcast networks mean we’re not waiting for 8.30pm on a Thursday to watch the next ep of a fave show. We’re spending an entire weekend watching all of it RIGHT NOW.
Whatever the reason we can’t tear our attention away, the fact remains: there is too much content. If you just haven’t had the time to watch and listen to the dizzying amount of true crime stories out in the ether right now, here’s a quick binge-list. You’re welcome.
Here are some of our fave true crime binges of the decade:
The original and the best. While it originally came out as a weekly serial, now all three seasons are available for you to consume on your way home for Christmas. The first season followed the case of Adnan Syad, who was convicted in 2000 of the murder of his high school girlfriend. The second focused on dishonourably discharged soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was held by the Taliban for five years, and then charged with desertion. Then the third season followed cases in one court in Cleveland as a way to unpack the overarching American criminal justice system.
Is it fair to call The Staircase one of the true crime binges of the decade, when the first part of it was filmed and screened back in 2005? Yes, because I make the rules, and the whole series – including extra episodes made in the ’10s – dropped on Netflix last year. The Staircase follows Michael Peterson, who, in 2003, was accused and convicted of the murder of his wife Kathleen. The spicy part of The Staircase came from revelations that his friend had died in a very similar way 15 years earlier, and that Peterson was having extramarital relationships.
Making a Murderer
Making a Murderer was one of those shows that totally infiltrated the zeitgeist in 2015. It as basically the TV answer to Serial: if you didn’t have an opinion on whether or not Stephen Avery murdered Teresa Halbach, were you even online/alive? Did you even have Netflix? The show has so far run for two seasons – one in 2015 which examines the charges against Avery, with access to him and his family; and a second in 2018 which followed the efforts of his post-trial lawyer to find new evidence to help exonerate Avery and his nephew.
Documentary Casting JonBenet upended expected true crime tropes, instead using the process of casting for a JonBenet docudrama as a device to unpick the way we consume true crime content as pop culture. It involved casting people in the roles not just of the slain young girl, but of her parents, who are suspected of covering up her murder, her brother, the person who falsely confessed to the crime, and police authorities. Its release in 2017 followed a surge of interest in the 1996 case, after a documentary, The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey, aired in late 2016.
There have been four seasons of the ABC’s Unravel true crime podcast. Season one Blood on the Tracks examines the death of Gomeroi teenager Mark Haines in 1988 in Tamworth, and the failures of the local police force. The next two seasons, Barrenjoey Road and Last Seen Katoomba each try to uncover the truth about the disappearances of two young women – the first, Trudie Adams from Sydney’s Northern Beaches in 1978, and the second, Belinda Peisley, from the Blue Mountains in 1998. The most recent season, Snowball, sees triple j Content Director Ollie Wards try to find out how his brother was so thoroughly scammed by his former partner – and to tell the stories of all the other people she conned along the way.
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst
The Jinx may be the most iconic of all the true crime shows of the last decade, because (MASSIVE, COLOSSAL, CLICK AWAY SPOILER) its subject appeared to confess in the dying moments of the documentary. And he was arrested for murder the day before the finale originally aired. Real estate heir Robert Durst (not to be confused with Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst) was acquitted of the death and dismemberment of his neighbour in 2003 after he plead self-defence. But he’s also suspected in the disappearance of his wife in 1982, and the death of a ‘friend’ in 2000. The latter is what he’ll be tried for in January next year.
Who the Hell Is Hamish?
Who the Hell Is Hamish? is just one of a line of incredible podcasts from The Australian, which also includes Walkley winner The Teacher’s Pet about the suspected murder of Lyn Dawson (currently unavailable online as charges have been laid), and The Lighthouse, about missing Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez (eps are dropping weekly). This one speaks to the victims of con artist Hamish McLaren, who stole an obscene amount of money from friends, former partners and their families, including lauded fashion designer Lisa Ho. McLaren was jailed for 16 years in June this year.
Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist
This is probably the wildest of the barrage of Netflix true crime series that dropped on the platform since its Australian launch in 2015. Evil Genius tells the story of Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, a woman who allegedly sent pizza delivery man Brian Wells into a bank robbery on her behalf, wearing a collarbomb (!!!) that she controlled remotely. The footage of his death in the first episode is grim enough – but by episode two there’s an ex-boyfriend’s body in another ex-boyfriend’s freezer. And he’s confessed to the cops. You can’t make this shit up.
Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes
Few things are as troubling – and guaranteed to disrupt your sleep – as listening to Ted Bundy’s taped confessions. Don’t we all binge-watch just before bedtime, alone in our bedrooms with the lights out? And in this case, listening to a murderer talk about how he hypothetically would’ve killed a series of college-aged women? Totally normal areas! This doco, released on the 30th anniversary of Bundy’s execution, rifles through hours and hours of interviews and archival footage. 2019 has really been a year where interest in the prolific killer has peaked: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, which dramatises his former gf’s memoir, and stars Zac Efron was also released this year.
Dirty John was one of those podcasts that in 2017 made us all aware that when you get bad vibes on a guy you should absolutely go with your gut. The true story of what happened when Debra Newell met con artist John Meehan in 2014 is deeply disturbing, as Newell’s rollercoaster romance escalates into an abusive, controlling relationship that soon threatens the safety of her and her family. It was then made into a TV series, starring Eric Bana and Connie Britton, in 2018. And the podcast network responsible, Wondery followed it up with Dr. Death in the same year, about the gross malpractice of a Texas surgeon.
There you go! Watch and listen to all of these and do some self-defence training and you’ll be fine!