Dirty John on TF1: the differences between the series and the true story

Dirty John on TF1: the differences between the series and the true story

Last Tuesday, TF1 launched the broadcast of the first season of “Dirty John”, a scary thriller inspired by a true story with Connie Britton and Eric Bana. What are the differences between the podcast and the series?

Attention, it is better to have seen Dirty John before reading this article which reveals some intrigues.

October 2014. Debra Newell meets John Meehan, an apparently good man in all respects: this anesthetist has just returned from Iraq where he volunteered for Médecin Sans Frontières. It was love at first sight and less than two months later, the couple got married.

But when Debra’s daughters start investigating their mother’s new partner, they discover that he is not as innocent as he makes him appear. John Meehan, who his classmates called Dirty John because he was always involved in bad shots, is a heroin addict, stalker, and ex-con who also has a history of violence.

This is the true story told by the Bravo series, broadcast since Tuesday, June 1 at 9:05 p.m. on TF1.

It is a series of articles published in the Los Angeles Times written by Christopher Goffard which is at the origin of this TV production. Articles that then gave birth to a podcast that focuses on various criminal cases.

The story of Debra Newell will also count more than 30 million plays (and even reached 40 million at the time of the announcement of the series project). Although showrunner Alexandra Cunningham wanted to stay as true to the origin story as possible, she still took a few liberties.

Some names have been changed

Even though they took part in the podcast from which Dirty John was adapted, one of Debra’s daughters (played by Juno Temple) and her nephew did not wish to be involved in the series.

After discussions with the studio, these two protagonists therefore asked that their character only change their name: Jaqueline thus became Veronica and Shad Vickers (played by Kevin Zegers) is called Toby. Note that Newell actually has four children.

The wedding

While on the show Debra and John seem to be getting married on a whim after only two months of dating, it didn’t really turn out that way.

In various interviews, the businesswoman explained that it was John who repeatedly insisted that the two take the plunge. And this, from their second date. It was finally during a professional trip to Las Vegas, where John joined her, that Debra was convinced.

well done

John’s addiction

In the series, the heroine played by Connie Britton gradually discovers the true face of the one she has just married. When she learns that he is a heroin addict, she decides to help him by paying him a drug treatment.

This part of the story was made up from scratch by the writers to give the story more depth and thus explain why Debra finally forgave it in real life.

In her interview with Forbes, she revealed that she did not know anything about her ex-husband’s addictions…: “I had seen some prescriptions but since he had just had the operation, I told myself that it was related“.

But who broke into Debra and John’s house?

So that viewers weren’t frustrated, the writers chose to answer some questions that weren’t answered in the podcast. And the first concerns the identity of the person who broke into Debra and John’s house in Newport Beach.

While the police never gave any information regarding this event, the series assumes it was an acquaintance of John who he allegedly asked to scare his wife so he could set up cameras. surveillance at home: “We had to fill in the gaps and we came up with this theory because we know how John likes to manipulate people.“Cunningham told Forbes.


The true face of John Meehan

John’s point of view

In his articles or in his podcast, Chris Goffard has always made a point of telling the story from Debra’s point of view, to avoid creating empathy for John. The series offers a different point of view and allows itself to multiply the points of view.

The showrunneuse was thus based on the testimony of his ex-wife, his sister and his two daughters to draw the portrait of this manipulative psychopath. She was also able to count on the help of the journalist, who was a co-writer on Dirty John.

In episode 3 for example, the viewer is invited into the past and then into John’s mind. An episode that allows us to learn more about his chaotic marriage with Toni, his lies and his descent into drugs.

The rest of the series meticulously follows the tale told by Debra Newell and her loved ones. For example, the scene in which Terra (Julia Garner) is attacked by John has been recreated in great detail, thanks to the testimony of the young woman. The latter even revealed that she was inspired by The Walking Dead to defend herself and then deals the fatal blow to her attacker.

Find season 1 of Dirty John every Tuesday from 9:05 pm on TF1.

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