Former Family Ties mom Meredith Baxter nabbed an Emmy nomination for her portrayal of beleaguered and eventually murderous California housewife Betty Broderick in a 1992 double feature of TV movies aimed at capitalizing on the tabloid nature of the case that gripped the nation. Amanda Peet does some Emmy-worthy work of her own in the title role of true-crime anthology Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story, which airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET on USA Network.
With shoulder pads swallowing her thin frame and the perfectly coiffed ‘do of an ‘80s socialite, Peet is – at turns – devoted, compassionate, menacing and unhinged as she spars with a smarmy Christian Slater as adulterous husband Dan Broderick. The couple's utterly contentious divorce ends in the murder of Dan, an uber successful malpractice lawyer, and his office assistant-turned-wife.
Over eight hour-long episodes, the series jumps back and forth in time to show happier days when Betty sacrificed and scrimped to put Dan through medical school and Harvard Law School — while their family grew to four children — and the golden years when shopping sprees, boozy afternoon lunch outings and ski trip to Colorado were the norm. It all comes crashing down when Dan leaves Betty to shack up with another woman, takes custody of the kids, and tries to withhold the funds she’s grown accustomed to, but also feels she’s owed after doing the quiet woman’s work of allowing him the space to build a lucrative law practice.
Betty's downward spiral finds her obsessively leaving obscene answering machine messages for the new couple, defacing their property and, most disturbingly, using their children as pawns in a twisted battle.
Watch below as we talk to Peet and Slater about whether Dan deserves any sympathy, why it’s time to revisit this story, and the most challenging aspects of bringing these real-life people to the screen:
Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET on USA Network