I am a devoted fan of crime television and have followed Law & Order: Special Victims Unit since it aired, delighting in the chiming sound between scenes just like everybody else. The problem is after seeing one of those episodes, it’s hard for me to rewatch it because I know what’s going to happen next. Also, the Law & Order writers can go a little over the top when lifting stories from the tabloids and then embellishing them even more. Really, did anything else need to be added to the Anna Nicole Smith death story or that of the kidnapping astronaut?
I was running a little dry on crime TV offerings when my friend Allie recommended the true-crime TV show Deadly Women. She warned me that it was a little bit cheesy, but when she said that a former FBI profiler who hosted it might have been the prototype for Clarice Starling of The Silence of the Lambs, I was ready to give it a go.
The first episode I watched dealt with women who murdered after being spurned in love, and rather than being put off by the low-quality criminal scene reenactments, I found them quite endearing. The women shown doing the crimes might be overweight, frumpy, have bad skin, wear too much makeup, look thirty when they’re supposed to be sixteen, but I embrace them. They look like real women bumbling along in life. Maybe that’s what makes the show especially chilling. It’s too realistic; our lives are bad TV.
An episode of Deadly Women is broken down into three separate stories that have a theme in common. A story begins with the crime scene and then works backward to analyze how and why the crime happened, and this is the part I really like, the why of it. Candice DeLong, the former FBI profiler, and various true-crime authors will weigh in, recalling what happened in the criminal’s past to lead up to the crime, and it’s almost always fascinating—bullying, an overwhelming love of money and what it can buy, friendships gone wrong, abuse, betrayal. All of the human weaknesses and foibles are laid out, and as DeLong says, “Most of the criminals with above-average intelligence have one thing in common: arrogance.” I will be watching out for this.
I love the deviousness displayed by some of these women. When they come to the conclusion that somebody must die, the planning could take years before the murder is finally committed. It’s not a moment-of-passion type of thing. They really want you dead. And sometimes their plans are like something out of a Grimm’s fairy tale, like the woman who has her husband build a wishing well out in front of their trailer. Then she kills him and stuffs his body in the wishing well. I don’t find these women heroes, but I’m very curious about what makes them this way, what they think about.
Most of the stories end the same. The women are arrested and spend the rest of their lives in jail or are executed. Up until that time, though, I find the stories all such wonderful source material. Often, after I watch one of these episodes, I think, That would make a great story. So I keep watching and watching and watching.