Stop making TV about scams! How shows about grifters created the year’s most boring premise | Television

No.ow obviously 2022 is already an unsalvageable trainwreck and, between the prospect of crippling widespread poverty and all-out nuclear armageddon, none of us have much mental space left for lesser concerns. Having said that, is anyone else getting mighty ticked off with all the grifter shows on TV?

All of a sudden they are everywhere. The Tinder Swindler was a grifter show. Inventing Anna was a grifter show. Worst Roommate Ever was a grifter show. Bad Vegan is a grifter show. WeCrashed is a grifter show. The Dropout is a grifter show. All these shows have been released in the last few weeks. Slump down on your sofa at the end of another long day spent fretting for the future of humanity, and there’s a good chance you will end up watching a series about a charismatic villain doing their best to rip off the vulnerable. We’re reaching epidemic level here, which is obviously the last thing we need.

Worst Roommate Ever… a dreary documentary. Photograph: Netflix

What makes things worse is that, to put it politely, almost every show I have mentioned is absolute cack. Worst Roommate Ever was a dreary by-the-numbers true crime doc. Inventing Anna appeared to be the result of several alarmingly bad decisions, in that it was primarily a show about the world’s most annoying journalist (and there’s tough competition) fretting about her career di lei while the actual story happened in the background. WeCrashed is a bad movie stretched out into a tortuously long series to, I guess, punish humanity for its crimes. Only The Dropout, the Disney + Theranos series, stands as competent. But who has the enthusiasm for yet another grifter show in a sea of ​​them?

Why are there so many all of a sudden? What have we done to deserve this miserable glut? They might be simply a reflection of the times in which we live. Things are bad for everyone, and swiftly getting worse, so there’s something alluring about television shows in which we can watch brazen baddies indulging in the get-rich-quick schemes that most of us only dream about. We’re all chumping along, putting in joyless shifts for pennies, for companies that don’t care a jot about our welfare – but these people are on a rocket ship to the moon.

The Dropout… Naveen Andrews and Amanda Seyfried star in one of the better true-crime dramas - if you can find the enthusiasm.
The Dropout… Naveen Andrews and Amanda Seyfried star in one of the better true-crime dramas – if you can find the enthusiasm. Photograph: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy

There’s something genuinely seductive about the story of Inventing Anna’s antihero, Anna Delvey, about the self-confidence she must have had to live so large on nothing but charm and promises. There’s something fascinating about the ability of The Dropout’s Elizabeth Holmes’s to attract unimaginable amounts of money for an idea that didn’t actually work. Perhaps, deep down, we all wish we had the balls to carry off scams like these.

Or maybe we enjoy the fall from grace. All these shows, after all, are about people who were eventually found out, and allow us the visceral dopamine hit of watching as these grifters are punished for breaking the rules. The only reason to watch WeCrashed (and this isn’t a good enough reason, by the way, so don’t actually watch it) is for the part where the whole overinflated, overvalued WeWork empire starts to collapse. It’s the fall of Rome, but in miniature and worse because Jared Leto is in it.

Bad Vegan: Hunger.  Fraud.  Fugitives… Sarma Melngailis and her di lei dog di lei Leon: once a celebrated New York restaurateur, now the subject of a show about fraud.
Bad Vegan: Hunger. Fraud. Fugitives… Sarma Melngailis and her di lei dog di lei Leon: once a celebrated New York restaurateur, now the subject of a show about fraud. Photograph: Courtesy of Netflix / Netflix

On the other hand, I have a theory about why this type of show has gained so much traction so quickly. My theory is that it’s all down to true crime run-off. The true crime genre has been at saturation point for years now, to the extent that every murder to have happened anywhere in the world over the last 75 years now has its own six-part Netflix series. There are so many murder shows that it is now impossible to surprise anyone. They have all started to blend into one, hitting all of the same beats at exactly the same time. A chimp could make a murder show at this point.

And so we have simply moved down the ladder. Now that murder is passé, it’s time for murky financial dealings to have a moment in the spotlight. After all, they encompass many of murder’s basic moves – deception, sociopathy, a desire not to be caught – except people just end up monetarily ruined, instead of dead. I think this is just the start. Six months from now, this deluge of grifter shows will look like a trickle. They will be even more infuriatingly ubiquitous.

After that, we’ll move down the ladder again. What I’m trying to say is that this fad for grifter shows is annoying, but give it a couple of years and it will seem like heaven compared to all the true crime shows about petty shoplifting we’ll have to sit through.

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