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Hit or miss: Are these shows based on true stories worth your watch?

Shows like "Dopesick" that are based on true stories are at peak popularity, though not all are up to par in quality. – Photo by Dopesick On Hulu / Twitter

For better or for worse, shows “inspired by true events” are definitely having a moment.

Whether you want to follow the true, albeit minorly sensationalized, events of a murder case that rocked the world, like featured in “American Crime Story,” or the thrilling rise and fall of a billion-dollar business empire, like told in “WeCrashed,” there is bound to be an option for your niche interests and mood.

Love them or hate them, not all shows based on real-life stories are made equal. With the neverending myriad options out there it is important to know which you can skip and which would be a crime not to watch.

"Dopesick"

“Dopesick” is a Hulu original that will, no pun intended, keep you hooked from the moment you finish the first episode. “Dopesick” is based on the book by Beth Macy, “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America,” and chronicles the lives of different characters affected by the opioid crisis, spanning about 15 years.

We are first introduced to a small Virginia coal-mining town that serves as ground zero for the oxycontin industry to infiltrate. The repercussions are swift and disturbing, as one by one, young patients are prescribed oxycontin to treat their injuries from mining, only to become addicted and, for many, to die shortly thereafter.

The show does a fantastic job showing the diabolical actions of the Sackler family who created Oxycontin and illegally marketed it to vulnerable populations across the country, lying left and right to consumers, bribing government officials and ending the careers of anyone who got in their way.

Despite the heavy material, there are uplifting bits and pieces as we also follow the story of two small-town lawyers and a rogue U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agent, dedicating their lives to the demise of the Oxycontin industry.

“Dopesick” will horrify you by teaching you all the nitty-gritty details about the rise of the opioid epidemic, making it such a meaningful watch.

"Pam and Tommy"

You're bound to have heard the controversy surrounding this retelling of the Baywatch’s star infamous relationship with the drummer of Mötley Crüe, but as the show has now reached a conclusion, it's safe to say that streaming “Pam and Tommy” is just not worth crossing your moral lines.

“Pam and Tommy” follows the love story between Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. We see them meeting in a 90s nightclub, eloping in Mexico, building their dream California home and having children.

These plotlines are interesting enough, though the dialogue can fail to be attention-grabbing. The acting is also phenomenal, as Lily James and Sebastian Stan physically and emotionally embody their respective characters.

The overarching plot is, of course, their infamous sex tape, which Anderson did not, and still does not, give permission to be circulated.

The show certainly shows how damaging the tape was for Anderson, especially in her career, but the bottom line is she did not give consent for this story to be told — and that trumps a mildly entertaining miniseries any day. 

"The Dropout"

I personally think Hulu missed out big time by not naming this show “The Original GirlBoss,” but I digress.

“The Dropout” is about the scintillating life of Elizabeth Holmes. We meet her as an awkward yet self-assured high school student hellbent on becoming an inventor and billionaire.

We then follow her on study abroad in India (where she meets her boyfriend and future COO Sunny Balwani) and her research labs at Stanford as well as Silicon Valley as she begins to build her company Theranos.

Theranos, now synonymous with fraud and deceit, was Holmes’ company that pledged to rapidly perform blood tests with only a drop of blood. Theranos is portrayed as Holmes’ baby, and she will go to any length to make it bigger and better, no matter what she has to do to achieve that.

Amanda Seyfried as Holmes is nothing short of pure brilliance. Her deep voice is spine-chilling and she masterfully evokes the same detachment that Holmes has shown so famously in the news. “The Dropout” is fascinating, entertaining and a must-watch to learn the true story of the former youngest self-made woman billionaire.

"Tiger King" (Season two)

I'm sure we all remember the first time we sat down to watch “Tiger King.” Stay-at-home orders had just begun, school was yet to resume (virtually) and we quite simply had nothing better to do than watch the chaos that was Joe Exotic versus Carole Baskin.

The show is a binge-worthy romp, perfect to watch (or gawk at) as a whole family. Exotic's story was captivating, between his exotic animal park, five husbands and murderous (literally) feud with Florida Animal Rights Advocate Baskin. The show was just bizarre enough to be one of the best releases of 2020, as well as a microcosm for the state of the world at that point in time.

But so much of the reason “Tiger King" shook the entirety of the population was due to its absurdity. It felt like a comet crashing toward Earth — we couldn’t help but watch and relish in the story.

Now that we've all seen the story, survived the height of the pandemic and been met with many more astonishing life events, there's no real watch-ability in the second part of the series.

The story is bland, the characters no longer feel larger than life and there's no true crime component like the last time around. Better to skip this one to avoid disappointment. 

"Inventing Anna"

What did we do before this gem of a show? It feels like life has gone from black and white to color in a matter of just 9 hours.

“Inventing Anna” is Shonda Rhimes’ newest creation and she never misses as this show quickly proves. “Inventing Anna” is about the true story of Anna Sorokin, also known as Anna Delvey, who was a fake German heiress who scammed all around New York City.

It's an unbelievable story that takes us alongside Vivian Kent, the magazine reporter who broke Anna’s story to the world through a tell-all profile piece. Anna’s journey is more than expensive, as we follow her to the chicest clubs in the city, a yacht in Ibiza, the La Mamounia resort in Morocco and back to New York City again as she effortlessly deceives everyone she comes across. 

Shows like "Inventing Anna" and "Dopesick" that are inspired by true events will inevitably pique your interest — it just may take some sifting to find the perfect match for you.


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