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From tragedy to TV: ‘Dirty John’ gets the Bravo series treatment

Updated November 23, 2018 - 8:01 pm

Thirteen months after the world read and heard her about her traumatic relationship with John Meehan through the Los Angeles Times’ stories and podcasts, Henderson resident Debra Newell attended the Hollywood premiere of “Dirty John,” the Bravo series they inspired.

Her daughter Terra, who’s portrayed by Julia Garner of “Ozark” and “The Americans,” and her mother, Arlane Hart, played by Jean Smart, were there as well.

A companion documentary

Connie Britton, of “Nashville” and “Friday Night Lights” fame, portrays Newell. Terra’s older sister, a pivotal part of the story, didn’t want to be involved in the Bravo series, so her “character’s” name was changed to Veronica.

The real Newells, meanwhile, will be featured in the two-hour companion documentary, “Dirty John, The Dirty Truth,” airing on Oxygen in January.

“I would say my middle daughter is portrayed a little feistier than she really is in some ways,” Newell says of the episode, debuting at 10 p.m. Sunday on Bravo, that was screened that night. “She tends to be extremely classy, and I’m not sure that was portrayed.”

Spoiler alert — it isn’t.

Better than expected

In the series, Veronica (Juno Temple) and Terra are cursed with a nearly identical brand of vocal fry that sounds as though they spent their formative years sucking down helium and thumbtacks.

When Meehan (Eric Bana) shows up wearing tennis shoes and cargo shorts for his first date with Newell, Veronica doesn’t let this wardrobe slight go unnoticed. “Are you delivering a package?”

Once he’s let himself inside their condo, in a way that’s closer to casing the joint, Meehan musters an awkward compliment with, “This is a really nice place.” “Mmm hmm,” Veronica snaps. “Yeah, it’s like that on purpose.

Despite the fictional retelling, “Dirty John” fits in better than you’d expect alongside the channel’s high-end reality series.

At least in the early going, Newell and Meehan aren’t that far removed from Gretchen and Slade on “The Real Housewives of Orange County.”

If only Andy Cohen would pop up periodically to ask the Newells what they’re thinking, “Dirty John” would be the most Bravo thing ever.

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