HBO’s documentary series The Jinx is all over the news this week following the arrest of its subject, Robert Durst, on murder charges. Durst was arrested on Saturday just before the shocking series finale, which ended with a surprise that the documentary team claimed they didn’t know they’d captured for years. “There seems to be little doubt now, in the aftermath,” writes Mike Hale at The New York Times, “that The Jinx played a crucial role in Mr. Durst’s arrest.”
The finale has sparked controversy over Durst’s guilt and an even bigger controversy over the nature of true-crime dramas, the podcast Serial being the most frequent comparison. However, Slate’s Cameron Tung makes a point of demonstrating how different The Jinx is from Serial: “The Jinx, though, was not ultimately a meditation on the nature of truth and fact. By the end it seemed less theoretical, more human.” Tung believes this human element was what made The Jinx so “incredibly distressing” to watch, adding that the relationship between filmmaker Andrew Jarecki and his subject made the film’s depiction of Durst more uncomfortable. Tung writes about the climax: “But that moment was so shocking not just because of the unbelievable revelation it seemed to contain, but because Jarecki had dramatized his own relationship with the suspect so plausibly and affectingly. The Jinx essentially presumed Durst’s guilt from the beginning, but it still managed to humanize him, if uncomfortably, at every turn.”
Hale agrees that Jarecki became like a second subject throughout the documentary, saying, “The episode reflected the extent to which The Jinx, especially in its later stages, became the story of Mr. Jarecki’s journey as much as Mr. Durst’s guilt or innocence.” But as with most members of the true-crime genre, the heart of The Jinx’s story is that it’s a story, Hale writes. “In the finale Mr. Jarecki, talking to his crew, said that the No. 1 goal was to ‘get justice, such as we can get in this case.’ But if that were true,” Hale continues, “then goal 1A was to make a riveting piece of television, and Mr. Jarecki’s method of getting justice—just like a lawyer or a prosecutor—was to construct a convincing narrative of the case.”
Netflix’s new series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has been a bit of a surprise hit in its first few weeks of streaming. CT’s Chief Film Critic Alissa Wilkinson wrote her thoughts and personal connections to Kimmy Schmidt for TheWashington Posthere. Indiewire’s Liz Shannon Miller declares the show “should not work.” She writes: “Bluntly put, it is unlikely to become a mainstream hit. But for anyone who loves an underdog, that just makes it all the more loveable.”
Kimmy Schmidt’s story is ripe with comedic potential, especially in the hands of a veteran like executive producer Tina Fey: a woman who spent the whole of her young adulthood in an apocalypse bunker is freed and chooses to go live in New York City. What Miller loves best about the show is how it stays true to Kimmy’s joyous nature in concert with her tough past, writing, “The show never loses sight of what brought Kimmy to this place and to keeping us conscious of the fact that her adorable fish-out-of-water nature comes courtesy of a truly scarring event. It's full of jokes about how Kimmy doesn't understand modern technology or culture, but it never makes light of her real trauma, and never belittles what she's been through.”
Variety’s Brian Lowry had his doubts about the show’s success with Netflix binge-watchers, saying, “Kimmy’s acclimatization to modern life thus becomes the ongoing through line to a pretty conventional comedy, yielding lots of jokes tied to dated references and her general cluelessness about modern culture . . . The net effect, though, has a slightly tired feel to it—or at least, one that doesn’t feel wholly worthy of Netflix’s premium-TV niche.” The New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley disagrees, believing the show’s clever, balanced writing makes it a worthy comedy contender even against network shows. “The series leavens wacky absurdity with acid wit and is very funny . . . Almost every scene has both whimsy and something darker, at once daftly effervescent and snidely cynical.”
Jessica Gibson is an intern with Christianity Today Movies and a student at The King’s College in New York City.