Why Dirty John Changed A Crucial Real-Life Moment For The Bravo Series

Dirty John Connie Britton Debra Newell Erica Bana John Meehan Bravo
(Image credit: Frank Ockenfels/Bravo)

Like many adaptations based on actual events, Bravo's Dirty John changed a crucial real-life moment. In the podcast, Debra is eventually faced with disturbing info about John. When faced with what do, the series introduces "a drug rehab element" into the equation of Debra's decision. Something that did not actually happen. Connie Britton discussed the show's decision, saying:

I struggled with this, mostly because I really wanted to explore why Debra took him back without the additional rehab component, because that actual choice on her part is where for me the most challenging pieces of her psychology live.

The Bravo series' choice to take artistic license a.k.a. fictionalize this part of the real-life tale may be frustrating to listeners of the podcast. Primarily, those wanting Dirty John to stick with the facts. Based on what Connie Britton told Variety, she also struggled with the change.

Having introduced a fictional aspect to Debra's return to John, the show has disrupted a crucial aspect of the true-life tale. Providing additional layers for a character's choices is something done with fiction. Dirty John is based on a true story, and listeners of the mega-popular podcast know it did not happen this way.

Of course, the adaptation makes it clear, for viewers unfamiliar with the podcast, that it will be departing from the real story. For instance, Debra's daughter Jacquelyn has been renamed Veronica on the series. A sign that Dirty John does not intend to tell an entirely accurate rendering of the real events.

Without being able to play Debra's entire real-life context for taking John back, Connie Britton had to utilize another angle. Britton went on to explain that process saying that she:

...still tried to access and account for the true internal process that took place in her real life decision making, based on what she knew and also what she didn't want to see.

Dirty John's decision to depart with this key bit of reality means viewers will miss out on a crucial opportunity. To truly protect one's self from a "Dirty John," you need to know all of the facts that went into someone staying involved with them.

Leaving this element of the story untouched would have provided the audience with something more challenging to understand. However, that is what really happened.

Many people tuning in have likely listened to the podcast. So, they will know the added element of drug rehab is not true. But those tuning in without that context may leave with a false sense of what happened between Debra and John. It takes a true fan to distinguish the fact from the fiction.

Listeners of the true crime podcast are anxiously awaiting Bravo's premiere of the limited series. While certain details have been removed, the essence of the story seems to remain unscathed.

For those unfamiliar, Dirty John tells the tale of Debra, a successful businesswoman who falls into a rapid romance with John. Her daughters immediately sense something is amiss. Before long, the battle lines between John and Debra's daughters are soon drawn. What ensues is life and death.

Dirty John premieres Sunday, November 25 at 10 p.m. ET on Bravo. The drama is among many premiering this fall. More new series will be bowing in television's upcoming midseason.

Britt Lawrence

Like a contented Hallmark movie character, Britt happily lives in the same city she grew up in. Along with movies and television, she is passionate about competitive figure skating. She has been writing about entertainment for 5 years, and as you may suspect, still finds it as entertaining to do as when she began.