“Based on a True Story” and “The Horror of Delores Roach” [TELEVISION REVIEW]

Kaley Cuoco as Ava in "Based on a True Story." Photo by Erica Parise, courtesy of PEACOCK.

“Based on a True Story” – Story, in any case

“Based on a True Story” is a dark comedy that pokes fun at podcasts and the public’s penchant for gore, thrills, chills and mayhem. Following the adventures of Ava and Nathan, LA westsiders whose aspirations haven’t quite made it over the first hurdle. Ava, a not quite successful real estate agent, lives in the shadow of her very affluent and much more successful girlfriends. Nathan was, at one point, a promising pro on the tennis circuit who blew out his knee and has been relegated to teaching housewives at a midrange tennis club. Each is about to get demoted, Ava from million dollar homes to apartment buildings, and Nathan from the ladies who lunch to the children who pee. If something doesn’t happen soon, they’ll lose their home in Mar Vista. Oh, and Ava is pregnant so they need the bucks. 

Chris Messina as Nathan and Kaley Cuoco as Ava. Photo by Elizabeth Morris, courtesy of PEACOCK.

It is Ava who comes up with the idea of doing a podcast because they are all the rage and the successful ones are selling in the seven figures, especially those about true crimes. If only they could find a topic like the elusive westside serial killer terrorizing Los Angeles. Hmmm. By a quirk of fate, they actually solve the puzzle of who the killer is and make a proposition. They won’t turn him in if he agrees to be part of their nascent (well not nascent because it doesn’t yet exist) podcast. He will narrate, they will produce and it will all be anonymous.

Craig Rosenberg, creator and writer of all eight episodes, was definitely on to something. The whole concept of writing a show about blackmailing a serial killer is in terrible taste and if taken far enough, bad taste can be very funny. My only problem with the series is that he didn’t take it far enough to fully engage and yield drop dead (sorry for that) funny moments. It’s humorous, just not hilarious and I prefer hilarious. Two classic examples of hilarious series that revel in their bad taste are “Barry,” a show about a hitman and “Bad Sisters” about who murdered the horrible husband of one of the women and the insurance adjusters pursuing all of them in order to avoid paying out a policy. With these two shows, just when you think they’ve gone as far as they can, pushing the envelope of bad taste, they go even farther. “Based on a True Story” just doesn’t go far enough. Whenever Rosenberg pushes things to extremes, he comes closer to the funny bone. 

Kaley Cuoco is charming as Ava and exhibits just the right touch of desperation to make you believe how far over the line she would step in order to keep up with her girlfriends. Chris Messina has the perfect hangdog expression as Nathan, a man who can only see what he missed and not what he has. Tom Bateman as Matt is more charming than he has a right to be even though he adds the right note of menacing. Pricilla Quintana as Ava’s alpha girlfriend is hilarious in her over-the-top materialism and she really rocks her wardrobe.

I wish that “Based on a True Story” had been better but as it is, it succeeds more than it fails.

Now playing on Peacock. 


“The Horror of Dolores Roach” – Buggy

This new series, based on a Spotify podcast of the same name by Aaron Mark, is produced by horror master Blumhouse. Considering itself a comedy of horror, I would call it a horrible comedy. 

Justina Machado as Dolores Roach and Alejandro Hernandez as Luis. Photo courtesy of Prime Video.

Dolores Roach, busted for possession with intent to sell, took the fall for her boyfriend and served 16 years behind bars. Released from prison, she returns to Washington Heights to find that the neighborhood has changed and her boyfriend has flown the coop. No longer the home of thugs on street corners, rundown bodegas and rampant crime, it is now the upwardly mobile home to a bougie population, Manhattan real estate being what it is. Taking refuge at the empanada shop, one of the only remaining stores from her past, and its off-kilter owner Luis, she sets up in his basement as a masseuse, a trade she learned in the slammer. But she doesn’t know her own strength and trouble has a way of finding her. When Luis’s angry landlord appears wanting his rent or the premises, Delores offers him a massage; a message he misinterprets. Her hands slip, so to speak, his heart stops and now she has to find a way to dispose of the body. She needn’t have worried because Luis solves two problems in one. The landlord disappears and his empanadas get tastier. You can see where this is going, just not so much how it will end. All is told in the shaky exposition of Delores appearing backstage at a production based on her life and trying to set the record straight to the poor actress who plays her.

There is no shortage of bad taste here, something that should have been mined better. There is, however, a shortage of humor. Outrageous behavior is not necessarily funny, or at least in this case, the humor, the timing, the gleeful desire to capitalize on gruesome death never quite jells. Pity because the lead actress, Justina Machado, is terrific and holds your interest. The writing just lets her down.

Now streaming on Prime Video.



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