Saturday, April 20

Worst Roommate Ever: this might officially be the worst true crime show ever | Television

There is a chance that, in years to come, we’ll look back at 2022 as Netflix’s Age of Grifters. Almost every show to hit it big so far this year has had a thick element of real-life deceit to it. There was The Tinder Swindler documentary, then Inventing Anna. And now Worst Roommate Ever.

You may already have seen Worst Roommate Ever, because it is in Netflix’s top 10. And if you have watched it, there is a chance that this will be because the concept of bad roommates is universal. One old roommate of mine, for instance, locked himself out, smashed a window to get in then refused to pay for repairs. Another shaved his beard into the sink and didn’t clean up. Terrible behaviour. The worst.

And so with some dismay – and a thudding inevitability – I learned that Worst Roommate Ever is just a true-crime documentary. That’s it. A cookie-cutter, assembly-line, true-crime documentary so blindingly impersonal that it feels as if it was conceived by robots.

Broadly speaking, all four cases covered in the series (the last is a two-parter, but we’ll come to that in a moment) are about people who abused positions of trust. They moved in with people – or people moved in with them – and then, whether by obsession or design or lifelong compulsion, murdered them. One is a nice old lady, a Gus Fring-type who reveled in philanthropy outwardly despite being a serial killer. Another is a man who fell in love with his roommate with terrible consequences. Another appeared to model his behavior on Michael Keaton’s character in Pacific Heights. You get the picture.

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My feelings are that, if you’re going to dedicate several man hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars to telling a story about a real person whose life was forcibly ended in one of the most unthinkable ways possible, try to show a bit of respect . The BBC’s recent The Hunt for Bible John was a perfect example, taking care to put the murders into social and economic context, highlighting the frustrations of the detectives, and most importantly showing the howling vacuum left by the murder.

Worst Roommate Ever does not do this. It’s called Worst Roommate Ever, for crying out loud. You cannot conceivably make a true-crime documentary that respects the dead if its title could just as conceivably be used for a gameshow. And that goes double when barely any time has passed since the crime actually took place. One murder in this series happened five years ago. That’s barely enough to process any death at all, not least one marked by unimaginable violence. After five years you can still feel the tendrils of life unlived. But whoops! Worst Roommate Ever!

The stories aren’t well told, either. We see the person who definitely did it, meet the investigating officer who knows immediately that the person did it, then they’re arrested. There’s no cat and mouse to any of it, because the mouse is dead and the cat is in a boredom-induced coma.

Most sadly of all, something salvageable does exist at the center of Worst Roommate Ever. The final story, told across two episodes, does genuinely appear to be about the worst roommate who ever lived; a serial lodger who first moved in with, then blithely intimidated, a succession of ruined housemates. By some degree, his de ella is the most attention-worthy story of the four. You can’t help but wonder if the producers would have been better off doing more work on this story and jettisoning the others. It still would have been miserable and condescending, and designed to only appeal to the lowest common denominator, but crucially it would have been shorter.

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If you haven’t already dipped your toes into Worst Roommate Ever, my advice would be not to bother. At the rate things are going, it’ll only be a minute or two before Netflix’s next glibly patronizing true-crime documentary hits our screens.

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