12 Watchworthy TV Shows About Real Events From The 21st Century
"Truth is stranger than fiction" is a cliche for a reason. Often, real-life stories serve as the basis for some of the most watchable TV shows and movies. In recent years, traditional cable channels and streaming networks have produced dozens of new shows about recent events. Some, such as Super Pumped and Dopesick, take on major news stories that shape our everyday lives. Others, such as Escape at Dannemora and The Act, tell smaller stories that might not have received as much media coverage but are no less compelling. But all of them are based on true stories, and all are just as entertaining as anything fictional.
Here are 12 modern TV shows about the 2000s that are definitely worth a watch.
- 1156 VOTESPhoto: Netflix
One of the most compelling TV series of 2019, Netflix's Unbelievable tells the story of Marie Adler's (Kailyn Deaver) sexual assault and its aftermath. It's told in two different time periods: 2008, as Marie attempts to process her trauma, and 2011, as detectives Grace Rasmussen (Toni Collette) and Karen Duvall (Merritt Weaver) hunt for the culprit.
While Unbelievable offers undoubtedly difficult subject matter, it's also a brutally honest portrayal of victims' trauma, and how the justice system can often fail them. Unbelievable was nominated for the Emmy for outstanding limited series.
- 2153 VOTESPhoto: Hulu
Hulu's 2021 miniseries Dopesick is based on the 2018 book of the same name, which details America's opioid crisis, from the pharmaceutical company boardrooms to the medical industry to the patients. While much of the TV series is based directly on the book, it also created several characters. Michael Keaton plays one of the fictional characters, a West Virginia doctor who's convinced to over-prescribe Oxycontin to his patients.
Dopesick is a great option for anyone who enjoys TV series that are both entertaining and informative, as the ongoing opioid crisis is one of the most serious issues America faces.
- 3125 VOTESPhoto: Hulu
Hulu's 2019 series The Act definitely isn't for the faint of heart, but for some viewers that can be a draw. The series dramatizes the real-life story of Dee Dee Blanchard, who suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy and convinced her daughter Gypsy-Rose that she had muscular dystrophy and leukemia. Over the course of the story, Gypsy-Rose learns the truth and rebels against her mother, leading to Dee Dee's 2015 death.
The Act is worth watching for the performances of the two leads alone. Patricia Arquette won an Emmy for playing Dee Dee, while Joey King was nominated for an Emmy for her role as Gypsy-Rose.
- 4104 VOTESPhoto: Peacock
In the 2021 Peacock original series Dr. Death, none other than Joshua Jackson stars as Dr. Christopher Duntsch, a notorious Dallas-based neurosurgeon who botched the medical procedures of 33 patients in the early 2010s. Dr. Death is very much based on a true story, but it feels like a slow-burn thriller thanks to its anxiety-inducing subject matter.
On Rotten Tomatoes, it's rated 92% Fresh among critics and 85% Fresh among the fans. It's also another TV series based on a hit true crime podcast.
- 5135 VOTESPhoto: Netflix
Here's another story about the rise and fall of a confidence woman. Shonda Rhimes's 2022 Netflix series tells the story of Anna Sorokin, the Russian-born emigre who infiltrated New York City's party scene by pretending to be a wealthy German heiress. In 2017, Sorokin was arrested for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in goods and services.
If The Dropout is a self-serious and factual retelling of the Elizabeth Holmes story, Inventing Anna takes the opposite approach. It's a glamorous soap opera-esque tale, which fits the show's larger-than-life subject matter.
- 688 VOTESPhoto: Bravo
The anthology show Dirty John is yet another TV series based on a true crime podcast. Noticing a theme? The first season is set in 2014 and stars Connie Britton as Debra Newell, a 59-year-old four-time divorcee who meets the seemingly perfect man, John Meehan (Eric Bana), a handsome 50-something physician.
In fact, John is a con artist and serial swindler, who insinuates himself into her life, drives a wedge between her and her kids, and takes over her finances. Overall, Dirty John feels like a classic Lifetime movie, only it's true.