In 2019, journalist Ronan Farrow’s book, “Catch & Kill,” focused on the downfall of disgraced Miramax mogul Harvey Weinstein. Farrow’s reporting on the subject was published. The book was a critical and commercial success in a year that saw the #MeToo movement move with the power of a freight train. Two years out, we’re still seeking answers to the question of who’s been affected by everything started by #MeToo, with Weinstein still being the de facto man caught and (figuratively) killed by accusations.
“Catch & Kill: The Podcast Tapes” is an interesting experiment in that it feels like something that should have come out in the immediate aftermath of Farrow’s book. His podcast actually started in November 2019 and concluded around February 2020, so it’s hard to figure out why, in July 2021, there needs to be a glorified video podcast told as a six-episode series — well, short of corporate greed.
Really, that’s all the series is: portions of Farrow’s recorded podcast with the benefit of video. The six episodes detail what we know about the Weinstein case, much of which was given far more detail in Farrow’s book. We start by meeting Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, the woman who recorded Weinstein’s harassment and was one of the first victims to go to the police with claims against him. The premiere episode rehashes the various victims (albeit the ones Farrow talked to himself) with little depth or nuance because the primary way audiences would be taking this in is through audio.
From there, episodes go through the same rote patterns, focused on the journalists from The Hollywood Reporter who tried to take Weinstein down, the editors and fact-checkers at The New Yorker who helped look at Farrow’s piece, and the famous Black Cube subcontractor who was sent to spy on Farrow. All of this, on paper, sounds great, and it certainly read well in Farrow’s book. It’s also a good thing that each episode is about 20-minutes because there’s only so much time you can spend watching Farrow and crew sit in chairs across from each other and have a very rehearsed conversation (or shots of Farrow furiously typing on his computer).
The subtitle of “The Podcast Tapes” implies something special to be found; some added news or additional footage we could only see through our HBO subscription. But the brevity of the series, again meant to be consumed as a podcast, doesn’t give us anything extra with the exception of arty footage of ink swirling through water or other stock images reminiscent of HBO’s other big docuseries, “The Vow.” In fact, it feels at times that this series wants to recreate “The Vow” — in its deep look at the sex abuses of one powerful man — but that would require more of a talking-heads style presentation. Or, you know, an actual documentary.
“Catch & Kill: The Podcast Tapes”
The series’ synopsis touts never-before-seen footage and new insights, but they’re hard to pin down, maybe because by this point the Weinstein case has played out so heavily in the public eye that we know everything there is to know. If anything, the series doesn’t magnify the new information (if there is any) in a way that those who listened to the podcast back in 2019 would notice it, let anyone anyone who missed it the first time.
In another format, the series could have benefited from discussions with Farrow about the fallout of the Weinstein case in 2021. With Bill Cosby recently released from prison and Kevin Spacey working on a new movie, it often feels like Weinstein was the only man actually punished for anything since #MeToo started. Had Farrow maybe discussed the case in the context of today’s developments, the six episodes may have felt fresh. As it is, the finale doesn’t even end with any text about where Weinstein is or where his accusers are today. It begins and ends as a moment in time that we, allegedly, learned from.
“Catch & Kill: The Podcast Tapes” works strictly for those who didn’t read Farrow’s book and want a crash course on the Weinstein case. It’s hard not to feel this is just laziness masquerading as thoughtful content.
“Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes” premieres Monday, July 12 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.
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