The HBO docuseries doesn’t offer much we don’t already know, but fleshes out the information provided by Ronan Farrow’s in-depth book and podcast.
HBO’s six-part docuseries Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes doesn’t have any shocking new revelations or unheard evidence. Some might ask what was the point of rehashing a story that broke in The New Yorker, which then became a book, which then became a podcast. Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s take on Ronan Farrow’s already well-trod ground is clearly just for those folks who prefer visual media over books and podcasts (hey, no judgments) or for those obsessed with the investigation into Hollywood monster Harvey Weinstein.
So, no, you won’t get anything new out of the six-part series (unless you just like a lot of B-roll footage of Ronan Farrow nodding thoughtfully—and really who doesn’t?) but that doesn’t mean there is nothing of value to be found here. For one, the story behind the investigation is still fascinating. The testimony of Weinstein’s victims is still heartbreaking and harrowing. The covert recording of Weinstein trying to coerce Italian model Ambra Guiterrez is still as revolting and chilling as it was hearing it in the Catch and Kill audiobook.
Even those viewers who have followed the story closely since it broke in October of 2017 might find something fresh in the docuseries, even if that is only putting faces to some of the names in the now-familiar saga. Some characters truly stand out, like producer Rich McHugh, a salt-of-the-earth midwesterner whose moral compass directed him right out the doors of NBC after learning they’d not only killed Farrow’s story, but had been covering up for their own sexual predator (Matt Lauer) for decades. There’s the wry, jaded testimony of Rosanna Arquette, who knew her career was over the moment she turned down Weinstein’s aggressive overtures. There’s also the heroic—and rather entertaining—counter-surveillance operative hired to watch Farrow, only to defect in favor of a free press.
One element of the Weinstein story that still fascinates is the way the legal system can be bent and manipulated by the rich and powerful. Episode three “The Assistants” delves into the testimony of Rowena Chiu, a former Weinstein assistant who was assaulted by him at the Venice Film Festival. Chiu—along with fellow assistant Zelda Perkins—sought legal action against Weinstein, and the ordeal they endured led Chiu to be ousted from the profession she once loved. Her experiences, while harrowing, are sadly not unique to this story, or even Harvey Weinstein. In episode four, “The Producer,” you can see the conspiracy of silence that protects A-list predators like Weinstein and Lauer at work.
If Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes were longer, and could explore more of the ground covered in the book, it might be more of a slog to get through. But as it is, the half-hour episodes are highly digestible and Farrow’s disarming likability enough of an antidote to Weinstein’s creepiness to keep viewers watching. There’s a lot of cheesy stock footage It doesn’t quite strike the same chord as Farrow’s book or the previously-released Allen v. Farrow, but with stories like this still making front page news—including convicted rapist Bill Cosby’s recently overturned conviction—there’s more than enough feminine rage to keep the spotlight shining.
Catch and Kill: the Podcast Tapes is now available on HBO Max.