'Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story': Inside the Cautionary Tale About America's Messiest Divorce

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Following its successful transformation from podcast to limited television series, Dirty John is back with a second season -- telling another true story of love gone wrong. Here’s everything to know about The Betty Broderick Story, which recounts what Oprah Winfrey once deemed one of “America’s messiest divorces.” 

The first installment recounted the unbelievably true events of a charming, handsome man named John Meehan who sweeps Debra Newell, a successful, yet lonely divorced woman, off her feet before it’s revealed that he’s a con man with sinister intentions. Upset by Meehan’s newfound presence in their mother’s life, Newell’s daughters, Terra and Veronica, decide to investigate his lies as he continues to manipulate everyone around him. Based on the Los Angeles Times breakout podcast of the same name, the series starring Connie Britton and Eric Bana was also a hit on Bravo and earned a Golden Globe nomination for Britton’s portrayal of Newell. 

“Our world is becoming increasingly bizarre, so a lot of the interesting stories are the true ones,” Britton told ET about the relevance of Dirty John, which was adapted by Alexandra Cunningham for the screen. 

Moving to USA Network, the anthology true-crime series is turning its attention to the saga of Dan and Betty Broderick’s divorce that ended in a double homicide, with the scorned couple portrayed by Christian Slater and Amanda Peet, who gives a searing performance as Betty. “The first season of Dirty John was a story of twisted love and coercive control -- and both these insidious elements are also present in and integral to the story of Betty Broderick, whom I have wanted to write about since I became a writer,” says Cunningham.

Spanning several decades, the story kicks off in 1965 when Elizabeth Bisceglia first met her future husband, Dan Broderick. The college sweethearts eventually got married in 1969 and gave birth to their first child together, Kim, the following year. They would eventually go on to have four more children, Lee, Daniel, Rhett and an unnamed boy who died shortly after birth.

After completing his medical degree at Cornell University, Dan pursued a law degree while Betty became the family’s main provider. Soon after, he became a superstar in the San Diego, California, legal community, specializing in malpractice cases. By that time, Betty was finally able to enjoy the fruits of their labors and the couple was seemingly happy and wealthy. 

Things turned, however, when Dan hired 21-year-old Linda Kolkena to be his legal assistant in 1982. Not long after she started working for him, Betty suspected the two were having an affair. The marriage quickly broke down and Dan moved out by 1985 and eventually took custody of their children. Later, he reportedly told Betty she was right about the affair, which had been going on since 1983.

Betty and Dan soon engaged in what would become one of the most notorious divorce cases in the United States at the time. Broderick vs. Broderick wasn’t settled until four years later, in 1989, when the divorce was finalized. By April of that same year, Dan and Linda got married.