We need to talk about 'The Act,' the best new series on Hulu

Season 1 based on real-life story of Dee Dee, Gypsy Rose Blanchard

By Michelle Ganley - Graham Media Group

Patricia Arquette, left, and Joey King, the stars of "The Act," attend a Hulu event for the show in April (Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Hulu).

If you're one of those people who can't seem to get enough true crime -- news articles, podcasts, TV shows, documentaries, you name it -- then you're going to want to check out "The Act," on Hulu.

If you ask around, you might get a mixed response on who's seen it or heard of it. At one point, we wondered if this show had been sliding under the radar, and upon further review, that doesn't look to be the case. But still, it also doesn't seem as if enough people are talking about "The Act," since it came out in mid-March.

So let's start the conversation!

"The Act," starring Patricia Arquette and Joey King, is all about the real-life saga of Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard, a mother and daughter pair from Missouri. But if you’re thinking this is just another mom-and-daughter coming-of-age story, you’re in for a real surprise.

The show is about how things aren’t always what they seem, and how there’s often more than what meets the eye.

For years, Dee Dee told people that her daughter Gypsy suffered from leukemia, epilepsy, severe asthma, sleep apnea and muscular dystrophy, along with several other serious conditions -- and that Gypsy had the mental capacity of a 7-year-old. Gypsy used a feeding tube, she sometimes had an oxygen tank with her, and got around by wheelchair. The pair reportedly benefited from the work of a slew of charities, including Habitat for Humanity, the Ronald McDonald House, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Habitat volunteers even built the pair a handicap-accessible house, according to published reports. This kind of medical deception went on for nearly the course of Gypsy's whole life.

But none of Gypsy’s supposed conditions were real -- and those medical interventions weren’t needed. Gypsy didn’t even know how old she was. At some point, she found out her mother had lied to her about everything.

If you’re scratching your head right about now, wondering, “What did I just read?” or "How is that possible?" ... Just know that the story gets even crazier.

Watch a preview below, from Hulu, now that you’re even a little familiar with Gypsy and Dee Dee.

We should probably point out that “spoilers” are below -- so if you truly want to watch the show with fresh eyes, and you haven’t heard of the Blanchards until now, then this is your time to bow out. Go tune in for all eight episodes and then report back when you’re done.

But we should reiterate, and this is why we put the word “spoilers” in quotes: Again, Dee Dee and Gypsy are characters in "The Act" who are based on real people. “The Act” is a dramatized, fictionalized version of real-life events. You might be familiar with the story if you follow national news, because this was a headline-grabbing case in 2015 and 2016.

So if you thought it all sounded familiar, now you know why.

Without further ado, here are seven reasons why you should binge the series this weekend. We will warn you, the subject matter gets pretty dark by the end. But it's very much well worth your time, and it’s a story that deserves to be told. Here’s why.


1.) So many people are into true crime these days.

Ask anyone for a podcast recommendation and you’ll get a million answers that start with, “Well, all I like is true crime, but …”. So if that’s you, just know that this show most certainly fits the bill. The story might not be much of a mystery as to who committed what crime, especially if you followed the real-life version, but it’s also a case involving many layers, and it's definitely more complex than you might imagine. In a lot of ways, of course, the lead-up all season is to what happens in the end, but there’s so much going on in the meantime: It’s about ethics, mental health, deception, desperation, trust and what it means to grow up -- and how far you’ll go for freedom.

2.) The story really sheds some light on a disease we don’t hear about too often.

Investigators believe Dee Dee suffered from a syndrome called Munchausen by proxy, hence, all of Gypsy's fabricated medical conditions. Munchausen by proxy is a mental disorder in which a caretaker exaggerates, fabricates or induces illness in someone else with the goal of getting sympathy or attention, according to health experts. If you’ve ever heard of it, or you wondered what that might look like, you'll likely find the series fascinating.

3.) Gypsy will be eligible for parole in 2024.

Yes, that’s how the show ends, if you haven’t pieced it together by now: with Gypsy in prison.

But Gypsy will only be 32 years old, with a lot of life left to live, when she's eligible for parole. So you might want to catch up on what’s already happened to her, so that if and when she’s released, you can follow along. Here’s how the series, and the real-life drama, unfolded: Gypsy’s then-secret boyfriend -- a man she met online, named Nicholas Godejohn, from Wisconsin -- was sentenced to life behind bars for stabbing Dee Dee to death. He and Gypsy plotted to kill her, so that Gypsy could be free.

Gypsy only got about 10 years in prison for her role in the crime. She was convicted of second-degree murder, after taking a plea deal for her part. Her lawyers argued that she had already suffered a lifetime of medical abuse, and she wasn’t the one who executed Dee Dee's killing. So, earlier, when we mentioned that the show gets pretty dark? Now you know what you're in for. Back to current-day real Gypsy, not only will she be eligible for parole in about five years, but she also has some news, according to this report, which came out in April.

4.) Do you remember this story?

This is a Buzzfeed report from August 2016, and you’ll definitely want to read it if you haven’t already. It’s a long-form piece detailing Gypsy and Dee Dee’s background, and it’s truly a puzzle box containing all the tiny pieces you’ve ever wondered about the case, and the lives of the Blanchard women. As we’ve mentioned, the Hulu show is based on true events, but fictionalized, as most TV versions of real-life stories so often are.

But “The Act” does bring to life many elements of the Buzzfeed article. So if you remember reading the piece years ago, or you tuned in for HBO’s documentary “Mommy Dead and Dearest,” we think you’ll be glad you gave Hulu’s series a try, as well. It brings the story full circle.

5.) The infamous Facebook post that led to Gypsy and Godejohn’s arrest is still live.

This is not a drill. View it here, and thanks for the heads-up, Cosmopolitan magazine! How crazy is that?

6.) Gypsy thinks her prison sentence was too harsh.

You’re going to need some context to fully evaluate her stance and form your own opinion, so it’s time to catch up on your reading and binge-watching! We’ll include an interview she did with Dr. Phil, below. “I believe firmly that, no matter what, murder is not OK,” Gypsy tells Dr. Phill. "But at the same time, I don’t believe I deserve as many years as I got.” 

 
7.) The acting in "The Act" is top-notch.

King nails the role of Gypsy, right down to her perfect high-pitched voice, not to mention, the range of emotion that she brings. It’s interesting to see the story from Gypsy's perspective, as she realizes that perhaps her "illnesses" aren’t as grave as her mother makes them seem -- or that she can walk after all.

Getty Images

From left, Chloe Sevigny, Joey King, Patricia Arquette, AnnaSophia Robb and Calum Worthy (Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images).

 

Arquette is maddening in her portrayal of Dee Dee, and you'll get so frustrated as she evades doctors, among others, and whisks Gypsy away from anyone who seems to be watching the pair a little too closely -- or getting too close at all. The initially skeptical neighbors, played by AnnaSophia Robb and Chloë Sevigny, are just as good. As for Calum Worthy, he brings Godejohn to life. Sure, it’s creepy, but consider the subject matter. To do the role any justice, it has to be creepy.


Perhaps it’s that naming the series “The Act” doesn’t do the show any justice. A friend recently asked, “Oh, is that the show about nuns?” when the Hulu series recently came up in conversation. No, it is most certainly not. (Although perhaps she was thinking of “The Keepers,” on Netflix, which is another must-watch).

But regardless of who's talking about what, Hulu says the show’s been a real hit for the streaming service. A co-creator, Michelle Dean, who appears to be the Buzzfeed author, has said Hulu hasn’t picked up the show for a second season -- and that if it is renewed, it will tackle another topic, moving on from the Blanchard family drama.

Soak in these eight episodes while you can! And if you've watched, tell us in the comments: Did you enjoy it? Would you tune in for season two of "The Act," even without Dee Dee and Gypsy?

Graham Media Group 2019