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Briefly: The True Story Behind Bravo's 'Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story'

By Dustin Rowles | TV | June 11, 2020 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | June 11, 2020 |


Dan Broderick (Christian Slater) was a raging asshole. Betty Broderick (Amanda Peete)? Not so great, either. She murdered her ex-husband and his new young wife in their beds while Dan was reaching for the phone to call 911. The Bravo series doesn’t exactly justify Betty’s behavior, but it does seem to want us to empathize with Betty Broderick. She did put Dan Broderick through medical school. And then law school. And she gave birth two five children (one of which they lost soon after the baby was born). Betty Broderick — who was essentially raised by her parents to be the housewife of a wealthy husband — did the work. She put in the hours. She helped him with his school. She raised those kids. She carried five babies. She did without for that man.

Then after Dan Broderick finally got out of school, opened up his own practice, and finally started making a lot of money, that son of bitch left Betty for Linda Kolkena, his receptionist, who basically looked like Betty Broderick 15 years younger. All the while Dan was having an affair with Linda, he denied it, and he called his wife crazy for accusing him of it. He gaslit the sh*t out of Betty Broderick for years.

Before Dan’s death, however, Betty repeatedly screamed at him in front of the kids. She ran her car into his house with the kids inside. When Dan missed their joint birthday party and threw one for himself at the office, she burned his clothes in front of the kids. She disregarded the restraining orders he took out. At one point, she ditched a daughter on his front porch while he wasn’t home, and their daughter had to wait — crying — until around 11 p.m. before her father came home.

Betty Broderick — who received $16,000 a month in alimony (in 1989) and a $650,000 home, which she shared with her live-in boyfriend — seems both like the kind of person who just snapped because her husband’s years-long gaslighting campaign, but also because Betty Broderick didn’t get what she wanted, what she thought she deserved, which is the rich husband and the perfect family she was raised to expect. So she murdered Dan Broderick and Linda Kolkena. Dan survived long enough to say, “Okay, you shot me. I’m dead.” Betty called her daughters to tell them that she had killed her father, and then she turned herself in. This is how she looked after she was arrested for the murder of Dan and Linda Broderick. She seemed quite pleased with herself.


Betty was tried for murder. She used the battered wife defense. The prosecution argued it was a premeditated murder (the fact that Betty removed the phone before she murdered her husband kind of gave it away). The first trial ended in a hung jury. The second trial, which was basically a repeat of the first, resulted in Broderick’s conviction. She was given 15 years to life. She came up for parole in 2010 but still had not appropriately expressed remorse. She will be 84 before she is eligible for parole again in 2032.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

Header Image Source: Bravo