Is there something crazy-making in the water here?
Maybe it’s all the sweet tea we drink.
Whatever the explanation, TV this month turns a bright light on Atlantans behaving very badly. You’ll be afraid to pick up the remote for all the lying, cheating and acting out going on on-screen.
And no, for once it has nothing to do with “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”
Instead, two real-life murder sagas get the dramatic treatment courtesy of Lifetime Movie Network. First up on Saturday is “Too Late to Say Goodbye,” a two-hour movie about Barton Corbin, the double murderer dentist from Gwinnett. His 2006 guilty pleas to killing his girlfriend and wife — 14 years apart, but both staged to look like suicides — came only after numerous jaw dropping revelations about affairs and stalking incidents.
Not to be outdone, the two-part miniseries “Everything She Ever Wanted” airs Nov. 14-15. Gina Gershon stars as Pat Allanson in a drama inspired by the actual events that took place in and around Atlanta in the 1970s. In one instance, law enforcement officials said Allanson attempted to poison her husband’s well-off grandparents with arsenic.
Both dramas are based on books by best-selling true crime author Ann Rule. When producer Stanley M. Brooks pitched four different Rule titles to Lifetime, network honchos chose to make the two home-grown stories. (Ultimately, the miniseries was relocated to South Carolina.)
Atlanta shouldn’t take any of this personally, Rule said from her Seattle home last week.
“I love Atlanta. I don’t want to sully its reputation,” she said. “It’s just that when you [have murders], they’re doozies.”
Here’s the lowdown on “Too Late to Say Goodbye,” which airs this week.
Who’s in it
Rob Lowe is Corbin and Lauren Holly (“NCIS,” “Dumb & Dumber”) is his sister-in-law, Heather, who pushes for an investigation into her sister Jennifer’s supposed suicide.
Producer Brooks was pleasantly surprised, if a tad dubious, when he heard Lowe wanted to play Corbin:
“Generally he’s the guy you like in ‘Brothers and Sisters’ and ‘The West Wing,’ Brooks said. “He’d only played evil in ‘Wayne’s World’ and ‘Austin Powers.’ ”
The first clue that viewers have that Corbin is wound a bit tight comes when he arrives at the scene of his wife’s death: “It’s Dr. Corbin,” he corrects the detective who addresses him as “Mr.” (Said Rule: “He was pretty pompous.”)
Holly insists Lowe’s just acting.
“Rob’s not evil,” she said, then chuckled. “But listen, you never know. Bart Corbin fooled us all, right?”
Who’s not in it
Most real-life members of Gwinnett law enforcement are compressed into the single character of Det. Ann Roche, played by Michelle Hurd (“Law & Order: SVU,” “The Good Wife”).
“They can’t have too many characters in a two-hour movie, that’s just the way it is,” Rule said. “I’ll have to apologize to [Gwinnett District Attorney] Danny Porter, because they were very cooperative with me.”
Similarly, the movie spends less time than the book did on the case of Dolly Hearn, Corbin’s dental school girlfriend who died in 1990. Besides the aforementioned time constraints, Brooks admitted to wanting to keep the audience in suspense longer as to Corbin’s guilt or innocence in his wife’s death.
“As soon as you find out that Dolly [supposedly] also committed suicide, that’s it, it’s game over,” the producer explained. “Then it’s, are they going to catch him?”
And one of the most damning pieces of real-life dialogue was purposely left out of an early scene (it’s referred to later on), because, as Hurd pointed out, “It would be awfully hard to make [Corbin] sympathetic from then on. Even if you are Rob Lowe.”
Cue wayback machine
Corbin and Hearn both were dental students at the Medical College of Georgia in the late 1980s, a time represented in the movie by cellphones the size of footballs. And Rick Astley singing — gulp — “Never gonna give you up...”
Don’t be fooled by the words “Atlanta, Georgia” scrolling across the screen in the movie’s opening moments. Or by characters referring to going fishing on Lake Lanier and drinking beer at Wild Wing Cafe in Suwanee.
The movie was shot outside Toronto, said Brooks, who swears that’s not as inauthentic as it sounds.
“My producing partner, Jim Head, lives in Atlanta,” Brooks said. “Anytime we showed up with someone or something corn pone and clichéd, he’d tell us, ‘No one in Atlanta has rebel flags hanging everywhere.’ ”
Um, OK. Anyway, there’s a notable lack of ‘y’all’s” and the thick drawls Hollywood loves to imagine all Southerners possessing; Lowe’s speech does take on a slight lilt in one jailhouse scene, but, well, prison does strange things to people.
Still, there’s only one right way to pronounce “Gwinnett,” as Hurd learned the hard way on the first day of shooting. Addressing a crowded news conference, she said “GWIN-it.”
“Jim [Head] wasn’t there yet,” Hurd recalled ruefully. “When he got there, he was like, ‘Wait, wait, wait!’ We did it again.”
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