An illustration of handcuffs and fingerprints for an article about the podcast "True Crime Obsessed." (Illustration by Katelyn McManis, Columbia College Chicago)

‘True Crime Obsessed’ Combines Real Cases With Comical Commentary

Gillian Pensavalle and Patrick Hinds' hit podcast dives into documentaries about the most notorious cases with a comedic spin.

The hit true-crime comedy podcast “True Crime Obsessed,” hosted by New Yorkers Gillian Pensavalle and Patrick Hinds, has acquired a cult following because of its hilarious takes on true-crime documentaries from around the world. Pensavalle and Hinds have become stars in the podcast world, with hundreds of episodes and thousands of listeners tuning in weekly to get their true-crime fix.

Neither Hinds nor Pensavalle are amateur podcasters; both hosted very successful Broadway podcasts that led them to meet and bring “True Crime Obsessed” to life. Pensavalle, a native New Yorker and self-proclaimed “Game of Thrones” nerd, is a highly successful comedian and actress. Though she is undoubtedly funny, in her dynamic duo with Hinds, she is the sure voice of reason as well as someone who brings quite a bit of sarcasm to the screen.

Hinds, the creator of the Obsessed Network, brings the sass to the podcast by integrating his experiences as a gay man, advocating for LGBTQ+ rights and frequently talking about the many escapades of his daughter, Daisy, on the show.

In an interview with Oxygen at CrimeCon, Pensavalle explained how “True Crime Obsessed” came about, starting with an interest in solving the Zodiac Killer mystery and then blossoming into a love for “watching documentaries and laughing at the stupid people in them and being very victim ‘advocate-y.’” The dynamic between Pensavalle and Hinds themselves creates the perfect podcast, blending the seriousness of the situations at hand while also relieving the audience with much-needed humor.

In the past years, there has been a huge surge in both podcasts and true-crime content. “True Crime Obsessed” comes after several true-crime podcasts but has managed to steer clear of public scrutiny and conflict, such as the plagiarism scandal associated with the hit podcast “Crime Junkie.”

Much of the thanks for their popularity comes from the hosts themselves. Countless reviews online have attributed the duo’s fame not just to their content, but also to their delivery. It is important to note that neither Pensavalle nor Hinds is interested in the horrors of the crimes themselves but are really in search of answers for both the victims and their families. In an interview with Broadway World in 2017, Pensavalle reiterated this, sharing that “it is important for [them] to consider them analytically, find out what happened, try and figure out just what drives a person to this point.”

Rather than merely listing the facts and details of every case, which undoubtedly becomes monotonous, the duo are experts in the art of performance, and their stellar personalities radiate through the microphone. The combination of Hinds’ contagious laugh and Pensavalle’s witty remarks leaves listeners in stitches and wanting more.

While none of the “True Crime Obsessed” episodes are to be missed, there are several standouts among the series, recommended by both listeners and the hosts themselves.

If you are new to the true-crime world, Pensavalle and Hinds suggest starting with:

1. “The Case of Adnan Syed”

The HBO docuseries “The Case of Adnan Syed” follows the 1999 disappearance and murder of Baltimore teen Hae Min Lee and the wrongful conviction of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed. The documentary goes into detail on other possible suspects and their motives for wanting to harm Hae Min Lee.

Pensavalle and Hinds have taken a special interest in this case, advocating heavily for Adnan and following investigators as they track down Don, Hae Min Lee’s boyfriend at the time, who was assumed to be the last person to see her alive. “True Crime Obsessed” covers this docuseries in four episodes, each focusing on a different part of the investigation and the journey toward Adnan’s freedom.

2. “Abducted in Plain Sight”

“Abducted in Plain Sight” follows the story of 12-year-old Jan Broberg who was kidnapped by her next-door neighbor and parents’ best friend (lovingly called “B”) not once, but twice. This case, quoted as “every parent’s worst nightmare,” is full of shocking twists and turns that will take any listener by surprise.

Pensavalle and Hinds cover the documentary, created by their friend Skye Borgman, in full detail, and they’re just as shocked as their listeners by the horrors of this little girl’s chilling abductions. You can catch the original documentary on Netflix before listening to the stellar commentary of “True Crime Obsessed.”        

3. “The Imposter”

The story of “The Imposter” starts in San Antonio, Texas, when 13-year-old Nicholas Barclay disappears. Surprisingly enough, three years later, Frenchman Frédéric Bourdin impersonates Nicholas, claims to have been abused by military officials and sent to Spain, and is accepted by most of Barclay’s family, even though his age and physical descriptions could not be more different than that of the real Nicholas. Eventually, Bourdin is discovered to be an impersonator, and the film follows his full confession and the development of his various impersonations.

The first episode of “True Crime Obsessed” ever produced, their commentary on “The Imposter” is not to be missed. Both Pensavalle and Hinds are hilarious in their recounting of the absurdities of the case and also have their own theories as to what happened to Nicholas Barclay.

4. “The Disappearance of Maura Murray”

One of Hinds’ favorite cases ever covered on “True Crime Obsessed,” “The Disappearance of Maura Murray” is known as the most famous missing persons case of our time. Oxygen’s documentary follows the still-open case of Maura Murray’s disappearance in 2004. Murray, prior to her vanishing, emptied her bank account, drove to a remote New Hampshire town and crashed her car into a tree. Following her accident, she vanished without a trace and hasn’t been heard from since. Everyone in this case, including Pensavalle and Hinds themselves, has a theory as to what happened that night and where Murray is today.

5. “Jesus Camp”

A fan favorite around the world, “Jesus Camp” follows the children at an evangelical Christian summer camp and what they are taught within the church. While the creators of the documentary claim not to judge the happenings of the faith, Pensavalle and Hinds’ coverage of the film is far from just observational. Their hilarious commentary on the behaviors of the children and the camp instructors will have listeners rolling on the floor in laughter.

A bit different from the other documentaries covered on “True Crime Obsessed,” there is not a singular crime inspected in the film. Rather, “Jesus Camp” documents the experiences of three extremely pious children while they attend a Christian summer camp. Filled with speaking in tongues, the rejection of science and evolutionary thought and a fear of the devil’s influence upon “Harry Potter,” “Jesus Camp” is an informative and entertaining glimpse into the world of evangelical Christianity.

The five episodes above are only a glimpse into the world of “True Crime Obsessed” and all that it has to offer. The series is available on all podcast platforms, such as Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Pensavalle and Hinds also have a booming business on Patreon, where for as little as $5 per month you gain access to hundreds of “True Crime Obsessed” episodes covering hit series such as “The Murder of Laci Peterson,” “The Staircase,” “Jodi Arias: American Murder Mystery” and many more.

Alongside their weekly releases online, the duo has held live shows across the continent that assure listeners that their content is even better in person. They sell out almost immediately, and the waiting lists to get tickets are never-ending. With that in mind, grab your laptop, a pair of earbuds and a few friends and start listening to “True Crime Obsessed.”

Kelsie Westmoreland, Washington and Lee University

Writer Profile

Kelsie Westmoreland

Washington and Lee University
Business Administration and Art History

Some of my favorite things include reading any YA novel I can get my hands on, practicing or watching ballet, baking (the more chocolate, the better!) and exercising!

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