Thus, in her inimitable brainy yet conversational style (and with the usual assortment of film-clip drops, period music, and well-chosen quotes), Longworth sets the scene in Los Angeles, ca. 1969, where the film scene was “a literal wasteland” that eventually had to be rescued by the city’s rock scene (especially the Sunset Strip), which was everything the movie industry wasn’t: edgy, vibrant, and sexual. Longworth makes particularly savvy note of the most-buzzed movie of that Manson summer: Easy Rider, directed by and starring Dennis Hopper. And when Longworth draws the line from Easy Rider-era Hopper to Manson — well, it’s the kind of thing that you’d never think of, but totally makes sense once she connects the dots.
Hollywood, as many have written, is an oddly small town, with unexpected connections and bizarre through-lines. So the six-degrees-of-separation nature of the Manson story — with tentacles that reach out to such seemingly unconnected figures as Roman Polanski, The Beach Boys, Kenneth Anger, and John Waters — lends itself to the miniseries structure that Longworth developed over the course of You Must Remember This’s first season. It culminated in the 17-part series of stories about movie stars’ activities during WWII, which Longworth cheekily dubbed “Star Wars.” The approach is ingenious, allowing the the writer/editor/narrator to approach big subjects under a wide umbrella, while still spinning off on fascinating little detours.
The first episode concludes with a section that explains the Manson murders in detail — a necessary but grim bit of table-setting for what will follow. And sure, this “who died and how” segment is tricky, but Longworth handles it both tastefully and, in an odd way, cinematically; she really turns the vice while describing the Tate scene, as the crime gets grislier and the minimalist music gets legitimately frightening. If all that sounds a little, y’know, murder-y for something that goes into your earbuds during a workout or comes out of your speakers during a commute, let us not forget the biggest podcasting sensation of the past year. And if that show was some kind of precedent, then here’s hoping You Must Remember This will ride the true crime podcasting wave into the popularity it so richly deserves.
New episodes of You Must Remember This debut every Tuesday. It’s available on iTunes and other podcast platforms.