Several Things About Pam Made Producers Want to Tell Her Story

The Thing About Pam on NBC
(Image credit: NBC)

The Thing About Pam, a scripted show based on a true-crime story, begins on NBC March 8. Renee Zellwegger plays Pam Hupp. 

Betsy Faria was murdered in 2011, and her husband was convicted of the murder. It came out later that Hupp, a friend of Faria’s, may have had a little something to do with her friend’s murder. 

Dateline NBC covered the Faria case extensively, and has a podcast called The Thing About Pam, which has been downloaded over 20 million times.

Dateline correspondent Keith Morrison hosted the podcast, and is narrator on the TV series. You’ll probably recognize that voice right away. “We’re so fortunate to have him be the omniscient, almost philosophical narrator,” said Jenny Klein, executive producer and showrunner on the NBC series. 

The Faria case happened in Troy, Missouri. From Illinois, Klein was entranced by the story of a peculiar murder in middle America. “It’s such a weird Midwest story that I was immediately drawn to it,” she said.  

She was also drawn to Pam Hupp. “I’ve never seen a character like Pam on TV before,” said Klein. “She gets caught in a lie, and changes her story in the next breath without batting an eye.”

That results in “a series of contradictory statements that are so brash you convince yourself you must’ve heard her wrong,” said Klein, “because she seems so nice.”

Hupp is currently in prison. She’s a quirky character, and Klein gives Zellwegger high marks for capturing the accent, the hand gestures, the nervous sniffs and other Hupp attributes. “Renée got every detail down to a T,” said Klein, “in a way that brought Pam to life so accurately.”

Josh Duhamel, Judy Greer and Katy Mixon are also in the cast. The show shoots in New Orleans. There are six episodes. 

The reviews are pretty favorable, with Zellwegger garnering some raves. The Chicago Sun-Times said “Zellweger delivers a big, juicy, wonderfully disruptive performance as a small-town busybody, real estate flipper, wife and mother — who is also a stone-cold killer. (That’s the difference between the “Pams” we know and this Pam. The former aren’t murderers. Probably.) The bizarre, true-life story of Pamela Hupp has been the subject of five Dateline episodes and a popular podcast, and now comes this fictionalized limited series, which takes a darkly comedic approach to the material and maintains an almost breezy approach to some seriously macabre events.”

Klein had worked with Blumhouse Television on the Facebook Watch series Sacred Lies, and it was the Blumhouse folks who turned her on to the Pam podcast. They told her it was a zany story, and she’d love it. It was, and she did. 

Klein called the series “a perfect marriage” between Blumhouse Television and NBC News. 

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the L.A. Times and New York magazine.