Girl meets boy. Girl marries boy. Boy turns out to be a raging sociopath.
It’s a story as old as Lifetime.
Bravo’s scripted anthology series “Dirty John” drafts a superior cast to walk through a worn tale.
Based on a true story and a podcast of the same name, the series stars Connie Britton (“American Horror Story,” “Friday Night Lights”) as Debra Newell, a successful interior designer running her own firm in Newport Beach, Calif.
Despite four failed marriages, she’s still looking for love — and meeting all the wrong men. “If you design the most beautiful life, nothing ugly can get in,” she says in a voice-over.
Pretty walls do not a castle make.
A flash-forward shows blood spilled — but who is the victim?
When Debra’s latest date, John Meehan (Eric Bana, “The Other Boleyn Girl”), shows up in khaki shorts and a V-neck T-shirt, Debra’s older daughter Veronica (Juno Temple, “Vinyl”) is rude.
“Are you delivering a package?” she sniffs. She thinks he must be homeless.
If only Debra trusted Veronica’s instincts.
John regales Debra with stories of volunteering in Iraq for Doctors Without Borders.
The only hiccup to the evening: When they go back to her place, he throws himself on her bed and expects to spend the night.
When he doesn’t get his way, he storms out.
Debra chooses to overlook that questionable behavior — and a lot more — as John ingratiates himself into her life with a fervor that might strike you as obsessive.
Before you can say quickie marriage, the two elope in Vegas, and she rents a mansion on the beach because John has all these tax and child support issues. He convinces her to give up the $80,000 or so she has stuffed in a gym bag (don’t ask) so he can store it in a bank safety deposit box, he says. He installs video cameras in their home and at her firm.
But while Debra is lulled, Veronica and her sister Terra (Julia Garner, “Ozark”) are not. Veronica is a pitbull.
“I don’t deal with people. They deal with me,” she says.
She makes it a mission to uncover John’s secrets, and they are far more horrific than anyone could have imagined.
Jean Smart (“Fargo”) plays Debra’s mother, Arlane, who initially is John’s biggest fan. Judy Reyes (“Scrubs”) offers strong support as a private investigator who even blinks when faced with John’s criminal record.
“Make yourself a difficult target,” she advises Debra.
Britton plays Debra as if some Botox seeped into her brain. Bana charms while simultaneously simmering. You know anything can — and will — set him off. By the end of the three episodes Bravo provided for review, Debra and John know exactly who the other is and neither will be able to predict how far the other will go. Who will survive the truth? And how great will the collateral damage be?