Earlier this month, Painkiller premiered on Netflix, and it has remained high on its list of the streamer’s 10 most popular TV series. This miniseries is based on “The Family That Built an Empire of Pain,” an article written by Patrick Radden Keefe for The New Yorker. It’s an examination of the ongoing opioid epidemic that was caused by Purdue Pharma’s most profitable drug, OxyContin. Matthew Broderick stars in the series as Richard Sackler, the former head of Purdue and the man whose immoral actions have devastated countless lives.
Painkiller dramatizes several stories of addiction, and it also features gripping disclaimers that are read by real people who talk about the family members that they personally lost to addiction. At times, it’s almost impossible to look away from the unfolding tragedies, and there’s no happy ending here. But once you’ve finished this six-episode series, there are three other shows that share some of the same thematic elements that Painkiller utilizes. So if you liked Painkillerthen you’re going to enjoy these shows.
If you’ve watched Painkillerthen you’ll be very familiar with Hulu’s Dopesickwhich predates it by two years and essentially tells the same story. In this series, Michael Stuhlbarg portrays Richard Sackler instead of Broderick, and The Flash‘s Michael Keaton gets a good deal of the focus as Dr. Samuel Finnix, a man who practices medicine in a small mining town. Due to Sackler’s minions, Finnix initially believes that OxyContin is a wonder drug and less addictive than other painkillers. Much to his horror, it eventually becomes clear to Finnix that OxyContin is even more addictive and destructive. And the damage that Oxy leaves in its wake is immense.
This miniseries follows a large ensemble of characters, including DEA Agent Bridget Meyer (Rosario Dawson), who leads the fight to take down Purdue Pharma, and U.S. attorneys Rick Mountcastle (Peter Sarsgaard) and Randy Ramseyer (John Hoogenakker), who build a case against Sackler and his company in an attempt to make them pay for what they’ve unleashed.
Watch Dopesick on Hulu.
The Dropout (2022)
The connective theme between Painkiller and The Dropout is an executive who puts profits over people. Elizabeth Holmes (Amanda Seyfried) may not have ruined as many lives as the Sackler family, but she committed fraud on a grand scale and that’s ultimately what led to her downfall. The miniseries tracks Holmes’ life from her time in college to the present, and she literally does drop out of college to pursue her dream of being the next Steve Jobs.
Holmes claimed to have come up with a way to test blood at home with quick and accurate results, which helped her raise millions for her company, Theranos. However, that success was predicated on a lie because her blood testing tech didn’t work at all. This story chronicles how everything fell apart for her in the end. And Holmes didn’t go down alone.
Watch The Dropout on Hulu.
Dr. Death (2021-Present)
Don’t presume to think that Dr. Death is about the late Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a man who was given that nickname because he advocated for terminally ill patients’ right to commit suicide rather than continuing to suffer. Instead, Peacock’s Dr. Death series focuses on Christopher Duntsch (Joshua Jackson), a doctor whose actions are far more insidious.
Duntsch maimed and even fatally injured his patients in horrific fashion. But the truly unsettling thing about this real-life story is that Duntsch’s colleagues almost immediately noticed that he was dangerously unqualified to practice medicine, but his employers failed to report him for malpractice.
Unlike the other shows on this list, Dr. Death has been renewed for a second season. However, Peacock hasn’t yet set a date for the season 2 premiere.
Watch Dr. Death on Peacock.