True Crime Documentaries: What Is HBO’s ‘The Lady and the Dale’ About?

True crime documentaries are good business for any channel or streaming service looking to generate buzz. Few outlets have been as good to viewers in this regard as HBO.

The one-time premium cable channel turned streamer aired its latest true crime tale a few weeks ago, the docuseries The Lady and the Dale. A unique and complicated tale of business ambition, fraud, and transgender identity, the series is sure to give viewers an experience unlike they’ve never seen before.

How many episodes is ‘The Lady and the Dale’?

Elizabeth Carmichael, subject of HBO's 'The Lady and the Dale.'
Elizabeth Carmichael, subject of HBO’s ‘The Lady and the Dale.’ | WarnerMedia

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The Lady and the Dale is a four-episode docuseries that premiered for HBO on Jan. 31. As the remaining episodes aired weekly after that, viewers can now watch the series in its entirety on HBO or HBO Max, whichever they have access to.

A true crime story of the business variety, The Lady and the Dale tells the story of Elizabeth Carmichael. Carmichael founded the Twentieth Century Motor Car Corporation in 1970 and attempted to change the game with the company’s flagship product: the Dale. Coming amid the ongoing oil shortage that decade, the Dale was a three-wheeled vehicle that promised greater fuel efficiency and took the business world by storm for a time. In many ways, the story of the project’s early hype has been compared to the modern startup culture.

“Interest in the Dale intensified, accelerated by Carmichael’s boasts of its efficiency and safety but also fueled by the company’s dubious business practices,” HBO’s announcement for the series read. “With that spotlight came increased focus on Liz’s identity and gender. As media attention was heating up and frustrated investors clamoring at her door, Carmichael was arrested for fraud and business code violations before The Dale could even hit the streets.”

What Carmichael attempted to hide from the press was that she had actually been born Jerry Dean Michael, transitioning to female in the late 1960s. Carmichael’s previous life seems to have had enough chaos for its own true crime series, with claims that she smuggled weapons for Cuba at one point. She was arrested in 1961 for counterfeiting and later used a car accident as cover to evade authorities. Carmichael was still a fugitive while attempting to start a company and hyping up its flagship product.

The series promises true crime intrigue with a business twist

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The Dale was reportedly capable of getting 70 miles to the gallon, but backing up big technological claims ended up being the least of Carmichael’s troubles. Investigations in Twentieth Century’s alleged financial impropriety eventually led her to face 31 charges of fraud, grand theft, and corporate securities violations. The rest you’ll have to watch to find out, but suffice it to say, those charges were far from the end of the story.

The Lady and the Dale was directed by the duo of Nick Cammilleri and Zackary Drucker. Neither have much of a true crime background, but Drucker, a trans woman herself, has had notable experience exploring trans stories in film and TV. She previously appeared in the Caitlyn Jenner docuseries, I Am Cait, and was a producer for the Amazon series, Transparent.