A couple of years ago, a friend asked me if I was into some new podcast. Well, I’d listened to podcasts before, but I’d mostly encountered stream-of-consciousness-type chat podcasts that didn’t seem very compelling. This one was different, she said. “It’s called Serial, and it’s about a high school girl who got murdered years and years ago, but these reporters are re-investigating the story because they don’t think her boyfriend did it.”
Well, I love true crime. I was also fascinated by idea of kids not that much younger than me navigating the muddy waters of late 1990s communication, of the social dynamics at play (hey, we were all high schoolers once, right?) and the thought that perhaps the wrong person had been sent to prison for a murder he didn’t commit. I was hooked.
I’ll be the first to admit that I listened to Season Two of Serial and wasn’t as into it. While the story of Bowe Bergdahl was far more nuanced than I first believed, it had been covered so exhaustively by news outlets I felt like I wasn’t hearing anything super fresh. That’s why I’m so stoked for this new podcast: S-Town.
S-Town is the polite term for Shit Town, the euphemistic name given to the Alabama hometown of a guy named John. He’s been pestering Brian Reed of This American Life to help him: John believes that a murder has taken place, and that there’s been a cover-up. Brian has been investigating it for the last three years! The podcast is being described as a small town story about a guy who apparently uses his time to fix clocks and build a maze in his garden—all things that serve as a metaphor for unraveling mysteries, apparently. According to the official website:
John despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it. He asks a reporter to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, sparking a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life.
So perhaps John is the bigger mystery here? Small towns are awfully claustrophobic; will Brian stay safe? All the episodes dropped yesterday, which means no more delays in production like those that plagued the second season of Serial. There are rumors that the mystery revolves around a hidden treasure, but these could be a red herring. (Serial can’t be in the Al Capone vault discovery business—can they?)
I’m going to cover at least one episode a week as I listen and do my own research. Honestly, after waiting this long for a new, well-crafted nonfiction podcast, I honestly don’t want to binge the entire thing and end up missing parts, or being disappointed. I’ll recap the episode here on the blog, then add my own thoughts as I look into the mystery at hand. I’m sure that the Serial production team will keep the official website stocked with helpful documents and maps, or whatever suits the storytelling, but we’re librarians here, and I’m sure we can also turn up some interesting collateral material.
If you’re bingeing, please don’t give away anything for future episodes in the comments. If you’re listening along, do comment and share your thoughts. Chime in below: what are you most looking forward to in this new podcast? Are you a first-time listener or an old fan of the original Serial? Let us know.