Podcast of the Week: S-TOWN
We can finally toss away a certain abhorrent rapper from Seattle, a new McLemore entered the cultural lexicon this week, and we should all be rejoicing. S-TOWN has already made waves in most circles that care about podcasting, but we need to stress just how important this show is. SERIAL felt exciting when it was first released, but it made a critical error in its conceit: if you structure a whole series around a murder you haven’t solved yet, there’s absolutely no guarantee that you’ll be able to deliver a satisfying ending. It seemed, initially, that S-TOWN was going to fall into the exact same trap, and if you stopped listening after “Chapter 1” because it felt like the show was going down a road you’d been burned by before, please, keep going.
S-TOWN takes a turn that is wholly unexpected, and which sends the entire series spiraling out in a way that is nothing short of marvelous. The show is not a mystery, it’s an unspooling, literary exploration of friendship, time, depression, internalized hatred, the collapsing world, alchemy, masochism, rage, and love. It cements podcasts firmly as an art form, it shows that the medium deserves to be taken seriously as a mode of storytelling. John B. McLemore is a character as complex as any in a great novel, and his rendering by Brian Reed and the THIS AMERICAN LIFE/SERIAL team is nothing short of a master stroke. The series will push you to your emotional limits, but will make you stronger and kinder for it. It’s exactly the effect all great stories should have on the soul, and we’re all better off for being able to experience it.
You can find the show here, or on iTunes.