Flash yourself back to the Fall of 2014. Try to remember the visceral reaction you had to the first time you heard Serial, the podcast from journalist Sarah Koenig, Ira Glass, and the rest of the team behind NPR’s This American Life. A week-by-week mystery, the podcast gained steam each week; by the time it ended, it was a sensation, being spoofed by the likes of SNL, and becoming the most successful and popular podcast of all time.
Serial, in a way, was the start of a movement of True Crime content that caught the country’s collective attention. There were documentaries that would come out in the following years, like Netflix’s Making a Murderer and HBO’s The Jinx that followed in its footsteps. There was also a second season of Serial (which we don’t really need to spend much time thinking about).
Now, though, we’ve got another story—a true story, of course—that is catching steam, little by little. Enter ‘S Town,’ the latest venture that’s being promoted by the same people behind This American Life and Serial. Like Serial, ‘S-Town’ is a long-term, heavily reported project from a TAL alum: in Koenig’s role this time is producer Brian Reed, who began reporting this story in 2012. At its crux—broadly, so not to give too much of this wild tale away—is a man named John B. McLemore, who through a series of correspondences finally caught Reed’s attention.
There’s one stark difference, though, between the format of ‘S-Town’ and ‘Serial’: for our content-hungry age, ‘S-Town’ isn’t a week-to-week project; it was released all at once, Netflix style. The format comes with its ups and downs—it’s hard, really, to have a conversation with someone about it until you’ve finished the whole thing—but the journey is so fun that you should have no trouble ploughing your way through it. Personally, I’m about halfway through the fourth episode, and I cannot wait for lunchtime and my commute home to keep listening to more. I feel like I’m helping Reed solve the mysteries, taking each clue, and each new fact in, bit by bit, until (I hope) we’re led to the answer.
The story of ‘S-Town’—a shortened version of a town in Alabama referred to as ‘Shittown’—takes many twists and turns, as you probably would expect a podcast of this nature to do. So go immerse yourself in this seven-part journey, and have some fun talking about it with everyone else you convince to hitch on to the ride—at least until our next podcast obsession comes along.
Listen to S-Town here, or wherever you normally get your podcasts.