At the moment, I am using this space to record which podcasts I’ve given up on or stopped listening to, or actually finished.
Accused: the Unsolved Murder of Elizabeth Andes (8/10)
This podcast covers the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Andes, at a university in Ohio in the ’70s. It’s a new take on the rash of podcasts that are out there as, in this case, the crime is unsolved. (However, when In the Dark started recording, that crime was also unsolved.)
This podcast once again highlights police and investigative failures. As much as Serial or In the Dark, or perhaps more, it also highlights the stubbornness of law enforcement, and their unwillingness to review what they did wrong. (Though In the Dark really focuses on this as well.) In this case it’s the police’s unshakeable belief that the guy they failed to convict of the murder actually did it. As with these other true crime podcasts, the listener cannot believe that this stubbornness persists.
Same guy as Up and Vanished. I just don’t like how he tells stories.
Bag Man (6/10)
A really interesting story about Spiro Agnew’s resignation told by someone who believes you are not paying attention to her. Read the review of Bag Man.
The Black Tapes
I stuck with this one for a season, but it infuriated me by constantly humming and hawing between “The Paranormal is Real!” and “It’s complete nonsense.”
A little too “now I’m just a humble Georgian reporter.”
An excellent examination of the “patriot movement” in the US. Read the review of Bundyville.
The Butterfly Effect (7/10)
The host’s voice is a really acquired taste and the use of the concept of the “butterfly effect” is a little overdone but otherwise this is a fascinating examination of how the porn industry has changed due to free streaming and what that means for people in the industry.
A good spin on the criminal justice podcast genre. Read the review of Conviction.
I can’t think of another podcast I’ve listened to that felt like it was glorifying murder. This one feels like it has a very convoluted relationship with morality. Also, I’m not prude but there is so much swearing in this it’s just crazy.
Honestly I don’t know why I forgot to review this one when I finished, but I did.
So the production values are obviously excellent, and there is something pleasing about listening to voices you recognize play characters when you cannot see the actors.
But I was always kind of frustrated a little by the storytelling and I can’t really remember why at this remove.
In the Dark (7/10)
Note: Here is my review of the first season. They are continuing to make new seasons now, so I likely won’t review the whole show unless it ends.
I forgot to review this when I finished listening to it and I presume I have forgotten to review a bunch of other podcasts I finished. This is a frustrating, devastating and infuriating portrait of a child kidnapping in the ’80s, the near-absolute power of country Sheriffs in the US (and their general incompetence) and how badly things can go when something seizes national attention in a democracy.
If you’ve listened to Serial, or watched Making a Murderer, this is for you. Though the story is different – there is nobody in jail for decades for this particular crime – so much of the story is unfortunately familiar: ineffective policing, the bizarre unwillingness to consider certain evidence/suspects while focusing on others, the unwillingness of the police to admit mistakes, and so forth.
If you are interested in stories about injustice or true crime, I recommend it.
The Last Days of August (8/10)
Limetown is an engrossing hard science fiction story that mostly manages to avoid the issues that seem to accompany these fictional podcasts – mostly the audio equivalent of the found footage film problem; in this case, ‘why is everything recorded?’
It’s a reasonably compelling mystery that keeps enough hidden for long enough. There’s still some nonsense typical of conspiracy theory stories, but it’s limited. Of the fictional podcasts I’ve listened to so far, it’s certainly as good as I’ve heard.
The Message (7/10)
The Message is a fictional podcast, something that might have worked in the Golden Age of Radio, though with obviously higher production values and a much better understanding of science.
It’s a neat idea and it mostly works: It turns out that the US government (but of course) has been sitting on an audio message received from extraterrestrials back in the ’40s. They’ve been trying to decode it unsuccessfully ever since. It’s a conceit appropriate for the format and, though the listener has to stretch credulity a few times about the audio access this podcaster gets, it’s compelling enough that you want to find out what happened.
I’m glad to see (hear, I mean) stuff like this that shows that podcasting isn’t just for non-fiction. And I look forward to something more ambitious than the two hours or so this one lasts. In the meantime, this is sufficient.
Missing & Murdered (6?/10)
It’s been long enough now that I don’t remember why I stopped listening to this podcast. Something about the storytelling style frustrated me, but I can’t remember what. I don’t know if I’ll ever give it another chance. I have too many ongoing podcasts to listen to.
My Favourite Murder
I don’t understand what the appeal of this show is. It’s got none of the things that I find appealing about true crime. It’s just mystifying.
The first season changed the industry and launched a favourite podcast of mine, and it convinced me to start listening to podcasts.
I might be the only person who enjoyed the second season and its examination of a seemingly simple story that was actually very complicated. (Dealing with the issue of “justice” is never easy.)
The third season does a better job than most podcasts of showing the systemic problems of the justice system in the US.
Shit Town (10/10)
This Serial spinoff is completely different from the main show and an utterly unique look at both mental illness and our innate human desire for complete explanations. Read the review.
A brief but pretty excellent documentary about what happened at Ruby Ridge and why it’s important. Read the review.
30 for 30 Podcasts (8/10)
This is an ongoing series, but it is significantly different than many of the podcasts I listen to with different hosts and different formats.
Seasons 1 and 2 are individual stories, some better than others but good overall.
The third season is the excellent Bikram, a story which has since told in a movie or TV documentary form. (I can’t remember which.) This is a must listen for anyone interested in #metoo or in cults.
The fourth season is the same format as the first two.
The fifth season is The Sterling Affairs, a fascinating account of the sale of the Clippers. But it’s a little hyperbolic at times.
Thunder Bay (9/10)
Every Canadian must listen to this podcast. Read the review of Thunder Bay.
I admire what they are trying to do. It’s always important to tell people’s version of history.
But this is a very flawed show. From the very first episode, there are oversights, omissions and factual errors (or, if not errors, assertions which are not proved). In the first episode, they have a legal question and they don’t interview a lawyer. In future episodes there are questions that are unanswered. Worse, there are claims made that a quick Wikipedia search suggests are not very well established.
Basically what I am saying is that the show lacks rigour.
If you are going to challenge the prevailing view of history, you have to do a better job than the earlier histories have. That may seem like an unfair standard, but it’s a practical one – if you want to convince people that the version of history they grew up with is incorrect, you need to do a more thorough job establishing your version of history.
This is somewhat weird series to review because it’s a different host and topic each “season”. So far I have only listened to season three.
The Village (6/10)
This is a fascinating examination of the relationship between Toronto Police Services and the LGTBQ community in Toronto. It’s put forward as a true crime podcast and series of mysteries but that’s not really the point of the season. My issue with the podcast is that I want mystery but the mysteries in the show either aren’t actually mysteries or remain unsolved.
But the value of the podcast is to expose someone like me to a community I have virtually no contact with, and to issues that I just don’t know about. I feel like I learned a lot about the history of LGTBQ oppression in Toronto (and Detroit, to some extent) and also their issues today. That for me made it well worth my time, even if the true crime aspect of the show was, in the end, extremely frustrating.
Yes, they are too “in the weeds” when it comes to the first season of Serial. But their subsequent seasons focusing on new cases have been mostly excellent, a couple of which I would recommend more than just about anything else I’ve listened to. Still a must listen for me.
Up and Vanished
I gave this one ten episodes. It’s too conspiratorial for me. Every “clue,” no matter how coincidental or insignificant, is treated like it’s The Key to Cracking The Case and that gets tiring after awhile.