Did you Miss the Serial Podcast? Welcome back, Sarah


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Did you miss Serial? Did you skip season 2? I actually really enjoyed season 2 - as Crime WRiters On said, Season 1 was lightening in a bottle…that’s not gonna happen twice.

Or is it? I listened to episode 1 of Season 3 and am already hooked. Now that I’ve listened to so many other investigative podcasts, Sarah Koenig’s expertise and style stands out as the bar none of radio investigative journalists. The way she sets the scene, and allows us to feel like she is in our ‘everyman’ shoes - yet also gives us confidence in her expertise - is spot-on. It’s from years and years of being a crime and investigative reporter.

Season 2 was more straightforward investigating - her interaction with the players was minimal, and she was more storytelling in the style of a newsmagazine. Now, she’s back in the mix - sometimes her all too human reactions seem a little disingenuous, belying her intensive background as a reporter (including for the Baltimore Sun) - but I’ll buy it, hook, line and sinker.

The first episode is a recounting of a rather absurd case where a woman defending herself from a group assault was the only one arrested. It’s very linear, accented with body cam footage, interviews with both prosecutor and defense attorney, and showcasing also the cycle of troubles people find themselves in. Those of us in our cozy middle class lives need to hear about how the other side lives, and the court system that rarely affects us - except in unrealistic episodes of Law and Order.

I’m in - and letting the episodes stack up a little bit, though I’m so ready to hear the recaps from the Crime Writers On Gang. But, to distract me - I’ ve got Slow Burn, Crimetown Season 2…I’ll be fine.

The RFK Tapes Podcast : Open Secrets

So I was a little suspicious about the conspiracies coming out of the RFK Tapes Podcast (an offshoot from the team from CrimeTown - hosted by Zac Stuart-Pontier).  SPOILERS AHEAD! BTW.

But when I started listening, I got sucked into co-host Bill Klaber's calm but intense insistence that something's up.  Bill has been following this for years, and a high profile politico, p Congressman Allard Lowenstein, had been presenting credible theories as well. (Sadly, he met his own untimely death similar to Kennedy.)

Then as an aside - so casually - a bonus episode, featuring a woman, Geneva White, who (SPOILERS!!) overheard a conversation about the plot to kill JFK on a near deathbed confession - really gives one pause.  Are these guys really on to something? I found something interesting online about another deathbed confession about the assassination that will lead you right down a deep, dark rabbit hole. (Keep looking - here, and here.) Who knows?

With RFK, there seems to be more openness about it - so many witnesses, after all - yet because there was no social media or widespread instant communication, the LAPD were easily able to sweep a key aspects of the case under the rug.  The most stunning example of this is the latest episode, The Girl In the Polka Dot Dress. There is a witness at the shooting who LITERALLY SAW A WOMAN IN A POLKA DOT DRESS RUN PAST HER AND SAY "WE SHOT HIM" who also SPOKE ABOUT THIS ON THE NEWS, but the police brainwash her into recanting.  The tapes are compelling and I'm now about convinced Sirhan Sirhan didn't act alone. 

Will this be the first podcast to crack open a national conspiracy?  Or will we keep ruminating on all things Kennedy conspiracies for infinity with no resolution?  Till we find out, it's entertaining listening, that's for sure.

Christmas in April: Golden State Killer is CAUGHT

If you're true crime podcast listener, all your feeds no doubt blew up the. night of April 24th. The next day, I listened to Martinis and Murder, My Favorite Murder, and Crime Writers On discuss the capture, as well as saw Patton Oswalt talk about his late wife Michelle McNamara's role in increasing awareness of the case on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

(Everyone has said how much work and credit go to the detectives and police force of Sacramento County, but it's fair to suggest that McNamara's book and articles on the murderer gave the search for the GSK momentum.)

Details are starting to come in.  His past as a cop, his sister's reaction; the reveal that a consumer genealogy site was used to catch him; and now his first court appearance.  To be able to break down (hint hint Bill Rankin - I know it's not local to ATL, but c'mon!) this court case with the extensive background knowledge of the crimes is going to fascinate listeners, provide some measure of surety to victims and their families, and hopefully scare potential predators from terrorizing their neighborhoods.

New Favorite True Crime Podcasts and Why

As a former TV producer, I like organized, well-laid out podcasts.  Just as we had a firm structure to the TV episodes we produced, a podcast should have a good structure, move quickly, and not be self indulgent. Just the facts, ma'am . (Exception: My Favorite Murder. yes, I'm a 'skipper,' moving past the first 20 minutes of banter, but if accidentally don't go too far enough, the ladies are really funny and easy to listen to.  They have a rare chemistry and comic instincts - after all, they are both professional performers/writers in one way or another.)

There are so many out there now, it's impossible to keep track.  I've culled through a lot of stinkers to find my new favorites (to find their place on my playlist next to the venerable OG true crime podcasts such as Last Podcast from the Left, Undisclosed, Crime Writers On, etc.)

My new favorites:

1. Misconduct.  Colleen and Eileen carefully break down crimes in a compact podcast, with a little friendly catchup at the beginning. I like their voices in particular; to me, they sound just as good as any NPR reporter on the air. 

2.  Getting Off.  Wanna be lawyers will LOVE this one! Two criminal defense attorneys, Jessa and Nick, discuss in great detail famous cases.  Throwing out their expertise with enthusiasm, you learn a ton about the legal process. They're long, but no minute is wasted.  Sometimes they eat during and the mic picks it up - I don't really care, but purists out there might.  (But really, I don't care.)

3.  Crime In Sports.  It's weird - I really don't follow sports (except for a new fascination with figure skating thanks to Tara Lapinksy and Johnny Weir) but I love the dramatic stories behind the games.  This takes the drama one step further:  Two comedians, James Pietragallo and Jimmie Whisman, take on craziest crime stories in atheletics. Very funny, and well produced.

Survivors: the Cleveland Kidnappings

I've been listening to Killafornia Dreaming Podcasts' vacation series and was blown away by part 1 about the Cleveland, Ohio kidnappings, wisely named after the survivors, Michelle, Amanda, and Georgia.

Who knew the podcast ep would time with the discovery a Perris, CA creepy-ass couple was keeping their kids chained up, and starved and otherwise abused.   I'm so glad they escaped, but what a horrific situation. How can humans do this to another? 

What I loved about the podcast is how how   host detailed the womens' lives, and how they came to be in this horrible situation. It humanized the event and made us feel viscerally there with them; they felt like real people to me, more so than they had when I read about the event. It's astonishing how this guy had a family that had no idea it was occurring.

As I await part 2, I went back down an internet rabbit hole. Here are some interesting links about the case and how the survivors rebuilt their lives.

Update on Survivors - 5/17

Interview with Amanda and Gina

Ariel Castro's daughter speaks to CNN

Martinis and Murder: My new favorite podcast

If you're a true crime buff, you've been all over the rebrand of Oxygen.  I myself was THRILLED to see Cold Justice reappear on the channel, and have been watching it religiously now that it's back on TV.  As I was watching the premiere (or maybe it was the second ep), I saw the hashtag #martinisandmurder on the lower right of the screen, touting the podcast of the same name.

I'm so glad I checked it out, because it's a very organized, well-researched podcast, with content from a variety of resources, including Oxygen content.  So if you don't have time to watch Snapped or other specials, they've got you covered.

Daryn Carp and John Thrasher provide a combination of researched explanations and of-the-people commentary about the events that unfold in each of their cases, and wicked humor as well, since they're always exasperated by Matt the producer/drinks maker (each podcast features a martini recipe that they sip on throughout the episode). 

So while it's clearly a way to market Oxygen's rebrand and content, it stands on its own and comes across as an authentic breakdown of the craziest crimes of recent memory, and provides two charismatic hosts that now have their own growing fan base.  One more fabulous podcast to add to the playlist.

Oh Hell No: Payne Lindsay is NOT a podcaster, everyone

Picture this: I'm on a plane,delayed several hours, having been stuck in airport limbo waiting for this connecting flight. I'm tired, I overspent on airplane food (having no other options), and I turn to my precious Stitcher app to see what podcast can ease my way for the final hour of my long trip.

I see that "Crime Writers On" is spilling tea about a certain happening at the podcast convention (Podcast Movement) some of the hosts attended, about Payne Lindsey. If you don't know him, he's the creator of "Up and Vanished," where he looked into the case of a Tara Grinstead. SPOILER BELOW:

Possibly due to the attention his podcast drew to the case, an arrest was made.

Anyone would be a little proud of the effect their work had on a real life case, but Lindsay took it to the next level.  He aired segments of interviews of people complimenting him on his work, and then had a live show of the podcast that was way too over the top considering the sobering case as its subject.  I was disconcerted by this, and wasn't too sure about listening to the next season. Also, the final few episodes were super repetitive.

Well, apparently his arrogance also spread to real life, as described by the team at Crime Writers On.  He gave a presentation disparaging other podcasters (!) far more experienced than he, and had models in t-shirts with supposedly disruptive messaging ( I believe he wore a shirt that said I AM NOT A PODCASTER).  This also turned into a twitter war between established podcasters and Lindsay's acolytes.  Listen to the recap here.

This whole affair shines a light on the fine line between investigation and entertainment.  While Serial revolutionized podcasts, Hae Min Lee's family is still grieving intensely and dealing with the publicity.  An episode of "Snapped" may be engrossing television,  but real people die in the telling. That said, for the most part, the best true crime podcasts have an activist, heartfelt feel, and you don't see people like Bob Ruff and the  Undisclosed team parading around like peacocks.  They're too busy solving crimes and saving lives to do so.

Funnily enough, a parody podcast that really nails Up and Vanisheds' MO and style, Done Disappeared, is becoming a hit and is a total delight. It pokes gentle fun and even skewered Crime Writers On, much to their delight.  John David Booter (also a hilarious name) is investigating the disappearance of Clara Pockets, in 10-minute hysterical snippets that also parody the ads that show up during these podcasts (I particularly love when something horrific is being detailed in a podcast and then it cuts to, with no warning, a jaunty ad for, like, Blue Apron.)  Well done, John David, whoever you REALLY are (perhaps a podcaster who attended the Podcast Movement conference?)