Why ‘Serial’ listeners need to try ‘S-Town’ – the true-crime podcast phenomenon of 2017

From the makers of Serial – it's 'Shit-Town'

If you listened to Serial, there’s a new podcast from that podcast’s creators that you should be listening to. It’s called S-Town, it was released on March 28, and all seven chapters are available right now. Listen to it here – and if you’re not convinced, here’s why you should.

1. It’s made by a This American Life alumnus

S-Town‘s host, Brian Reed, is a producer from This American Life – the enormously popular US show that spawned Serial. He’s a natural, and like Sarah Koenig in Serial he becomes as much a reason for listening as the story itself. And like Serial, it’s presented in a way that aligns Reed’s reactions with your own as a listener – meaning you’ll be invested from the off.

2. It’s about murder

The podcast originated in a series of emails from an Alabama clock-maker called John. John hates his hometown of Woodstock, Alabama – he calls it ‘Shit-Town’ – where everything he sees is basic and degenerate. But what pushes him to make contact in the first place is a murder he’s heard rumours of.


S-Town,” reads the synopsis, “is the story of a man named John who despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it. He asks Brian to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But when someone else ends up dead, the search for the truth leads to a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life.”

3. It’s also about being different in a small community

As the podcast progresses and the investigation of the murder continues, John becomes more of a focus. His enormous IQ puts him at odds with the residents of his small ‘Shit-Town’, and he’s constantly revealing more stories of corruption, and the town’s tacit acceptance of it. But his scrutiny isn’t limited to that – he’s also scathing about wider scale issues: society’s acceptance of climate change, overpopulation and the overfishing of the world’s seas. Resignation is his pet hate – but while John seems like a ruthless cynic, his relationship with the people of Woodstock is full of heart.

4. Sarah Koenig and Ira Glass love it

This American Life‘s Ira Glass says the show is “as good as Serial but different”. Sarah Koenig became globally famous as the presenter of Serial, whose first season about the murder of Hae Min Lee became a huge podcast phenomenon. Koenig says of S-Town: “It’s weird, it’s beautiful, it has a plot that goes in fascinating directions that I never saw coming.”

5. It’s been in production for three years

A huge amount of work has gone into S-Town is staggering. Hours and hours of recording over a period of years have been meticulously put together to deliver the equivalent of a thrilling page-turner. And because it’s all been released at once, you can binge it all now. Listen here.

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