S-Town is a new podcast from Serial and This American Life, hosted by Brian Reed, about 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.
When Serial came out, I was totally obsessed with season one. Season two, not so much. I’ve yet to try listening to This American Life. There’s so many episodes, I don’t know where to start! So when I heard that there was a new podcast out by them, I was slightly hesitant. Was I going to get hooked, but then be disappointed? The answer is no. I was hooked, and remained hooked until the last episode. Then I felt empty. You’ll understand in a few minutes.
What makes S-Town different from Serial is the focus on storytelling. With Serial, yes there was a story, but it was more of a whodunit more than anything else. I was caught up in it like I am in my true crime shows and podcasts. With S-Town, I felt like I was in a book. Brian Reed does a great job of letting the townspeople of Woodstock, Alabama tell their own stories. You can’t help but feel something for them. They’re wonderful people, and characters.
The podcast fades away from its original purpose (trying to solve a murder) and transforms itself into something beautiful. It’s the story of a man and his journey to find his place in the world. It’s about a man who was too smart for his hometown and, at the same time, too dumb to appreciate where he was. It’s about a town that has grown over the years from something small and special (to everyone) to less small and less special (to John). It’s about a man and his demons.
John B. McLemore is a man that I would want to meet. He’s smart and funny, kind and sarcastic, caring and scathing. Listening to his accent made me feel comfortable; thanks to my living in the South, I’m very much used to the Southern accent. I loved the juxtaposition of listening to him talk about climate change and hearing that very thick accent. It’s not something you’d expect to hear. I love how concerned he was about the world around him, but was saddened about him not really doing much about it. Sure, he can only do so much in his small town, but something is better than nothing.
I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but please listen to this show. Once the curveball hits you, it’s a very physical feeling. All the air escaped my lungs and I was just in shock. If you’re looking for a great story to listen to, this is it.