From the creators of the hit podcast, “Serial,” a new seven-chapter series aiming to revolutionize the form has arrived. Unfortunately, “S-Town” misses the mark considerably.
Admittedly, this opinion of “S-Town” is in the minority. The podcast has a four-and-a-half-star rating on iTunes and has been praised almost universally by critics. “S-Town” has not, however, gained the mainstream attention of its predecessor, “Serial.”
The first season of “Serial” was a flawless example of a great true-crime podcast: superb reporting, undivided focus on its subject, and a solid whodunit. For this, “Serial” gained national media attention — it’s loved because it’s great.
With “S-Town,” we are simply told to love it. The creators of “S-Town” appear to simply expect a smash hit that will bring along a flood of first-time podcast listeners, as did “Serial.”
Without any spoilers, “S-Town” is the story of John McLemore, a man living in a rural Alabama town who believes a murder has been covered up by a prominent local family. It is soon revealed that the murder never occurred, and the podcast instead tells the story of McLemore himself.
Advertised as a new form of narrative, true-crime podcast; it’s really just a dressed-up audio book. It’s a podcast that seems to disregard everything that makes a good podcast great (and there’s no crime).
This was not the story fans of “Serial” were expecting or were promised in previews that ran on show’s podcast feed.
“It’s incredible,” Producer Ira Glass said in a preview. “Hearing it in the edits, I felt the same excitement that I felt when we were doing edits on the first season of ‘Serial.’”
The problem is that “S-Town” is nothing like “Serial.”
The story of John McLemore has potential, and even shines at times, but at the end of the day, it has no business being over seven hours-long. “S-Town” would probably make a great hour-long episode of someone else’s podcast.
It’s the endless uninteresting plot points described in the most conceited way imaginable that truly ruin “S-Town.” Listening to this podcast is like having a waiter describe a decadent, gourmet dinner to you, only for him to bring out a McDonald’s Happy Meal that’s been sitting in the car too long.
For now, it seems “Serial” has yet to be dethroned, leaving the podcasting world waiting for a true mainstream hit.