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Every month here on PodStuff we’ll highlight the best of the new crop of podcasts on the scene, and give you a definitive range of new, weird and wonderful podcasts that you can get stuck into. This week it’s Serial Season 3, a rare success in the “Mecast” genre, and some pop culture vampires.
Serial: Season 3
I think we can all agree that Serial Season 2 was disappointing. Of course, it was always going to be hard to ride another perfect wave, one that would match the staggering popularity and cult-following of season 1. But season 2 was just so… flat. Much hand-wringing ensued – was it because it was historical footage, cobbled together? Was the story too boring, too simplistic? Did it lack the international appeal of season 1? Whatever the combination of reasons as to why season 2 didn’t meet the incredibly high expectations of the rabid fandom, season 3 was still eagerly anticipated; fans retained some semblance of hope – and they have not been disappointed.
If you are in doubt as to whether or not to revisit Serial because you are wounded by Season 2 – fear not. Sarah Koenig is back on form, and then some. This season, instead of taking on a single story, Koenig and the team take on the American criminal justice through the lens of a single court system in Cleveland, Ohio. Koenig spent over a year in the Cleveland court system for the show, recording countless small criminal cases like marijuana possession, bar brawls and minor assaults.
And the devil is, as they say, in the details. Staying true to the ethos of parent show This American Life, Serial Season 3 both tells the story of the human condition and holds up a mirror to society by sharing the experiences of regular folks. Racism, police corruption, massive injustices, minor injustices, plain old bureaucratic incompetence; it’s all here within the walls of these court rooms and out of the mouths of the judges, attorneys and defendants. And through these seemingly small stories – minor gripes with system failure, the racist judge, the judge that always sides with law enforcement – we hear the story of the new world order in today’s USA. Particularly in light of the Brett Kavanaugh scandal, the out of control, power-hungry judges are haunting spectres of what could be. Serial Season 3 is Childish Gambino’s “This is America” on blast. Get downloading, get goosebumps, get angry.
There are a lot of ‘Mecasts’ out there at the moment – podcasts which are really about the host as opposed to the content. I’m not usually a fan; the person at the helm needs to be particularly compelling in order for me to return to it. Tara Flynn is one of the few who can really pull it off (she’d enjoy that, the filthy yoke), and she does it with joy, and fervour, and skill, and aplomb.
Tara is one of those people I like to imagine I’m friends with. Her tone of voice, whether through her books, articles, social media or on this podcast is intimate, personal and kind. She has a very rare ability to make you feel like you are meeting someone you happen to admire and care about for tea and bickies. She’s unwaveringly honest. And not honest in a curated, polished, “this is the REAL me” way. Just honest in a natural, feck it lads we’re all in this together way.
The podcast itself is weird, and rambling, and poignant, and political, and hilarious, and disjointed; exactly how you would wish it to be. Tara manages to artfully disguise your daily dose of vegetables (politics, feminist theory, social justice) into personal and often hilarious stories, reflections, anecdotes, poetry. And I know, I KNOW you are not meant to comment on women’s voices in podcasting because that’s as big a faux pas as commenting on what she was wearing, not what she was saying (cough, vocal fry, cough)… but Tara has a beautiful voice and accent, it’s soothing and restful and springy and joyful. It makes me happy. Tara makes me happy. This podcast is lovely, warm, honest, raw, unfiltered, no bollocks. Tara’s really carving out an importance space in the podcast landscape here; and I can’t wait to see where she takes it.
“Like being smothered by an enormous red duvet…”
Guys, I’m an absolute sucker (wokka wokka) for Dracula and vampire pop culture. So as soon as I heard that one of my favourite radio producers, Liam Geraghty (Meet Your Maker), was producing a four-part podcast for the Bram Stoker Festival, I was already all in… garlic in my hair, covered in blood and headphones on, patiently waiting in my coffin for the preview to episode 1. The first episode is a fast-paced, fun-filled whistle-stop tour through the life of Bram Stoker; and the podcast promises to bring us on a journey through Dracula’s permeation of culture and the birth of an iconic figure which permeated our collective imaginations and embodied our subconscious fears of the Other.
A little Rocky Horror, a little This American Life, the podcast takes us through Dracula’s many historical incarnations, through the lens of academics and cultural critics whose spirited opinions will have you waving your fist at your podcatcher (Bella Lugosi is the best Dracula, fight me). It delivers a unique insight into the life and times of Dracula’s creator, the historical and sociological context of Stoker’s vision, and its enduring impact on our culture.
BRB, off to watch The Lost Boys again.
Episode 1 of FANGS launches on October 1st, with a new episode every week leading up to the festival on 26th – 29th in Dublin.