The Returned mets Serial: welcome to Limetown

I came to the podcast Serial midway through its run—just in time to still be a bit of a tastemaker, but way behind the real cool kids—based on recommendations but without any real knowledge of what I was getting into. Now I don’t mean I didn’t know what it was about, I mean I didn’t actually know what it was: a few episodes in, I wasn’t 100% sure if it was a documentary or a drama, and I was totally OK with that.

It was, of course, a real story, well told. But what if? What if this had been a drama. Limetown is a new podcast that seems to answer that question. It’s a drama, played as a radio documentary, about a mysterious unexplained disappearance in the fictional community of Limetown. If you can imagine The Returned meets Serial then you’ve got a good sense of what this is.

The show captures the Serial style well. ‘Lia Haddock’ is your Sarah Koenig, and the show is produced for ‘APR’ (American Public Radio, standing in for NPR or PRX). The producers have captured the signature flourishes of quality podcasts well: the way Lia leads into her audio packages, the way they use music beds, and the way that they pace the story-telling. It’s all very crisp. The only places where the mask slips is in some of the dialogue. Most of the talk seems natural enough, but some of the packages/scenes slip into a rapid Q&A format which don’t really seem to fit the model. Hopefully as the season progresses and the writers gain confidence in what they’re doing, they can reel that back in.

There’s only been one episode so far, so you can get in early with the cool kids. It’s an interesting format and I hope it can deliver across the whole run.