Our Latest Obsession: The 'S-Town' Podcast (No Spoilers)

by Joelle Wisler
Serial Productions

Drop everything you are reading/watching/listening to right now and download the entire seven episodes of the S-Town podcast immediately. And then sit your kids in front of a television for a few days, plug in some headphones, and forget about any feelings of mom guilt — it’s that good.

I listened to the entire S-Town podcast over a period of about 48 hours, which might say something about my self-control. During that time, I’m not really sure if I showered or if my children were fed or if the world outside of the little town of Woodstock, Alabama, even existed. Someone said at the beginning of the podcast that listening to it was like stepping into a novel — and that’s exactly what it’s like. Except it’s real life, filled with a possible murder, a brilliant, quirky clockmaker with a lot of secrets, hidden gold, and a crazy twist at the end that you won’t see coming. I learned some stuff, people.

John B. McLemore hates his town of Woodstock, Alabama, and he doesn’t know why he hasn’t ever left. The description on the website describes it like this, “he asks Brian [a This American Life producer] to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, and 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.”

Ahh! Take my money!

Oh wait, did I mention that it’s free?

S-Town (which is actually short for Shit-Town) was produced by the same people who brought us Serial and This American Life, and I swear I feel like Brian Reed is my best friend after spending seven-ish hours listening to him unearth the whole bizarre story. He brought the town to life in a such a relatable, humorous, human way — it was if I was right there beside him in John B. McLemore’s maze, or in the tattoo shop worrying about confronting a possible murderer, or as he pieced together all of the surprising details of the intertwined lives in this small town.

I grew up in a small town, with its odd characters, and wild history, and mysteries that were never solved. The producers did an excellent job at peeling back the cultural, socioeconomic, and racial layers of a small town in Alabama. I had dreams about this place, and I will probably make a trip to Woodstock someday — did I mention I was a little obsessed with this story?

I don’t want to give away any details because you need to be as enthralled at every twist and turn as I was. I literally had to stop it at one point and pick my jaw up off the ground. I do recommend that you experience it with someone else so that you have another person to process your emotions with — or else you’ll become that annoying friend like me who is begging people to listen to it.

Variety states that the S-Town podcast set a record at over 10 million downloads in just four days. Once you start listening, you will understand why.