Sunday, June 24, 2018

Podcast Review: This Sounds Serious

I have a Stitcher rotation of about fifteen podcasts I listen to on a regular basis, but I’m always in search of something new and perky to add to my usual line-up. This week I was thrilled to come across the 8-episode scripted series “This Sound Serious,” a parody send-up of “Serial," complete with an overly-earnest narrator and an unsolved murder. It was both hilarious and strangely riveting, and I binge-listened to the entire series in one sitting.  

“This Sounds Serious” follows the story of Gwen Radford, a podcaster who is rabidly obsessed with 911 call recordings. Although she comes across as a straight-laced, NPR reporter-type, it becomes clear pretty quickly that Gwen is deeply nuts—she just doesn’t realize it. The show opens with her playing a 911 recording of oddball Daniel Bronstandt calling in to report that he just found his weatherman brother Chuck dead, apparently drowned in his waterbed. Gwen becomes fixated on the rather bizarre call, and, after months of persistence, finally reaches Daniel in person to talk to him about the recording and get to the bottom of his brother’s mysterious death. This leads to a series of increasingly entangled and outlandish revelations surrounding boy bands, an Alantis-based cult, and a famed murder trial.

“This Sounds Serious” also features a parade of delightful side-characters, including a stern 911 operator, a burnt-out prosecutor, a morally questionable true-crime super-fan, and a breathtakingly talentless music producer. For fans of serialized and true crime podcasts, “This Sounds Serious” hits all the right notes, deliciously satirizing common tropes and fearlessly bringing the crazy. Cleverly written and acted, it somehow manages to be both over-the-top and finely subtle.

In the end, the glaringly obvious solution to the “mystery” of Chuck’s death isn’t even a disappointment since the series is such a fun and wild ride. “This is Serious” is a perfect summer distraction and a testament to the value of skillful writing, which sometimes seems to be in short supply these days. You can download it on whatever podcast engine you use, or listen online here:

--Kristen McHenry

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