I've written before of my love for the podcast Criminal. It remains one of my favorite podcasts; I've worked all the way through the back episodes and now eagerly await each new one every two weeks.
It was while listening to Criminal that I heard about a new podcast, Crime Town. Focused on organized crime, this podcast aims to run multiple seasons -- each season centering on a different city's checkered past. The first season is all about Providence, Rhode Island, and the corrupt mayor who worked in tandem with the mob during the late 70s and early 80s. This show was billed to Criminal listeners as right up their alley, and maybe for the average listener it is. But for some reason, I've always been somewhat put off by movies and TV about the mob, and whatever reason that is seems to extend in large measure to podcasts too.
Much like Serial, Crime Town aims to be telling one story over the course of multiple episodes. Unlike Serial, I'm not sure I have a clear sense of what that story is. Just one or two episodes into the two seasons (so far) of Serial, I already felt deeply interested in the story being unspooled. With Crime Town, I don't feel clear on how any given week's piece of the tale fits into the big picture. "Characters" recur over time, but often go missing for several episodes at a stretch, and don't always return with reminders of where we left them last. I find myself experiencing each episode as an island unto itself.
As a fan of Criminal, a podcast that is exactly "an island unto itself" with each episode, that's not inherently a problem. But Criminal uses this format to tell wildly different stories from a broad range of perspectives -- and this is a huge part of the appeal. Every episode of Crime Town, by contrast, is about tails, wiretaps, hits, bribery... not quite repetitious, but not quite different either. Because Crime Town lives in this space between Serial and Criminal, it's not as engaging to me as either one of those series.
That's not to say I think Crime Town is without merit. It's a well produced show that includes lots of rare archival material and new interviews. Nine episodes in (out of an announced 20), I'm still listening to new installments. But that is largely in the hopes that I'll get caught up in it more deeply.
If you're a mobster fan, you should absolutely check it out. For everyone else, I'll tag the podcast with a tepid B-. If I'm still hanging onto it by the time season one has wrapped and season two has begun, I'll probably be back with a more enthusiastic update.