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S-Town is an investigative journalism podcast hosted by Brian Reed and created by the producers of Serial and This American Life.[1] All seven chapters were released on March 28, 2017. The podcast was downloaded a record-breaking 10 million times in four days.[2]

An elaborate set of gears surrounded by flowers
Artwork by Valero Doval
Hosted by Brian Reed
Genre
  • Investigative journalism
  • Serialized audio narrative
Language English
Production
  • Brian Reed
  • Julie Snyder
Theme music composed by Daniel Hart
Ending theme "A Rose for Emily" (The Zombies)
Audio format Podcast (via streaming or downloadable MP3)
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 7
Website stownpodcast.org

Contents

TitleEdit

Though the podcast was promoted under the name S-Town, Reed reveals this is a euphemism for "Shit Town"—John B. McLemore's derogatory term for his hometown[1]—in the first episode. Reed generally refers to the podcast by the non-euphemized name in the episodes themselves.

SynopsisEdit

In 2012, antiquarian horologist John B. McLemore[3] sent an email to the staff of the show This American Life asking them to investigate an alleged murder in his hometown Woodstock, Alabama, a place McLemore claimed to despise. After a year of exchanging emails and several months of conversation with McLemore, producer Brian Reed traveled to the small town in Alabama to investigate.[4]

Reed investigates the crime, and eventually finds that no such murder took place. However he strikes up a friendship with the depressive but colorful character of McLemore over the coming months, recording conversations with McLemore and other persons in Woodstock.

McLemore committed suicide using potassium cyanide on June 22, 2015,[5] while the podcast was still in production. In the narrative of the podcast, this occurs in the second episode, and subsequent episodes deal with the fallout from McLemore's death and explore more of McLemore's life and character.

Persons involvedEdit

  • Brian Reed – host, executive producer
  • John B. McLemore – horologist
  • Mary Grace McLemore – John B. McLemore's elderly mother
  • Dylon Nicols – purported to have been murdered by Kabrahm Burt
  • Jake Goodson – employee of John, brother of Tyler; heard details of murder from Kabrahm
  • Skyler Goodson – wife of Jake Goodson
  • Tyler Goodson – younger friend and employee of McLemore[6]
  • Kabrahm Burt – rumored to have committed a murder[7]
  • Allen Bearden – clock repairman based in Pell City, Alabama, friend of McLemore
  • Reta Lawrence – McLemore's cousin
  • Charlie Lawrence – husband of McLemore's cousin Reta
  • Jeff Dodson – mayor of Woodstock; briefly a business partner with McLemore in a nursery
  • Faye Gamble – Woodstock town clerk
  • Allan “Bubba” Cresswell – co-owned tattoo parlor with Tyler Goodson[8]

EpisodesEdit

All episodes were released simultaneously on 28 March 2017. The podcast is available to stream or download for free on the S-Town website, iTunes,[9] Stitcher,[10] Radiopublic[11] or through the RSS feed.[12]

# Title Length (minutes:seconds) Original release date
I "If you keep your mouth shut, you’ll be surprised what you can learn." 51:57 March 28, 2017 (2017-03-28)
II "Has anybody called you?" 41:11 March 28, 2017 (2017-03-28)
III "Tedious and brief." 53:04 March 28, 2017 (2017-03-28)
IV "If anybody could find it, it would be me." 61:34 March 28, 2017 (2017-03-28)
V "Nobody’ll ever change my mind about it." 61:25 March 28, 2017 (2017-03-28)
VI "Since everyone around here thinks I’m a queer anyway." 46:02 March 28, 2017 (2017-03-28)
VII "You’re beginning to figure it out now, aren’t you?" 62:27 March 28, 2017 (2017-03-28)

MusicEdit

S-Town incorporates various specially composed pieces of music throughout the episodes from composers Daniel Hart, Helado Negro, Trey Pollard, and Matt McGinley, including an S-Town theme produced by Hart.[13] The show's closing music, used at the end of each episode, is "A Rose for Emily" by The Zombies.[13]

Further developmentsEdit

Shortly after the release of the podcast, John's online obituary was flooded with support and shared reflections from around the world.[14] In an April 2017 interview, Tyler Goodson said that "sometimes I regret ever speaking into that microphone because I was probably upset, or wasn't thinking clearly" since he faced trial for the criminal actions included in the serial.[15] In October 2017, Goodson plead guilty to the burglaries described in the podcast and will serve five years on probation with a ten-year suspended sentence.[16]

ReceptionEdit

The podcast of S-Town was culturally popular and received mixed critical reviews. The Boston Globe's Ty Burr thought the show was complex and voyeuristic. He asked the question, "Is 'S-Town' a freak show for the NPR crowd?" and described the series as "seven chapters of provocative red herrings that almost but never quite add up to a place, a people, or a man".[17] Jessica Goudeau from The Atlantic wondered how Flannery O’Connor, Robert Lowell, or Elizabeth Bishop would have reacted to the podcast and the exploration of poor, white, rural America.[18] Slate’s Katy Waldman wrote that S-Town feels more like a new genre, “something more like aural literature.”[19]

The podcast's critics claimed that the studio took advantage of John's death in order to gain publicity. Crixeo argues that Reed did not have the right to publicly out John as queer.[20] While at the same time, other views share that S-Town was a way for them to take the story of John's death and shed light on mental health in the U.S.[21]

In May 2017, the podcast series was downloaded over 40 million times.[22] The podcast continued to be popular since it was ranked 11th in downloads as of August 2017 and continues to be analyzed by the press.[23]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Locke, Charley. "The Creators of 'Serial' Are Back With 'S-Town,' a Binge-Ready New Podcast". WIRED. 
  2. ^ Moran, Rob, "New podcast from Serial makers, S-Town, breaks download records", The Sydney Morning Herald, April 3, 2017
  3. ^ Taylor, Drew. "Woodstock man at the center of "S-Town" podcast". tuscaloosanews.com. Retrieved 29 March 2017. 
  4. ^ Dibdin, Emma. "How The Serial Team's New Podcast S-Town Evolved From True Crime Into Human Tragedy". Esquire. Retrieved 29 March 2017. 
  5. ^ "John B. McLemore Obituary - Bessemer, Al". The Birmingham News. Internet Archive: Legacy.com. 26 June 2015. Archived from the original on 26 December 2017. Retrieved 9 December 2017. 
  6. ^ Dwilson, Stephanie Dube. "Tyler Goodson of S-Town: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". heavy.com. Retrieved 29 March 2017. 
  7. ^ Larson, Sarah. ""S-TOWN" INVESTIGATES THE HUMAN MYSTERY". newyorker.com. Retrieved 1 April 2017. 
  8. ^ O'Neill, Connor Towne. "Residents of So-called 'Shit Town' Are Conflicted Over S-Town". Vulture. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  9. ^ "S-Town by WBEZ on Apple Podcasts". Apple Podcasts. Retrieved 2017-06-21. 
  10. ^ "S-Town". www.stitcher.com. Retrieved 2017-06-21. 
  11. ^ "S-Town". Retrieved 2017-06-21. 
  12. ^ "S-Town". feeds.stownpodcast.org. Retrieved 2017-06-21. 
  13. ^ a b "S-Town: Music Credits". stownpodcast.org. Retrieved 3 April 2017. 
  14. ^ admin (2015-06-26). "John McLemore Obituary – Bessemer, Alabama". Legacy.com. Retrieved 2017-06-16. 
  15. ^ Fortin, Jacey; Salam, Maya (2017-06-16). "Tyler Goodson of 'S-Town' Accused of Killing Brother's Dog". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-06-21. 
  16. ^ "S-Town's Tyler Goodson pleads guilty to charges tied to events in podcast". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2017. 
  17. ^ Burr, Ty (2017-04-18). "Is 'S-Town' art or exploitation? It's complicated". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2017-06-12. 
  18. ^ Goudeau, Jessica (2017-04-09). "Was the Art of S-Town Worth the Pain?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2017-06-12. 
  19. ^ Waldman, Katy (2017-03-31). "The Gorgeous New True Crime Podcast S-Town Is Like Serial but Satisfying". Slate. Retrieved 2017-06-12. 
  20. ^ "'S-Town' and the Ethics of Storytelling – Crixeo". Crixeo. 2017-05-29. Retrieved 2017-06-16. 
  21. ^ "7 Ways 'S-Town' Showed How Devastating Mental Illness Can Be". Health.com. Retrieved 2017-06-16. 
  22. ^ Quah, v (2017-05-04). "S-Town Has Exceeded 40M Downloads, Which Is Truly a Ton of Downloads". Retrieved 2017-07-24. 
  23. ^ SALAM, MAYA (11 August 2017). "Can't Let Go of 'S-Town'? Here's What to Read Next". New York Times. Retrieved 12 August 2017.