This Sounds Serious: fictitious audio-documentary is hilarious
Good-natured podcast is a wonderful and gentle satire of true-crime genre
This Sounds Serious: satirical podcast investigates the death of a much-beloved local television weatherman.
The genre of the true-crime podcast is almost entirely unavoidable to both habitual listeners and people tuning in for the first time. Earlier this year, the Onion fired clear and hilarious shots at the form in A Very Fatal Murder. Though this zippy little show was funny and on-point, at times it felt a little like a string of targeted and very specific jokes with nothing more underneath. Cue This Sounds Serious, another satire of the true-crime oeuvre, but this time with a little more depth and texture than the Onion’s scathing take.
This Sounds Serious is a fictitious audio-documentary, in which the death of a much-beloved local television weatherman is investigated. The production here is so authentic that while listening, my husband turned to me and genuinely had to ask if the show was real or written. Even the archive footage sounds legitimate: some of that is down to committed performances, and the rest to careful and considered audio design and a subtle soundscape. The host, Gwen Radford, performed with total dedication by Carly Pope, gives us an earnest and dignified NPR-style reporter. She’s easy to get on side with. This clear pastiche of Serial’s Sarah Koenig is very satisfying and funny without resorting to mockery: it never feels cruel or metallic. There’s an earnestness to Radford that is easy to get behind, even in the surreal landscape of her investigation.
Bizarre and funny
The dialogue at times sounds very normal and appropriate for a crime drama, but then sinks into bizarre and extremely funny intervals that make this a genuinely hilarious journey to take. Radford’s primary interviewee in the first episode is Daniel Brondstadt, the brother of the deceased weatherman. He is presented in a way that is reminiscent of S-Town’s John B McLemore, but again, and vitally, not in a way that feels underhand or cruel. I can honestly say that the dialogue written for him is some of the funniest I have ever heard: this is excellent, good-natured satire. It doesn’t need to be unkind to be hilarious, and this is a triumph on the part of the writers.
There are only eight episodes in the first series, and I would wholly recommend a listen. While there certainly is reward for those listeners who are au fait with the true-crime genre or who have listened to and loved Serial and S-Town, this show stands alone as a weird and hilarious creation.