Monday, November 21, 2016

Inexplicable Podcast Review: Crimetown, a Serial-like show in my backyard

The appropriate cover art for the Crimetown podcast.

Two episodes of Gimlet’s Crimetown dropped on Sunday, and good god, I’m hooked already. If you’re looking for a fix when it comes to narrative non-fiction, well, you need to subscribe to the show. It’s seemingly a weekly, slow burner along the lines of Serial’s good first season, Making A Murderer or The Jinx.

The show is about the entwining of the mob, politics and everyday folks in Rhode Island, and specifically the capital city of Providence. The main interviewers and narrators are Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier, the guys responsible for HBO sensation The Jinx. However, the true stars are the bizarre characters and archived audio clips they’ve found to tell the story.

The first episode is a bit slow overall, but the three minutes feature some whopper grand jury testimony about Providence mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci – that a man has accused him of assaulting him, and burning him with a cigarette. It’s foreshadowing, since the episode is about how he’s trying to convict a mobster, Raymond Patriarca, while he’s still serving as a prosecutor. At the time, Providence was considered the #3 mob territory, behind New York City and Chicago.

I was onboard through the first episode, but the second one really hooked me. At the start, we’re introduced to the owner of a moving company, and a Dungeons and Dragons enthusiast. Within five minutes, we find out that both served as enforcers for Patriarca, and the episode is all about how he found and recruited his guys.

Through two episodes and about 60 minutes of content, Crimetown plays like an extended version of some of the better Mafia movies. I realize that subject matter isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and it seems like content that’s been covered to death. But the podcast format lends itself well to the subject matter, and there is time to explore some of the more mundane things, like, “How the heck does the Mafia recruit people anyway?”

Of course, for my personal enjoyment, it helps that the subject matter is Rhode Island. I must admit to being negligent when it comes to my Crooked RI History, as I have don’t know much of the backstory about Cianci and the mob in Providence. However, I do recognize some of the characters and locations, since Federal Hill is the main backdrop. They mention an early Cianci pal, Vinny Vespia, and then interview him. Like a movie, he became a small-town police chief until retiring this year.

So, I’m hooked. I’ll keep listening and writing about Crimetown for the next few episodes. I’m juggling it with Gilmore Girls, trying to catch up as quickly as I can since the new episodes are coming out, so it’s going to be a busy couple of weeks. (And, quite the juxtaposition in content…)

I’ve written about podcasts here and there, and this entry from 2014, after Serial finished, is still mostly valid. And hey, I host a podcast! If you like pre-2000s video games, check out Your Parents Basement.

Want to support Steve’s blogging? Then purchase something via the Amazon clickthru link for Your Parents Basement, Steve’s other project! To read all of Steve’s past Inexplicable Movie Reviews, click here! For Inexplicable TV Reviews, click here! For Inexplicable Video Game Reviews, click here! And for Inexplicable Book Reviews, go here!

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