I’m constantly refreshing my Pocket Casts recommendation feed in order to find new shows to pick up. There have been more than a few times where it has worked in my favor such as the time where it suggested Detective (just finished its absolutely incredible first season and I will be reviewing it), Theoretically Speaking (which introduced me to the amazing Christian Bök), and an independent radio drama production of The Long Halloween (one of the single best Batman graphic novels and a great podcast). However, out of all the podcasts the app has suggested, I’m not sure any of them have blown me away like Limetown.
Limetown is a monthly fictional audio series about a small town in Tennessee where all of its residents disappeared overnight, never to be heard from again.
Drawing influences from podcasts such as Welcome to Night Vale and Serial and television shows such as The X-Files and Fringe, Limetown is presented in a “War of the Worlds” style radio broadcast where it’s fictional content is presented as fact from a reporter in the field, discovering each new detail about the incident, on a fictional radio network. If this were on a real radio network, it would be hard to distinguish it between fact and fiction. The reporter, Lia Haddock, played by Annie-Sage Whitehurst, doesn’t exist. The radio network, American Public Radio, is made up. But the conviction and intensity with which Lia reports her findings would convince anyone, who doesn’t know that the story they are hearing is a fictional, that something truly unusual happened ten years ago in Limetown, Tennessee. In fact, the day I discovered the podcast, I had read its description and convinced myself that the unreported story was a conspiracy and that I would be treated to a seven episode story that would convince me to do my own research in an effort to find out what happened to the three hundred people. Thankfully, I quickly understood that the show was fictional and didn’t book my tickets to Tennessee or take to the streets spouting off mad conspiracy theories.
Where to find this show?
So before talking about the episodes themselves, its necessary to talk about the show’s creation. The show was created by Zack Akers and Skip Bronkie, a duo of film students who met at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, who created the show on a simple premise: they wanted to make a podcast that felt more like a film. While there doesn’t exist a wealth of information from behind the scenes, the interview Akers and Bronkie did with NiemanLab serves as the single best resource for the genesis of the show. In the article, Akers explains that he and Bronkie are filmmakers but the cost of the medium is “a difficult market to crack”. Meanwhile, podcasts exist as a cheaper platform to tell the stories that they have always wanted to tell. Bronkie explains the ease of use of using the medium of Podcasts: “We were two filmmakers who knew we couldn’t make a feature film on top of our nights and weekends and day jobs. There was no reason we couldn’t take what we know about narrative and documentary film and put it into a podcast.” They drew their influence from the public radio narrative style of This American Life and Radiolab where the interviewers inject themselves into the flow but without influencing the direction that the episode is taking and borrowing heavily from the community radio style broadcast format that was popularized by Welcome to Night Vale.
Limetown is the team’s first project and has been in development since 2013. The first episode was recorded in May 2014 with an impressive cast that included 27 actors. It was finally released in July 2015. Once launched, it was featured on the homepage of iTunes and had well over 10,000 subscribers and became almost an overnight sensation. At the time of this writing, there are four proper episodes and two mini-episodes. Akers has said that this first season will be told in seven parts and, due to the irregular release schedule, will be punctuated by shorter episodes that act as breaking news that are happening in the present day during the narrative. While there is no plan for a second season after the seven episode run, the team promises us that all of the episodes are outlined and the show will have a proper ending by its conclusion.
Where to start?
Since the narrative is chronological and builds upon the previous episode, this is one of the few podcasts that you cannot simply jump in with the newest episode. In short, you have to start this show from the beginning in order to enjoy the story as it unfolds. I will let you know that, like most shows, it starts off a little slower and does take some time to explain its premise. However, if you aren’t hooked by episode two, simply put, this show is not for you. I cannot recommend it enough and, truth be told, it has quickly become one of my favorite shows. Enjoy!
The Beginning & The Best Episode
Since I first thought of featuring this podcast, I’ve struggled to figure out how exactly I was going to approach this section. I strongly believe that the podcast is best enjoyed without having any prior knowledge of where the narrative is headed and that the surprises and dark twists and turns it takes are part of why the show quickly rose the ranks of my favorite podcasts. Where I would normally take the time to write up episode summaries of the first episode and the best episode, I feel it it is necessary, for the reasons I’ve just explained, to leave out the deep explanation I usually provide in this series and simply want to encourage you to experience the show yourself. However, in lieu of the analysis, I am providing you a very basic synopsis of each of the first episodes in the series and hope that the sparse details will make you stop reading and go listen. I’ve tried to keep its summary brief in an effort to avoid spoilers. If you would rather not read anything before listening to the show, please skip ahead or come back this entry once you’ve caught up with the show and let me know if I’ve done well to summarize the show’s complex plot.
POTENTIAL SPOILERS BELOW!
Episode 1: What We Know
The first episode begins with an overview of the incident that occurred on February 8th, 2004 and is told through first hand accounts presented by frantic reporters who are struggling to understand what is happening with Lia Haddock, the reporter covering the story, offering a narrative that ties the events together. It begins with a garbled 911 call from a resident of the town who shouts over static that they “need help” at the Limetown facility in Tennessee. When the first responders arrive, they are denied access to the facility by a large group of security at the gates of the community. The reasons for the denied access, as Lia explains, is unknown. The next morning, a helicopter news crew reports that there was no activity in the town and that there is a large smoldering bonfire in the center of town. Three days later, the security team guarding the gate left their post and the police responders were denied the ability to ask them questions. The gate was left open and the world discovered that the 327 men, women, and children that lived in Limetown had vanished. After months of reporting on all the major news outlets, the story disappeared among the other tragedies of the world and Limetown became a fabled ghost story with no explanation about what happened.
Lia Haddock was 17 when the tragedy unfolded. At such an impressionable age, she became obsessed with the town and had personal stake in the matter since her uncle was one of the many who disappeared. She suggests that Limetown was the primary reason she became a reporter and she has dedicated her career to uncovering the mysteries about what happened on that night and what was happening before the tragedy took place. She dedicates the series to those that are missing and hopes that it will provide those affected by the tragedy some relief.
The rest of the episode is told through a series of interviews with those impacted by the tragedy and through archival interviews with those that disappeared. It sets up the narrative with the suggestion that the citizens may have been part of a brainwashed cult by a messianic leader who convinced them to uproot themselves from the rest of society and find a new life serving his vision. But that vision is unknown the world and they are unsure of what was happening behind the gates of Limetown.
Limetown is a smart, scary, and amazingly well produced fictional podcast in a world of mostly non-fiction podcasts. When I first heard it, I felt like it was a breath of fresh air that I so sorely needed. It has provided me so much entertainment in such a short period of time and I find myself going back and listening to the older episodes while waiting for the new ones to air (something I never do). There are so many moments I would love to discuss in greater detail but think its best that anyone interested experience the show before I prattle on about how great it is. Just please make sure you ask me about shared emotional consciousness between a man and pig. If you have no idea what I mean by this, you need to hear episode three. In short, I would definitely recommend this podcast to those that are looking for something that feels like a David Lynch movie in a podcast form. Its weird, its strange, and it is so addicting and is not to be missed.