Three of the most talked about podcast series of recent years are also ones that leave you feeling conflicted afterwards, wondering, really, if they even should have been made and published. And yet, ultimately, they’re utterly compelling for their couple hours’ runtime.
Missing Richard Simmons, from Pineapple Street Media, is six episodes long and is a perfect binge listen as Dan Taberski, asks where the eponymous esoteric fitness guru is — released in February 2017, it says Simmons disappeared on February 15, 2014.
It involves Taberski creeping around outside Simmons’ house, talking to his maid, casting aspersions, that, with hindsight, are wildly misguided. People were obsessed with Simmons and in the early episodes, it’s fascinating to hear exactly why. “He saved a lot of people’s lives,” says one. But maybe he earned the right to disappear, whether Taberski likes it or not.
S-Town is from the makers of This American Life and Serial, and was released around the same time as Missing Richard Simmons.
It tells the tale of a similarly enigmatic figure, John B McLemore, who was the go-to guy to fix your clock and is adamant, it seems from the outset of the seven-episode series, that something has happened in this ‘shit town’ in Alabama that he calls home.
It paints itself as a tale of murder but by the end, you’re not sure what to think other than maybe McLemore needed help rather than being recorded. After an intriguing first few episodes, it leaves the listener troubled.
Jon Ronson’s The Last Days of August, originally released on Audible but now available wherever you get your podcasts, investigates a porn star’s death and offers a troubling look at a troubling industry.
August Ames, 23, died by suicide in 2017. She’d had a particularly bad scene on a shoot and had a spouse who was not well-liked in the industry.
But as to whether there’s more there than the tragic suicide of a young woman, as the podcast seems to want you to think, the evidence just doesn’t seem to be there.
YOU’VE GOT TO HEAR THIS: The Bellingcat podcast is one of the big shows of the summer as the journalism collective examines the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over the Ukraine in 2014, an incident that resulted in the deaths of 298 people.