S-Town: Chapter I
March 28, 2017 8:40 AM - Subscribe

"If you keep your mouth shut, you'll be surprised what you can learn." From Serial and This American Life comes S•Town, narrated by Brian Reed. Meet John B McLemore, he has some stories to tell...

High expectations... what did you make of this first episode?
posted by progosk (41 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
(Memail me if you're interested in the Google Map coordinates - they're precise.)
posted by progosk at 8:41 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Having listened to this since I started working this morning (Midway through 4th episode now), the first 2 episodes are basically falling down a rabbit hole. Very worth a listen! It is novelistic both in structure and also in that you spend a lot of time wondering how it could possibly be real.
posted by jenjenc at 9:09 AM on March 28


Do they explain anywhere why they've released all the episodes at once?
posted by progosk at 9:17 AM on March 28


(Here's an article - with spoilers - on some of the characters involved.)
posted by progosk at 9:29 AM on March 28


A co-worker and I have committed to not Netflix-cheating on each other on this, so we waited until we were both at work and started the first ep. After it was done, they said "I can't do work and listen to this", so we decided to listen to II at lunch, then III tonight, then lunch-and-evening on Weds and Thurs as well.

I am not anywhere near 100 percent certain that I'm gonna be able to stick to it.
posted by Etrigan at 9:44 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Just finished episode 1...Fascinating so far. I'm going to avoid spoilers from other sources while I continue on, but I'll say that I'm glad that Reed has already introduced the possibility that McLemore could be full of shit, because that had been on my mind from the beginning of the episode.
posted by doctornecessiter at 9:48 AM on March 28


* Or should I say: full of s-.
posted by doctornecessiter at 9:49 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


(If you're up for more John B. McLemore, he wrote a story about one of the dogs he cared for. It's called Death of a Giant, and has been published in this anthology of short stories.)
posted by progosk at 10:50 AM on March 28


Wow, you guys aren't wasting any time, huh? I downloaded it this morning, but I won't get around to listening to it until my drive home. I honestly don't expect it to be as good as the promo on This American Life made it out to be. The parts about the antique clocks sound more interesting than the actual murder story.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:50 AM on March 28


this is super great so far (end of episode 2). i nominate one of you folks to post this to the FP
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 12:33 PM on March 28


So good. I just love John McLemore, what a character!

I haven't listened to a lot of TAL, but I do like the host a lot. You can tell it's from Serial/TAL--he basically sounds like Sarah Koenig.
posted by radioamy at 12:41 PM on March 28


Oh my goodness. What an amazing character. Who is this man with his maze, dogs, clocks and money? I just finished episode one and am going to fire up number two as I make dinner.
posted by Cuke at 1:35 PM on March 28


Not a spoiler exactly, but it's impressive how the story transforms every episode, like John B.'s adjustable maze. Southern Gothic not as just a literary genre, but as a reflection of real life. At the same time, the story has been hand crafted to follow the ruts in the Southern Gothic road, so much that it seems to disrespect and caricature its subjects even while it takes pains to show that it is not doing so.
posted by rikschell at 1:54 PM on March 28 [11 favorites]


Downloaded this on the strength of a trailer that came up on the Serial feed and I was riveted from minute one.

At the same time, the story has been hand crafted to follow the ruts in the Southern Gothic road, so much that it seems to disrespect and caricature its subjects even while it takes pains to show that it is not doing so.

That was my feeling too. Felt like I'd walked into a Harper Lee/James Ellroy mashup.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:11 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


> i nominate one of you folks to post this to the FP

It was posted to the front page last week (here), but the conversation devolved into podcast recommendations because the show wasn't out yet. I doubt the mods would approve another post since it's still open.
posted by noneuclidean at 2:13 PM on March 28


Ok, I was wrong. This is fucking fascinating.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:19 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Erm, wow. Speechless, at the end of all that.
Just, wow.
posted by progosk at 4:38 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


(Couldn't stop, so thanks to the authors for publishing all the episodes in one. No reason, though, that it couldn't have been administered in a more forced cadence, though to binge-listen does drive home the temporal subtext, and the urgency of the end with that much more poignancy.)
posted by progosk at 4:47 PM on March 28


OMG OMG I like it so much.

John McLemore is so good. Shoot, I'm only three episodes in but I want the whole series post. The editing on this series is so smart and subtle.
posted by latkes at 5:35 PM on March 28


I spent the day listening to this and sobbed like a baby at the end. This was like listening to a novel, or a movie. Can a podcast be nominated for an Oscar? Seriously, best thing I've experienced in any medium in a very long time.
posted by mothershock at 6:03 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


I felt like I went in a big circle, the start and the end of that circle being, I am very glad I don't live in Woodstock, Alabama.
posted by jenjenc at 6:34 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


I love it. One eeensy weensy tiny thing that bugged me: he spent the first episode talking about how hard it was to get to talk to Jake, and that John dodged getting them in touch. In the second episode, I think he mentions that he got to meet Jake on the second day he was there.

Clearly, there is a narrative force in play here. I don't mind it in general, but I don't like it when it is so clumsy.

I'm about halfway through the third episode. It's very emotionally engaging. I love how involved he is in the story. Very "Serial" season 1.
posted by montag2k at 6:53 PM on March 28


That guy is Such. A. Character. Like, dayum. Like listening to it makes me want to talk in a Southern accent from now on.

Also, his bitter outbitters your everybody else's bitter.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:08 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


Just finished episode two. I'm going to keep listening, but I kind of feel like this show could have used a trigger warning.
posted by roger ackroyd at 7:52 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


I am on Spring Break. I spent the day spring cleaning and then knitting. I binged the whole thing. Everyone catch up with me! I want to talk about everything. All I can say, is wow.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 10:22 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


After he said that bit about the labyrinth, I tried finding it via that find labyrinth website. I don't think it turned up there though.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:03 PM on March 28


(Memail about that, jenfullmoon.)
posted by progosk at 11:53 PM on March 28


I've also taken the liberty to add it to that (quite singular) website.
posted by progosk at 12:30 AM on March 29


Getting sort of spoilery here. New posts for each episode?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:19 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


It's odd, (Arsenio), in that all episodes were released together (here's something of an explanation for that decision), so that there's no real strong episode-logic at work, it's not really been serialised at all.

So making posts for each episode would almost be like making separate posts for each chapter of a novel...
posted by progosk at 4:33 AM on March 29


Found some photos of the maze on Twitter
posted by pixie at 5:10 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


So making posts for each episode would almost be like making separate posts for each chapter of a novel...

Well there are certain things I'd like to chat with y'all about, but I'm not going to in case anyone is popping in here just to talk about the first episode.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:20 AM on March 29


As per policy, done.
posted by progosk at 5:45 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


As somebody who grew up in a small town he almost certainly has referred to as Shittown before and someone who escaped from the drudgery of this town by reading microfiche at the local library, this episode speaks a lot to my past. I'm very engaged but even this first episode was hard not to spin into something that digs up a bunch of feelings from my own childhood (fortunately, much far removed). I have a feeling that the remaining episodes are going to do this even more.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:42 AM on March 29 [3 favorites]


First thought: I can't wait for S-Town to be the primary reference point for liberal America when they want to signal that they really understand "Trump's America."

Second thought: This is interesting, I'm curious to see where they're going to go with seven episodes.
posted by Tevin at 7:59 AM on March 29


First thought: I can't wait for S-Town to be the primary reference point for liberal America when they want to signal that they really understand "Trump's America."

Don't worry, I have a feeling that liberal America will mount an aggressive backlash to this podcast for giving voice to white supremacists.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:13 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


Full-"season" post here.
posted by progosk at 8:19 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Do they explain anywhere why they've released all the episodes at once?

I suspect it's to prevent gawkers from descending on this town and crawling all over everyone mentioned in the story, as happened in Serial, with some uncomfortable effects. This way, listeners get it all at once without a long awkward week which allows half-baked theories to proliferate and sends people "investigating" into individuals' private lives with incomplete knowledge and zero training.
posted by Miko at 7:17 PM on March 29 [10 favorites]


Also, literally every single person would start googling and get spoiled.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:01 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Found some parallels between McLemore and myself in this. Some of them are just amusing, like both our houses being in our own personal timezones. Then there's living in the woods in basically the middle of nowhere, in a severely economically depressed place, and being rather disconnected from it, and effects thereof. I think I'm a happier guy though, so.
posted by joeyh at 9:15 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


(Thick Alabama accent) "Over there is where I went to high school. I like to caawl it Auschwitz."

I actually burst out laughing on my Chicago bus commute.
posted by dnash at 4:19 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


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