Reply All: #65 On the Inside, Part II
May 19, 2016 7:50 AM - Subscribe

Blogger Paul Modrowski is in prison for a murder he claims that he didn't commit. This week, producer Sruthi Pinnamaneni looks at Paul's life before his conviction, and the crime that landed him behind bars.
posted by Tevin (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've loved PJ and Alex's work ever since the old TLDR days, and it's been a delight to see how much they've grown and evolved over the years. This series of episodes, to me, has been an absolute slam-dunk in terms of story development, production values, everything. I've been trying to find a spiritual successor to Serial : Season I forever (as have many people!), and this ABSOLUTELY fit the bill. Keep up the amazing work, guys... you're crushing it.
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:22 AM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I couldn't help thinking of Paul's poor mother saying 'He was such a good boy,' last episode, as the descriptions of him pushing other kids out of the way in school hallways and collecting bad sports bets with his fists rolled out.
posted by bq at 9:22 AM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was bummed when this episode ended, mostly because I thought this was going to just be a two parter. One of the things I like about Reply All is the diversity of topics, so I dislike spending so much on one story but...

... this has been a really good episode and executed very well so I can't complain too much.

And w/r/t Serial it struck me after listening to this how little impact Serial's second season has had, as far as I have observed. My Twitter feed is made mostly of podcasting nerds and I haven't seen any Serial tweets since the first episode of the second season. Not entirely sure how it connects but it was something I hadn't thought about at all until I finished this episode.
posted by Tevin at 9:28 AM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I like experiments in radio, and I'm happy to see Reply All try something new and strange. Despite my complaint, this episode is still better than the vast majority of podcasts in the world.

However, this particular story gives me the same mildly-dissatisfied, slightly-annoyed feeling I got from all of Serial. The ratio of detail to important detail is just too high. It's impossible to suspend my disinterest. There are thousands of important and interesting stories one can tell about the US justice system, prison, and life beyond the law. I'm not convinced this is one of them.

My usual response to Reply All is, "wait, I want to hear more about the technical details you skipped. Don't rush!" This time, it's, "do you really need to tell us exactly how many specific checks some scammy dude took from a particular room in some other guy's mother's house? Can't we get an executive summary? And who the hell cares what the retired assistant state's attorney thinks of the guy's appearance?"
posted by eotvos at 8:37 PM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hm. So, I'm a little surprised to see the accolades, since I thought I might come here and find a few people who saw it like I do. I think that the obvious attempt to mimic Serial is a bad thing for Reply All. The strength of this podcast has been its originality. In the wake of Serial, Love and Radio have tried this "let the inmate tell their tale" , and now RA is doing the same thing. Well, I'm disappointed. My short time in journalism taught me the truism that there is no end to the inmates that want to tell you their story. That's why they participate in letter-writing relationships and talk to journalists. It's boring on the inside. And they have a narrative to push. It's on journalists to be skeptics about that stuff. I feel like Sruthi, as a reporter, is not at all skeptical enough. She's naive. Her interactions with the subject concern me because of her relative innocence ("most people in high school are working at their dad's lawnmower shop, not learning nunchucks" - well, I don't know where you grew up, but I guess not among tough and troubled teens, because it's familiar enough to those of us who did).

Anyway, I can only hope there's a giant surprising payoff to the 3rd episode. I'm just sorry this is so derivative. Setting Serial aside as anomalous, I don't relish seeing "let's talk to inmates" as the new direction for ideas podcasts. This one's also gotten really really far away from the general premise of being about stuff with a strong internet angle. This story has been about 6% internet. Anyway, look forward to seeing where it goes, but since this has rapidly become my favorite podcast, I'm sorry to see it chasing the herd. I liked its more original voice and its focus on one strong story per show.
posted by Miko at 9:41 PM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Mainly I miss PJ and Alex joshing around. The story is solid and well-told, but it doesn't seem like a "Reply All" story. I mean, I'm sure they don't always feel like goofing around and they probably hate the listeners who are so shallow that they would listen to a half hour of nothing but friendly sniping each week, but I'm not ashamed to be one of them.
posted by rikschell at 7:10 AM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am enjoying this, despite the obvious Serial comparison. I think the major difference is that Sruthi didn't go looking for this part of the story, it just fell into her lap and she felt compelled to follow it. I am excited for part 3. I like that Reply All has such a diversity of stories. I do like the PJ/Alex dynamic, but Sruthi is an excellent storyteller.
posted by radioamy at 8:25 AM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I wish I'd known it was going to be multi-part and also how many parts, because I would have saved them up and listened all at once. I'm finding myself weirdly reluctant to listen to the next episode when it comes out in case I'm fooled again. I guess I'll wait until they start releasing something else so I know it's done, although even then I won't be 100% sure until I listen and ug. It didn't even need to be part of the podcast, just something in the show notes so that I know what I'm in for. Being mysterious like that wasn't necessary. It's just kind of ruining what would have been a great series of podcasts if I'd been able to make my own decisions about how to listen going in.
posted by shelleycat at 6:09 AM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sruthi didn't go looking for this part of the story, it just fell into her lap

To me it's almost exactly the same - both Serial and this resulted from the discovery of a blog that started to obsess the reporter. I agree with you that the best thing about Reply All is the surprising diversity of stories. Few stories are good enough to warrant a multipart telling, and I'm not really sure this one is. Already you can see how it could have condensed into a single hour.

I wish I'd known it was going to be multi-part and also how many parts

I agree. I felt let down when both the first and second episode were "to be continued." I ended up looking up the story because this was exasperating. It'll be somewhat interesting to see what they do with the ending and if there are any surprises, but I hope it's just one more episode and not more than that.

Clearly I'm an outlier - I read their comments on Facebook which are mostly positive. But I really liked Reply All as an independent and idiosyncratic voice. I just miss my now-favorite podcast. And I'm tired of inexperienced reporters giving drawn into extensive jailhouse interviews, but that's my own issue.
posted by Miko at 7:24 AM on May 24, 2016

I shouldn't have called her "inexperienced" in general, she has a nice portfolio, but it's an issue of being inexperienced in the particular nutty theatre of crime reporting.
posted by Miko at 7:30 AM on May 24, 2016

I'm kind of with you, Miko. I am interested by the story but her naïveté and boundaries with this guy make me nervous-and as someone who encounters criminals all the time for work, I'm much more cautious than they seem to be about jumping on the innocence bandwagon for this guy. I beat people up but would never kill them is not the most convincing defense....
posted by purenitrous at 8:37 AM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think they've been pretty careful to avoid the innocence bandwagon actually. I won't be surprised to hear them go the other way with it.
posted by bq at 10:01 AM on May 24, 2016

I kind of hated these two episodes, and for a couple diverse reasons.
1. I want to know how many parts of this there are from the outset because,
2. With this kind of story you are really at the mercy of the storyteller and having no idea which way things are going to go, I wanna know that the person at the rudder is taking care. They know how it ends, so the telling is as important as the tale itself. If he's innocent they better knock that out of the park - make it incontrovertible and etc so a lawyer could spring him next month (as it were) - if Sruthi is just not sure and wants to muse on that, then that better be the whole next episode and then that's it. If he's guilty, the next episode better be about that. If there's a fourth part it better be that aliens did the crimes and HERE'S THE PROOF!
3. I have marveled at much of this podcast because it is so damn smart and good without being overtly so. I was irked when this second part ended with no real indication of where the story was going to go and how many parts were going to follow. It seemed negligent in a way none of the previous episodes have been.
4. Seriously, I don't dig 'banter' that isn't between my own friends but I feel like their banter always advances the point of whatever.
I look forward to this, however it shakes out. I just hope it's satisfying, given the build-up.
posted by From Bklyn at 10:24 AM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm with Miko, Sruthi comes off terribly naïve in most of the reporting in this episode. There's one section where she's skeptical, and she does give plenty of emphasis on skeptical reporting. But I have to wonder why we're spending all this time on this case.

I also felt misled by them hiding the bit about the physical evidence against Paul. The map found at his house with the body's location. Up until that moment we're led to believe there's nothing but a circumstantial case against Paul, and his character is put on trial. Then boom! More specific evidence. Maybe I'm overstating the importance of it, but I feel like it should have been put up front.
posted by Nelson at 5:05 PM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I wish I'd known it was going to be multi-part and also how many parts, because I would have saved them up and listened all at once. I'm finding myself weirdly reluctant to listen to the next episode when it comes out in case I'm fooled again. I guess I'll wait until they start releasing something else so I know it's done, although even then I won't be 100% sure until I listen and ug.

Part 3 is out, and there IS a Part 4 but they said that will be the conclusion. I'm 100% with Miko in that I just want my gosh darned new favourite back. This is too much.
posted by yellowbinder at 6:03 PM on May 27, 2016

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