I’ve followed the rise of Gimlet Media since 2014, when the company launched at the hands of Alex Blumberg, with a fun inside-baseball business show called Start-Up. Gimlet started as a for-profit podcasting company. Blumberg cut his teeth producing segments for public radio, especially This American Life and Planet Money, and he was largely correct when thought he could turn a profit producing great shows for the iPhone. Start-up chronicled his creation myth, showing all the foibles and the best moves.
The lineup of podcasts at Gimlet has been, for me, hit-or-miss. Surprisingly Awesome, a podcast about boring stuff that isn’t…actually is. I think it’s the dialogue between the hosts that bores me. The company has been advertising Twice Removed for months, and I still don’t care. It’s a show about distant relatives, and I’ve kept myself so distant, I don’t know if it is available for download. (Picture me shrugging.)
“Crimetown,” in its wonderful first season, is journalism if not news, think long-form storytelling with a combination of killer plots with every episode (literally) and sound design that brings the feel of locations and the interviewees to life without becoming too showy. That’s a narrow track to trace, too, since too many extraneous sounds, or the wrong type, and the design would become cute or kitschy. It does neither.
You can’t really call it news since the story they’re telling this season is of the Patriarca crime family of Providence, Rhode Island, the crime family that ran the New England mafia in the 1970s and 1980s. Each season, they’ll take on crime in a new city.
But it is journalism of the finest sort, narrative in structure, an intense attention to detail, and a great combination of interviews with mafioso and the feds who chased them. Hats off to the crew and the Pod Father. –Thurston