Jess Commons | Deputy Editor | Friday, 18 March 2016

podcasts like serial

The Best Podcasts Like Serial

The Debrief: Done with Making A Murderer? Over Serial? Finished with OJ? Here's some other stuff to feed your true crime obsession

Over the past few months, the world's gone doolally for true crime stories.

Once the hobby of the bored American housewife, true crime stories from Serial to Making A Murder, The People Vs. OJ Simpson to The Jinx have opened our eyes to the horrible and tragic cases of murder, death and worse that are going on all day, every day, all around us.

Our obsession with true crime is, for the most part, probably pretty unhealthy - we're taking enjoyment and fascination in the suffering of others. Recently, the family of Hae Min Lee, the victim in the Adnan Syed case that the first series of Serial covered, slammed listeners' obsessions with the case saying 'unlike those who learn about this case on the internet, we sat and watched every day of both trials – so many witnesses, so much evidence' adding that, 'it remains hard to see so many run to defend someone who committed a horrible crime, who destroyed our family, who refuses to accept responsibility, when so few are willing to speak up for Hae.'

Our obsession though, shows no signs of showing down. HBO recently bought the rights to a documentary about the hugely disturbing Slenderman case and, recent stats report that Investigation Discovery, an American channel showing true crime documentaries 24 hours a day, is the third most watched channel in the US between women 24-54.

One growing area of true crime media is in podcasts. Since Serial, the number of podcasts on the iTunes Podcast store has gone from 47k to nearly 65k and, even since Making A Murderer, several new true crime ones have sprung up. Here's a few to check out - just remember that it's real stories, talking about real people. Plus a few other podcasts that'll get you just as hooked as Serial. Try not to get too sucked in. 

Best Podcasts Like Serial

1. Sword & Scale

Presented by the almost worryingly measured-sounding Mike Boudet, this podcasts seeks to remind you that monsters really do walk among us and are much scarier than anything you could ever imagine. Each episode focusses on a different true crime cases and features interviews and recording from the crime itself. Recent topics include a man who murdered his wife and posted the pictures on Facebook and the tragic case of a child murdering another child in a playground for reasons you'll never believe. It's heavy hitting stuff if you're listening first thing in the morning.

Get Sword and Scale here.

2. True Murder

The online crime-fanantic community love this one although for me, the audio quality is a problem. It kind of sounds like it's been recorded in a cave which, no judgement - recording equipment is expensive, nevertheless makes it harder to keep your concentration. The good thing? There's a huge backlog of episodes to listen to that cover everything from Aileen Wurnos to Jack the Ripper and a whole bunch of serial killers you've never even heard of. Terrifying stuff.

Get True Murder here.

3. Criminal

Oh Phoebe Judge. Lovely Phoebe Judge. Phoebe Judge, the presenter of Criminal is what we want to be when she grows up. She's got that calm, together adult voice that's reassuring and compelling all at the same time. Each epsiode of Criminal focusses on a different case and includes recent and historical incidents. Also, she does cool things like interview Andy Austin, one of the first female sketch artists working in Chicago's court system. Fascinating stuff.

Get Criminal here.

4. Generation Why

This one's been knocking around for ages and ages but the basic premise is that two friends Aaron and Justin talking about unsolved murders, true crime, conspiracies and the like. Again it's quite unemotional and methodical but there's all sorts of interesting cases covered from the Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders (about as grim as it sounds) to H.H. Holmes - the guy who built a full-scale murder hostel who Leonardo Dicaprio's set to play in an upcoming film.

Get Generation Why here.

5. What The Crime?

For some lighter relief. This explores the more bonkers and inexplicably stupid side of criminology. Check out the Really Florida? epsiode to find out about the man that shagged a dolphin and claimed the dolphin seduced him and the burgeoning crime career of the woman with three whole boobs. What the hell guys. What the hell.

Get it What The Crime Here.

7. This American Life

From the creators of Serial, This American Life brings listeners interesting stories, on a different topic, every week. It’s been going quite a while – there’s an archive stretching back to 1995! So there’s plenty of material for us (now avid) podcast listeners to get our teeth into. 

Get This American Life here.

8. Jon Ronson On

For more quirky human-interest stories, see Jon Ronson On… Perhaps most well known for his book The Men Who Stare At Goats, which later became a film starring George Clooney and Ewan McGregor. Jon, like Serial host Sarah Koenig, is an investigative reporter, and has a real knack for sniffing out a truly fascinating story. So if you fancy hearing about the woman who was saved from a brain tumor thanks to the voices in her head, or the man who fell in love with a professional assassin, this one is for you. 

Get Jon Ronson On here.

9. Radiolab

Radiolab advertises itself as “a show about curiosity”. They don’t split a long story up over a few weeks, which was undoubtedly one of Serial’s main appeals but post two new stories a month. And some are actually kinda freaky. The ‘Haunted’ episode, for example, features the story of a man who one night found himself “talking” to his deceased mum and dad in their old house. And, as he recorded it, you can hear what he heard and saw that night. Admittedly it was a special for Halloween, but it had me really freaked out for a while.

Get Radiolab here.

10. Serial: This British Life

Or if it’s some light relief you’re after, look no further than Serial: This British Life. A Serial parody show where host Annabel Port investigates a real life unsolved case from 1983 involving an ET drawing competition and some pretty serious accusations of plagiarism. Did the accused Geoff Lloyd really copy his picture of ET directly from a school friend’s rubber? If he did do it, why won’t he just own up? Or is he destined to be haunted his whole life by a crime he didn’t commit?

Get Serial: This British Life here.

 Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

Here Are 7 Crime Documentaries To Watch After You've Finished Making A Murderer

Why Are We Still So Fascinated By The OJ Simpson Case?

The Making a Murderer Angle You Haven't Considered

Follow Jess on Twitter @Jess_Commons


Tags: Podcasts