In this week’s issue: God, systemic true crime, and the reckoning in Bachelor Nation.
Through the Cracks
“Everyone has someone who would notice their absence,” narrates Jonquilyn Hill, the host of WAMU and PRX’s Through the Cracks, at the start of the first episode. “The question is: How long would it take? This is what I think about every time I think about Relisha Rudd.”
Rudd was an 8-year-old Black girl who disappeared from a Washington, D.C., homeless shelter in 2014. It took over two weeks since she was last seen either in school or at the shelter before the city declared her missing, which she remains to this day. Later, the city would also regard her disappearance was all but unpreventable, which, of course, is untrue. Challenging that notion lies at the heart of Hill’s enterprise with Through the Cracks, a strikingly thoughtful and considered entry in the true-crime genre.
Call it a different kind of true crime. There is a set of data points in this story that largely adheres to the basic architecture of a true-crime story: a tragedy, a rough map of previous whereabouts, a key suspect, theories behind the disappearances. You can feel the podcast keenly aware of this framework and that it labors to negotiate its conventions in search of the bigger takeaway. To Hill and the team, the emphasis isn’t on a story about the tragedy of what one person might have done to a little girl but on the horror of what American society does to people who live in the margins.
All that, and more, make up the contours of Hill’s investigation, which is also noteworthy for the strength of its writing. Three episodes are out as of this writing; the fourth drops tomorrow.
Few things seem more difficult to me, creatively speaking, than committing to a character bit over an extended period of time — and boy, does the brand new show Godcast have a bit. The premise is what you think it is: God Himself has an extremely long-running podcast, which He hosts with Joan of Arc. It’s one of those loosey-goosey comedy podcasts where in each episode, the duo riffs off various topics of the day — President Biden’s inauguration, Tom Brady’s deal with the Devil, the farmers’ strike in India — though, as you would expect, He talks a lot more than Joan of Arc, what with him being a patriarchal (though vaguely revolutionary, politically speaking) god and all. And as you would also expect from a comedy podcast, these episodes are rounded out with lengthy interviews with various entertainment-industry guests, because those are apparently the people God wants to hang out with.
You should probably know that the podcast, from the Forever Dog network, originates from the popular parody Twitter account @TheTweetOfGod, which has the same schtick but in a bite-size 240-character-limit format. It’s manned by the comedy writer David Javerbaum, perhaps best known for his tenure on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, and he re-ups and expands the character of God in the podcast as well. (Joan of Arc, by the way, is played by the voice actress Tara Sands.)
And you know what? It’s all a pretty fun hang facilitated by very capable comedians. There’s a nice synchronicity to the fact that the podcast’s first episode features Stephen Colbert, in part due to the association with The Daily Show but mostly because Colbert came to prominence off his own extensive commitment to a bit, playing a caricature of a right-wing television personality during The Colbert Report’s almost-decade-long run. Plus, Colbert being a notable Catholic led to some pretty fun ripostes between him and Javerbaum.
• I adore this recent segment by Lilly Sullivan on This American Life, called “Penny for Your Non-Thoughts?,” which tells the story of what happens when a mind that some might consider neurotic tries to figure out a mind that is perhaps its complete opposite. Being someone more on the former side of the spectrum, I listened with great curiosity.
• In this week’s “Hot Pod,” Kevin Cortez wrote about the joys of “passive podcasts.” Many of these are worth a try, if you haven’t already checked them out: WALKING, Sleep With Me, PERSPECULUM, Random Tape, Field Recordings.
And that’s a wrap for 1.5x Speed! Hope you enjoyed it. We’re back next week, but in the meantime: Send podcast recommendations, feedback, or just say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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