Episodes: 5 total in the story
Length: 150 minutes total, broken up into 30 minute episodes
I’ve listened to… the whole story
The Premise: Riley and Brynn head to Las Vegas in the hopes of repairing their struggling marriage. Once there, however, Brynn is kidnapped by some particularly seedy individuals, and Riley must fight against impossible odds to save himself and his wife.
My Review: I really enjoy short fiction, and I think it takes a lot of skill to tell a contained story in a succinct package. Triple Six manages to tell its story well with a pace that keeps things moving, but also provides opportunity to develop the character arc. And adds in some twists and turns along the way. The production quality in general is really standout, and scenes come to life through skillful use of dialogue, ambient sounds, and appropriate effects.
The main character is Riley, and he’s our hero. He has a typical character arc, but his journey and development is handled well in the brief five episode run. At the start, he has plenty of negative traits and qualities that make him rather unlikable. However, his growth and increasing awareness of his faults over the course of the story ultimately make it easy to root for him as things go from bad to worse. Some of the opening scenes between Riley and Brynn are infuriating and perfect. They have a sad reality to them that showcases bad communications, unmet expectations, and unspoken assumptions in a way that develops the scene and characters. However, as Riley changes as a character, his relationship transforms as well.
It is a dark story, and it does not really try to sugar coat things or dress it up. There are some truly despicable characters, but frankly they work well within the world of the story. Rather than trying to sugar coat things or pull back from the implications of the underground gambling ring, this story runs with it and shows the monsters that inhabit such a world. As well as the unfortunate (and not so unfortunate) victims swept up throughout. It is a production for adult ears and includes references to a lot of questionable content, but it all makes sense with the characters and the world at work. The pacing and style keep it from feeling too grim or heavy, instead pushing it forward like an action thriller.
In many ways, this podcast feels like a movie that you might watch with a bowl of popcorn, edge of your seat. But I think that the podcast really brings the story to life through the sounds, creating immersive scenes. It also puts the listener in the midst of the chaos. There are points where characters are referred to only by their color designation. There are a lot of people introduced and a lot of action happening as Riley works to put things together. It is chaotic and hard to follow. And it is perfect for that moment in the narrative, because it should feel overwhelming. As soon as you as the listener start to get your feet under you, the story speeds ahead. It manages to keep you a little confused in a very good way throughout, mirroring the off-balance nightmare Riley is living.
While the concept presented is not something completely original, I think the treatment of this story, the character development, and the way things unravel at the end really serve to make this a very enjoyable listening experience. It creates a glimpse into a world that I only want to learn about from the safety of a podcast. If you enjoy a high stakes adventure with an everyman hero that will keep you guessing, this is definitely an immersive story worth a listen.
You can find them here: Triple Six
Episodes: 34, with more coming to complete the fourth and final season
Length: Generally around 15 minutes, with some select episodes running in the 25-35 minutes range
I’ve listened to… 11 episodes. I intended to listen to six, then figured I would finish up the first season, and then accidentally listened to one more. A complete accident, of course.
The Premise: BRASS is a steampunk adventure following the titular family of scientific geniuses as they unravel the criminal underworld of an alternate universe 19th century. It is a light-hearted adventure story with moments of danger, humor, science fiction, and just plain old good storytelling.
My Review: This review started with a request from the creators, and so I wanted to give them a listen. I usually start listening to the first three episodes of a podcast. I give them a chance to overcome maybe a challenging opening and catch me within three episodes. I was hooked by episode one and eager to listen to more. Which is how I may have ended up binging far more episodes than I intended originally for the writing of this review. And I will certainly be finishing the story now that I’ve begun.
BRASS is full of fun. It is a full cast audiodrama, and the voice acting really serves to provide additional depth to the characters. There is so much of the story that is told through tone, with a heavy hand of sarcasm throughout, and I am certain you will hear the eyerolls in their voices at times. The characters each have their set roles and personalities, but they play very well off of one another. The writing is sharp as well, providing good interplay between characters. I also find the narration to strike a nice balance. It provides enough context to understand, without slowing the story down or missing out on character building moments. It mirrors the old radio announcer style in a way that is instructive and likable.
This podcast does one thing that I think tends to make me happy in any media. It has fun. The story does not take itself too seriously, but plays with the rules and creates interesting situations which allow the characters to shine throughout. Sometimes things are a little too convenient or bend the limits of the believable. But if you accept the offer to suspend disbelief, I think it is truly an enjoyable experience to follow along with the family Brass.
The world is familiar, yet distinct enough to leave space for discovery and exploration, and I find they weave in the steampunk elements enough to give some extra creativity when it comes to not only problem solving, but also the dangerous stakes facing the family. I personally have really loved the allusions to and cameos from various historical and literary figures, and I find those moments feel like a familiar inside joke. Plus, if you do fall in love with the world of BRASS, there are many different opportunities to learn more. Not only is there the podcast, but also another podcast of short stories from the world, live theater productions, and a short film. It speaks to the depth of the worldbuilding that they have been able to create and support so many windows into the goings on.
BRASS is ultimately a fun escape into a world adjacent to our own. The characters are entertaining and endearing in their own ways. The writing is done well, moving the story along at a good pace while focusing on the relationships between characters. Most of all, this is a story that enjoys taking you along for the journey, and wants to make sure you are enjoying it as well. It has kept me wondering about what will happen next and how characters will escape the dangers ahead. It is funny, engaging, intriguing, and witty. I am definitely sad that I had not listened to them before, but very happy to have the chance to catch up now.
The Resistible Rise of JR Brinkley
Length: 30-35 minutes
I’ve listened to… the whole production
The Premise: The Resistible Rise of JR Brinkley is a stage play adapted to audiodrama format to help combat the challenge that 2020 has been for the performing arts. It is a Brechtian play (which, if you are like me and need to Google that, means incorporating direct discussion with the audience, historical parallels to modern events, and fourth wall breaking). It details the mostly true story of JR Brinkley, medical fraudster turned radio host turned politician in a story that is eerily familiar to the modern US political landscape.
My Review: This was a fantastic listen overall. It is not what you typically expect when you are used to full cast audiodramas, but understanding the format helped me appreciate the story. The story is told through a conversational narrator, dramatized portions, and interviews with the writer and outside experts. The action may pause for a brief aside to explain an artistic choice, a historical moment, or some other tidbit that deepens the story. It was like listening to an annotated history or a well dramatized documentary. Not only was it entertaining, but it definitely helped deepen my understanding of certain concepts and themes in US history.
The story itself is almost too bizarre to believe. There is a lot more talk about goat testicles than I ever expected to hear in my life. However, that is where the maxim “truth is stranger than fiction” thrives. The parallels to recent events, as I mentioned, are so strong that some of Brinkley’s speeches are edited to incorporate more recent rhetoric and, frankly, they can be hard to distinguish from the original statements. The work does not shy away from the ugly sides of history, not in its depiction of Brinkley as a greedy fraud, nor in the frank depiction of the accepted antisemitism of the time. I think what stuck with the most as I listened was the balance between the absurd and the distressing. On the one hand, I was often in shock at the things that were done, said, and accepted. Were this not a true story, it would probably stay in that balance between comedy and disbelief where the absurd often resides. However, it did happen. It continues to happen.
From a more technical perspective, the production is crisp and clear. They incorporate country music, including adaptations of country classics and contemporaneous political songs. The songs are ear catching and serve to provide transitions, exposition, and additional context for the play. It is interesting how the start of country winds through this already odd story, and it provides yet another way to deepen one’s understanding of the cultural context that led to such events. The discussions with experts on these topics serves to provide intriguing and educational facts that accentuate the complexity of the story overall.
Listening to this story was an experience on multiple levels. It is an intriguing story. It educated me in some cultural and historical contexts that I was not very familiar (not being a country music fan or at all knowledgeable about Kansas politics in the 1920s). It prompted reflection on current events and trends seen in my country today. It did a lot in its just over two hour runtime.
This is not a traditional audiodrama, nor do I think it set out to be. But it was an experience to listen to. 2020 has been hard on everyone this year, and the performing arts have been hit exceptionally hard. I am really encouraged to see some people turning to other avenues to continue sharing their work, though I hope we soon come to a time where we can all return to the theater seats and hear, see and experience it together again. Until that time, however, I strongly encourage you to keep your ears open for great productions like this. If you want to listen to a wonderfully made play, look them up and listen in.
You can find them here: Untitled Theater
Episodes: 22 so far
Length: 30-45 minutes, usually
I’ve listened to… everything released so far
The Premise: Mission Rejected tells the story of the agents who take the rejected missions. It centers on Agent Skip Granger, who is tasked to save the world in increasingly mundane locations when the agency’s star asset hits reject.
My Review: I had not given much thought to that old cliché phrase, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it…” until this podcast came along. But they took a simple concept and developed it in an extraordinary way.
Each episode focuses on a specific mission, with the buildup, planning, implementation, unraveling, and conclusion. If you like action movies and spy flicks, I am certain you will recognize many of the themes and tropes. There are kooky gadgets, mad scientists, evil geniuses, hidden lairs, and a cast of misfit characters tackling it all. I am really torn in writing this review. I wanted to say that the misfit characters are really what make this story. But then I started thinking it was the sharp, witty writing. And then I thought about the subtle jokes and gags that make me laugh in-universe and at our own world. And the sound design is done wonderfully well. Plus they have an episode with multiple original songs that honestly I would listen to outside of the podcast. So, I’m having a bit of trouble, because they do so much well.
Let’s take things one at a time. The characters are a well-developed bunch that demonstrate character growth over the course of the episodes, while also holding true to their roles within the team. After a few episodes, you get a good feel for how they fit together (or how they grate against each other), which provides a lot of contrasting motivations, even when the goal should be on the mission. No one is static in this show, and each character has their own needs, wants, dreams, and growth areas that are changing as the seasons progress. It is truly enjoyable just listening to those interactions.
And the writing is top notch. Dialogue is sharp, character consistent, and honestly makes me laugh out loud in my car. The overarching plot is paced well, with increasing danger and intrigue as the master plot develops, but enough standalone spy-work in each episode to keep you locked in. Plus, the storylines throw some unexpected twists into the plot as they plays with the expected thriller tropes. It does not rely on narration, but tells the story through dialogue. I think they do a great job of outlining the scene and providing visual information through really natural conversations, updates, and observations of the characters. Plus, as I mentioned, they use sound design to create deeper backgrounds, letting a listener fill in the gaps. There are good sound cues that help provide disruptions, plot progression, or general background to bring the events to life.
The world of Mission Rejected looks much like our own, with enough differences to provide the escape I need from reality. It does help it provide some laughs when things hit closer to home than expected, however. As a mom to a toddler, I’m not sure I needed Baby Whale taking up any brain real estate, but there it is. Speaking of the Baby Whale song, I have to say there is a musical episode, and I cannot even conceptualize the amount of work and creativity that went into creating such fantastic, on point songs for each scene. The story is told through the songs in a competition, and it not only progresses character story arcs, but does so with snappy tunes. I was floored.
Because there should probably be a limit to how much I gush about one individual show, I will wrap up. Suffice it to say Mission Rejected has been a highlight of my audiodrama queue recently. It provides the perfect escape and pick-me-up I need during 2020 with a cast of endearing characters that I root for week after week. It has strong writing, strong characters, a lot of laughter, and a fun idea executed to perfection. I strongly recommend you accept.
You can find them here: Mission Rejected
Episodes: 10 so far
Length: 30 – 90 minutes
I’ve listened to… 4 episodes – working my way through more!
The Premise: Forgotten SciFi is an anthology podcast focused on reading the original, as-written foundations of modern sci-fi. With stories stretching back into the Victorian Age, it showcases some of the early stories that smudged the line between scientific breakthrough and fantastic fiction.
My Review: Some of my earliest memories of media are watching Star Trek with my mother at way too young of an age. I remember being fascinated by Star Wars in the same way, and then going with my dad to see the re-releases in theater. There is a distinct moment where I remember feeling betrayed because it dawned on me that he knew the whole time who Darth Vader was, and he had kept it hidden. But that reveal in the theater was remarkable.
Sci-fi as a genre is one that I have become very familiar with, and so many of the tropes that are used can become common place. Rarely can I recapture that amazement that I had when I found out the truth about the Skywalker family. And not to ramble on too long about Star Wars (a bad habit, I’m sure), but I find Forgotten SciFi helps me better appreciate the sci-fi of today by learning more about its history. It shares stories that created what I know and love today, and I realize someone had that same moment of amazement as they learned about alien worlds, time travel, and other twists for the first time in these stories.
As an anthology, each story is different, has a different author, and is its own contained narrative. It is really easy to pick up any episode and dive in. The narration of the episodes is fantastic for this medium, and I find myself really transported by the narrator as each story unfolds. This is a literal one-man show, but it is put together in a wonderful way. The pacing, tone, and emotion of each story is well-balanced. Even when discussing the dangerous and otherworldly, there is something soothing in the voice that just makes me want to keep listening. I’m also impressed by the ability to set apart characters with easily noted changes in voice.
For an anthology, I think it is also served by digging deeper into the past for the narration. These are not stories I have come across in other podcasts, nor are they ones I was reasonably familiar with prior to listening. However, each one showcases a story that developed some of the familiar themes we see in sci-fi today. As someone who also enjoys writing, I am fascinated by the way the writing style, author’s voice, and original context is preserved in the rendering. The “downside” of using such foundational stories, however, is that the stories often become somewhat predictable. Rather than detracting, this instead allows the listener to appreciate the crafting of the story, even if the twists are now familiar.
Forgotten SciFi is unique in that it tells engaging stories that are expertly crafted, while also providing an experiential history of sci-fi. Each story stands alone and presents a unique story that can transport you to the incredible world being constructed. If you like sci-fi, this is definitely worth a listen not only to appreciate the craftsmanship of the original story and the talent behind the current presentation, but also to learn a bit about where modern sci-fi draws its inspiration.
You can find them here: Forgotten SciFi