Finding a decent podcast is a challenge. There’s no shortage of them regardless of what topic you’re looking for.
Ever Since GE Podcast Theater released The Message and LifeAfter, I’ve been on a fictional podcast kick.
Like other categories, fiction or docudrama is crowded with shows that aren’t worth your time. But there are diamonds out there.
I binge-listened to two seasons of a “docudrama” show called The Black Tapes.
From Pacific Northwest Stories, The Black Tapes mimics Serial from the format and production to the host’s name “Alex.”
Mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery. But after binging 24 episodes over the past few days, the results are a mixed bag.
Each episode puts forth two stories. One is over at the end of the show while the other builds an overarching narrative.
The short stories follow an investigation into an unsolved supernatural case. Spoiler: These cases are never resolved. Some end, while others are open-ended and revisited in future episodes.
The longer story focuses on a relationship between the show’s host, Alex Reagan, and ghost story debunker Dr. Richard Strand.
Being a journalist, Alex asks a multitude of questions about Strand’s past. He’s uncomfortable answering them as he doesn’t want to talk about his past.
These conflicts drive wedges between the two at times and end in the same result. Strand stops talking with Regan for an episode or two but always returns.
As the episodes go on, their main story incorporates small aspects from the paranormal investigations. For example, near the end of season two, there are cave paintings and demonic symbology that are callbacks to the first few episodes in season one.
That said, The Black Tapes is an entertaining podcast.
The easiest way to describe the show is if the X-Files was in an audio format. But unlike X-Files, this show focuses on the paranormal and unraveling one conspiracy. No aliens. No shadow government organization. And no “will they or won’t they” chemistry between Strand and Reagan.
The episodes are short and digestible, ranging in run time between 30 and 45 minutes each. It’s a good length for a work commute or finishing errands around the house.
There is one issue that rears it’s head many times during both seasons. Depending on your tolerance, it may be an absolute deal breaker.
Let me say this first. I don’t act. I don’t write scripts and I can’t direct my way out of a wet paper bag.
But, by god, there are moments where the dialogue is bad.
As I mentioned earlier, The Black Tapes mimics Serial as close as possible. The majority of episodes focus on the host’s interviews with Strand and various other characters.
But at times, the dialogue is choppy and unnatural. I would guess the actors are reading from a script at different times. There’s no chemistry between and the conversation sounds cold and robotic.
I would love to say this issue was resolved in the first season as they were finding their creative groove. But I can’t. It rears its head through both seasons. Effectively jerking the reader out of the world the show has created.
Again, you might be able to overlook this problem. That’s up to you. Your ears and your time.
I’ll be giving The Black Tapes a listen for another season. But it isn’t dethroning The Message or LifeAfter anytime soon.