Crime Writers On...Serial (& More)

Crime Writers On...Serial (& More)

United States

True crime co-authors and real-life couple Kevin Flynn and Rebecca Lavoie chat with noir novelist Toby Ball and journalist-turned-investigator Lara Bricker about the blockbuster podcast 'Serial,' as well as justice, journalism, storytelling, pop culture, and the 'Crime of the Week.'


Serial Justice, Podcast Crushes, And A Big Hand For The Handmaid's Tale  

First: More listener-driven shenanigans Next: The panel makes recommendations for podcasts you should be downloading. They include finishing the long-but-excellent "Crimetown," a double recommendation for "My Dad Wrote a Porno," and the brand new show "True Crime Obsessed." Further: Undisclosed just dropped a special pre-appeal episode about the Adnan Syed case. In it, Rabia poses the question of whether justice is served when the appellate judges know less about the case than the general public. The main event: The crime writers discuss Hulu's adaptation of "The Handmaid's Tale." Is the story about a nation of subjugated woman - forced either into servitude, exile, or procreation - a feminist manifesto? From costuming, cinematography, and color schemes, there's much to ponder. In crime of the week: is it wrong that a topless cleaning lady would be arrested for stealing underwear? THIS WEEK'S SPONSORS INCLUDE HBO's Mommy Dead and Dearest. Premiers May 15 Zebit - Shop with zero interest, zero fees, & zero credit check at Kopari -Get 20% off your order at Harry's razors - Get your free trial set at

Richard Simmons Strikes Back, 'Trigger Warning' Debate, and Casting JonBenet  

We open up the mail bag and let you weigh in on our discussions about "13 Reasons Why" and the former-profiler-turned-podcaster who's caused a bit of a dust-up among our fans. Richard Simmons may have lost touch with many people, but his lawyers aren't among them. The now-reclusive fitness guru is suing the National Enquirer for a story saying he's had a sex change operation. He also says he's being blackmailed by (say it ain't so!) former companion Mauro. If the stories are false, we think it should be easy to demonstrate so ("Your honor, we submit exhibit D."). Then we explore the most original entrant in the JonBenet Ramsey look-back-a-thon. Netflix's non-investigation "Casting JonBenet" features average Coloradoans who think they're auditioning for a movie on the case. In reality, the auditions are an excuse to get them to candidly share their thoughts and observations about the crime. And we get to see kids smash watermelons with flashlights for good measure. In the Crime of the Week, what did the drunk driver know and when did she know it? OUR SPONSORS THIS WEEK Audible - Get a 30-day free trial at Le Tote - Get 50% off your subscription at with promo code CRIME. Lola - Get 60% off your first order at with promo code CRIME.

Real-Crime Profile of S-Town, 13 Reasons Why & The War on Twitter  

We needed that week off. Seems like everyone's got a podcast side gig now. Toby's hosting Radio Free Dystopia, Kevin's making an appearance on Jed Bartlet is My President, and Rebecca is a new permanent panelist on Slate's Mom and Dad Are Fighting. Rebecca didn't get verified on Twitter and she's PISSED! In a true crime podcast update podcast update, we'll give our take on how the experts from Real Crime Profile used their profiling skills on John B. McLemore from S-town. For a character who's so beloved, the enumeration of his less-than-desirable traits has stirred lots of feelings. At the intersection of entertainment and suicide lies Netflix's "13 Reasons Why," the most controversial series of the year. Great acting, interesting plot, but is possible to tackle teen suicide in a way that doesn't make the problem worse? Despite earnest intentions to make the show a conversation-starter, there remain legit concerns that the series irreparably sends the wrong message. In essence, everything that makes 13 Reason great are what also what makes it dangerous. In the crime of the week: beware the sniper cat. Our sponsors this week are Chris Gethard: Career Suicide, premiering Saturday, May 6th at 10pm, on HBO. Zebit - get up to $2,500 interest-free credit at Away Luggage - Get $20 of at - use promo code CRIME at checkout StoryWorth - Get $20 off your subscription at

Richard Simmons Emerges! Adnan Syed Update! And Casey Anthony...WTF?  

Did Missing Richard Simmons flush out our favorite fitness guru? The Crime Writers give their take. Plus, Kevin reaches out to Legal Siri (AKA Colin Miller of Undisclosed) to get the latest scoop on the never-ending Adnan Syed appeal. Then, WTF was up with that three-part Investigation Discovery special Casey Anthony: An American Murder Mystery? Do *any* of the Crime Writers think this case is a mystery? And how does Toby feel about the first I.D. show he's ever been forced to watch? Much less having to talk about it TWICE?? (Listen to Toby on The Blotter Presents with Sarah D. Bunting.) Sponsors for this episode: Bosch Season 3 on Amazon (get 20% off!) - use promo code CRIME for 50% off your first month! - mention our show at checkout for a special deal!

S-Town by Serial: Group Therapy on a Post-Podcast Couch  

The Crime Writers are taking you to church (er...not that church) as we share your love for and criticisms of S-Town (and your criticisms of our criticisms).   Were we made to sympathize with racist characters? Did we miss a deeper significance in episode six? How does the horology metaphor hold up upon further review? Is CWO not intellectual enough for our listeners? Was John manipulating Brian and the other people in his life with a variety of false promises? Would any of this story have been told if John hadn't died? What's it look like inside Tyler's house? (Like this.) In our crime of the week: how NOT to dress for a DWI. Our sponsors this week include Audible -  for a free trial go to Hunt a Killer - get 10% of your subscription by using the code WRITERS First Day Back - the new podcast from Stitcher.

S-Town by Serial - Episodes 5-7 recap  

The crime writers review chapters 5, 6, and 7 of S-Town, the new podcast series from Serial and This American Life. The entire series, featuring host Brian Reed, dropped on Tuesday, March 28. This discussion gets a little deep, covering some of the criticism S-Town has faced in recent days. Want to hear our recaps of episodes 1-4? Go back in your feed a little bit. SPONSORS THIS EPISODE Kopari Beauty. Get 20% off at Hunt a Killer - get 10% of your subscription by using the code WRITERS.

S-Town by Serial - Episodes 2-4 Recap & Review  

The Crime Writers jump in to chapters two through four of "S-town," the new podcast series from Serial and This American Life. The entire series, featuring host Brian Reed, dropped on Tuesday, March 28. Watch your feed for recap shows reviewing episode 1 and episodes 5-7. SPONSORS FOR THIS EPISODE Hunt a Killer - Use the code "writers" MeUndies - 20% off your first pair at Select Blinds - mention Crime Writers On and get free sample swatches. Le Tote - (use the promo code "crime" at checkout)

S-Town by Serial - Episode 1 Recap & Review  

The Crime Writers review episode one of S-Town - the new podcast series from the folks behind Serial and This American Life. The entire series, featuring host Brian Reed, dropped on Tuesday, March 28. Watch your feed for recap shows reviewing episodes 2-4 and 5-7. SPONSORS THIS EPISODE Serial Killers podcast from Parcast

Missing Richard Simmons Finale Review, Tickled Shocker, And A Breakdown Breakdown?  

After recommending people watch the documentary "Tickled," the response from our listeners was an overwhelming, "What the F did I just watch"? Then a shocker: David D'amato, a key figure in the investigation, "died suddenly" this week according to the New York Times.  "Breakdown" from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution returned with a brand new, er, sound. Season three is hosted by investigative reporter Johnny Edwards and focuses on a doctor who continued to practice medicine despite a series of sexual abuse investigations. Can the podcast thrive without the home-spun voice of legal analyst Bill Rankin? With the conclusion of the runaway "Missing Richard Simmons" podcast, the crime writers look back on the six-part series. What did we ultimately learn about Simmons, host Dan Taberski, and about the feelings we project on celebrities? We'll give our review. In Crime of the Week, being assaulted - literally - by a tweet. (Yes, the actually tweet.) Sponsors This Week MeUndies - Get 20% of your first pair at Total Wireless - check out their great cell plans at 

Intrigued by S-Town ! Disturbed by Tickled ! And the Owl Theory takes flight!  

What do you do in the middle of blizzard? Record a podcast, of course.  First, the trailer for the new Serial spin-off "S-town" dropped! What will the seven episode series be about? We don't know, but Sarah Koenig's crew gave us an interesting taste and OF COURSE we had to talk about it. Plus, despite taking an Alford plea last month, the Michael Peterson case is not *quite* over. The subject of the exceptional miniseries "The Staircase" is looking into the theory that his wife was actually killed in the stairwell during an owl attack. The claim had been downplayed by Peterson's defense team, and was the focus of episode 1 of the podcast "Criminal," but now they want experts to examine the feathers found with Kathleen's body. At this point does Peterson have anything to lose...or anything to win? Then it's probably the most unusual documentary ever discussed on the podcast. "Tickled," a journalist's look into videos of the sport of "competitive endurance tickling," is NOT the lighthearted romp the title might imply. Instead, the doc takes dark and unexpected turns as the reporter tries to uncover who is behind this secretive video empire and the attempt to ruin all foes in their way.  In the Crime of the Week: Moms + school dropoff lane + maybe too much "Big Little Lies" = gun play. Time to send the parents to time out. Sponsors this week Audible. Listen to their new podcast, Ponzi Supernova, at Simplisafe. Get a 10% discount when you go to Find your perfect vacation rental at Kopari Beauty. Get 20% off at

A Richard Simmons Slump! An Adnan Syed Tidbit! And A Review Of Time: The Kalief Browder Story  

The panel is at full strength now that Lara managed to talk her way out of an arrest by the railroad police (yes, there is such a thing). We begin with some voice messages from listeners wondering what the "Up and Vanished" serendipitous conclusion means for the realm of true crime podcasting. We return again to the white hot podcast "Missing Richard Simmons." Are the crime writers still committed to seeing (hearing) this journey through? Then we turn our attention to Spike TV's six-part doc "Time: The Kalief Browder Story." It's a heavy look at the true story of a black teen who spent 800 days in solitary confinement on Rikers Island while awaiting trial of a flimsy robbery charge. Is it perhaps too heavy to enjoy...or too important to ignore? The Crime of Week deals with a politician whose resume is all sizzle and no steak. OUR SPONSORS THIS WEEK INCLUDE: Audible. Get a free trial at Total Wireless. Go to

State v Adnan Syed (AGAIN), MORE Missing Richard Simmons & HBO's Big Little Lies  

It's another paper dump in the ongoing appeals around Adnan Syed from Serial season one. Kevin takes a look at yet another news-making turn in the case, and Rebecca gives it a big old eye roll (cute the hate mail!). And, episode 3 of Missing Richard Simmons was CRAY. From witchcraft to bitchcraft, we learned Richard's closest confidants f'ing HATE each other. How can we not revisit a podcast that brings up black magic? Yeah...we're SO gonna do that. Then, the Crime Writers examine HBO's newest murder mystery mini-series, "Big Little Lies." Does an A-list cast + domestic noir = another hit? And should the producers stay keep the same killer/victim as the book, or make it fresh for the whole audience? Plus, what we learned in this Crime of the Week: if you live to be 100 you might get a lap dance from your nurse. Sponsors for this episode include: SimpliSafe - get an exclusive 10% discount at Select Blinds - mention Crime Writers On and get free sample swatches.  Harry's - get the Harry's trial set for FREE at HelloFresh - use promo code CRIME35 to save $35 on your first week of deliveries. Total Wireless - check out their great cell plans at 

We Talk About 'Missing Richard Simmons' AND That 'Up and Vanished' True Crime Update!  

Can you feel the love tonight? The Crime Writers can.  Plus, the gang dives in to the breaking news about an arrest in the Tara Grinstead case - that's the one featured in the "Up and Vanished" podcast. At the time of our recording, it was unclear what role the podcast played in Ryan Duke's arrest, but did Payne Linsey's grandmother actually know more than the cops did? Next, Rebecca interviews Missing Richard Simmons creator Dan Taberski about why he was drawn to the vanishing of everyone's favorite flamboyant exercise guru. Then the Crime Writers review the podcast: Is it ethical to chronicle someone's withdrawal from public life? What makes Simmons's story so uniquely compelling? Why did someone who gave support to so many individuals seemingly turn his back on them? Also, Kevin recalls his own professional interactions with Richard Simmons. In the Crime of the Week: a squirrel plays guard dog by going spider monkey on a cat burglar.  HELP US KEEP "CRIME WRITERS ON" GOING BY TAKING A BRIEF SURVEY! This quick survey, at, lets advertisers know that we have a quality, successful, and loyal audience. It helps bring in advertisements for products and services that actually fit you.   Sponsors for this episode include: - search for and book the perfect vacation home at Kopari - get 20% your first order at HelloFresh - use promo code CRIME35 to save $35 on your first week of deliveries. Total Wireless - check out their great cell plans at 

Out Like A Serial Flynn, Etan's Legacy, & Netlix's Shadow Of Truth  

In a jam-packed episode, the panel drinks the hater-aid as they read some of their correspondence. Rebecca name drops her fill-in gig on Slate's "Mom & Dad Are Fighting" podcast - which, ironically, is what the Lavoie-Flynn kids call "Crime Writers On!" A figure from Serial Season 2 makes a cameo, a certain general who made the adamant assertion that any soldier wounded in Afghanistan can be linked to Bowe Bergdahl's rescue mission.  And, after waiting almost 40 years for a conviction, the crime writers take a thoughtful dive into the famous Etan Patz kidnapping case. It was more than just the crime that put kids' faces on milk cartons - it was the social turning point in how parents perceived the safety of their children. In our review segment, the crew goes around the horn on whether or not you should check out the Israeli documentary "Shadow of Truth," now available on Netflix. This four-part subtitled mini-series looks at the sensational murder of a teenage girl, the questionable investigation into the convicted killer, and the rabid public fan base that trolls the Internet seeking alternative suspects. (Kind of sounds like a certain American podcast we've listened to...) Then, in the Crime of the Week, the cops give a fugitive a tumble...and a spin. OUR SPONSORS THIS WEEK INCLUDE: Madison Reed. Go to and use promo code WRITERS to get 10% off and free shipping. Audible. Get a free trial at SimpliSafe. Get 10% off your security system at Total Wireless. Go to The new book A Divided Spy by Charles Cumming.

The Staircase/Michael Peterson Owl Theory, Alford Pleas & A Stranglers Podcast Review  

The panel tackles a HUGE true crime update - the Alford plea taken by Michael Peterson, the novelist and suspected murder featured in The Staircase - a documentary Rebecca contends is the Citizen Kane of true crime. As a bonus, our very own Legal Siri (AKA legal professor and Undisclosed genius Colin Miller) educates us on WTH Alford pleas actually are.  Then the Crime Writers argue about an alternative theory posed in the Peterson case...was his wife Kathleen actually killed by an owl? That was the theory posed in the amazing pilot episode of the podcast Criminal - but Toby's not exactly buying it. (Shocking, we know.) Then, in our regular segment about whether you should watch/listen to/read the latest big thing in crime media, we review Stranglers, the podcast by Earwolf that takes a deep ol' dive into the Boston Strangler case. (Warning: This segment features a quasi-mansplain meltdown and Kevin Flynn doing a pretty convincing trashy Boston accent.) Finally, our Crime of the Week features one of Rebecca's favorite big box stores, a sex crime, and scabies. Listen: This week's sponsors: Madison Reed. Go to and use promo code WRITERS to get 10% off and free shipping. The new book A Divided Spy by Charles Cumming. Kopari coconut beauty products. Go to for 20% off!

YUGE Serial News! Beware the Slenderman! And the Bear Brook Murders...solved?  

The first Serial spinoff, "S-town," will be dropping in March. And we do mean "dropping." Serial Productions says it will release all of its episodes at once...making it one of the first major podcasts to invite fans to binge listen. Will you listen? Of course you will. And so will we. Rebecca brings in reporter Jason Moon to discuss the decade's old case of four unidentified bodies found in two barrels in Allentown NH's Bear Brook Park. A seemingly unrelated murder on the other side of the country may have revealed a serial killer...but no one knows who he actually is. Then the panel goes into the scary, provocative HBO documentary, "Beware the Slenderman." It looks at the case of two young girls who stabbed their friend to appease a modern-day internet boogeyman. So, should you watch the movie?? The panel is split but agrees on one thing: don't watch this one in the dark. Then in Crime of the Week, the only way to foil high-tech crooks is to go old school. This episode is sponsored by: Select Blinds. Mention Crime Writers On at check to receive free samples. SimpliSafe. Go to and get 10% off. HelloFresh. Get $35 off with promo code CRIME35. Book your next vacation home at Madison Reed. Use promo code WRITERS to get 10% off and free shipping. The new book A Divided Spy by Charles Cumming.

No Serial Pardon, Bowe Bergdahl's Trump Problem & The Myth Of Kitty Genovese  

Note: next week we're talking about HBO's "Beware the Slenderman." (Homework is optional!) Pardon us. Please. We're looking into the latest twist in the court martial of Serial season two protagonist Bowe Bergdahl. We're joined by friend-of-the-show USMC Judge Advocate James Weirick (ret), host of the Military Justice podcast. Now that former-President Obama declined to pardon Bergdahl, his lawyers say he can't get a fair trial with President Trump as Commander-in-Chief. Weirick will explain the arguments in the docket, why they submitted a video presentation, and he'll also provide some insight into the clemency granted to Pvt. Chelsea Manning. Also, Lara gives a quick review of the new true crime podcast, Gone at 21. One of her positives: "it's short." Then we'll talk about a documentary premiering on PBS's Independent Lens, "The Witness" (also available on Netflix). It reexamines the infamous 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese, the NY woman killed as 38 neighbors alleg edly watched but did nothing. Fifty years later Kitty's brother, Bill, digs into a crime he (and we) don't really know the truth about...including the myth that so many bystanders did nothing. And in the Crime of the Week, one Florida man makes a big mistake when seeking his own presidential pardon. This episode is sponsored by PrepDish. Go to The episode is also sponsored by Madison Reed. Go to and use promo code WRITERS for 10% off and free shipping on your first order.

Serial Appeal Stumble, Journalism Bullies & Suspect Convictions  

Toby's back...just in time to weigh in on the newest true crime podcast fill our ears. But first - the state of Maryland has won the latest round in Adnan Syed's quest to get out of prison now that his conviction has been overturned. What does it mean that they've been granted a "Leave to Appeal" and how much closer are we to a new trial for the Serial season one protagonist? Then, we talk about something a little bit weird that happened during the latest episode of one of our favorite podcasters, Amber Hunt of the Cincinnati Enquirer's Accused podcast. Then we'll get into "Suspect Convictions," and break down what's good, not good, and controversial (among the panel) about this true crime podcast from WVIK. In the Crime of the Week, we're getting frisky in the Granite State - and it's got some goopy consequences! This week's sponsors are: Madison-Reed! Go to and use the promo code "WRITERS" Prepdish! Go to Simplisafe! Go to Audible! Go to Kopari! Go to

Serial Snobbery? A JonBenet Lawsuit! And Scientology & The Aftermath  

When Toby's away, the mice will play...AND talk about all sorts of great stuff. Special guest panelist Amelia McDonnell-Parry gives us a lowdown on what she saw at Adnan Syed's PCR hearing, and why she thinks Sarah Koenig isn't doing the right thing by ignoring new evidence dug up by other podcasters. Plus, our true crime update takes on that $750 MILLION dollar lawsuit filed by Burke Ramsey after a CBS special pointed to him as the murderer of his sister, JonBenet. The panel has some strong feelings about that. And then, Scientology doesn't freak Kevin out, but talking about it does. Nonetheless, we give an overview of the incredible docuseries created by Queen of Queens (and Queen of Nails) Leah Remini, A&E's Scientology & the Aftermath. After our crime of the week airs, one upstate New York man may try to buy every copy of this podcast. Yeah...we know. Sponsors this week: Harry's Razors! Go to and use the code "crime" Madison-Reed hair color! Go to and use the code "writers" Hello Fresh! For a special deal, go to and use the code "crime35"

Adnan Syed's Setback, Serial's Audio Boo-Boo, and a Homecoming Podcast Review  

After a holiday break, we're back. And so much has happened again. In the land of true crime podcast updates, Adnan Syed has been denied bail while he awaits a new trial. The panel talks about that decision. In other Serial news, we learned Sarah Koenig & co made a big boo-boo when putting together season one. Namely: using courtroom audio that was prohibited from broadcast. This time, justice was merciful. Kevin responds to listener reaction to his criticism of "Someone Knows Something." Again, it's another feisty split decision. In this week's installment of "Should You Listen?" the panel weighs in on Gimlet's star-powered "Homecoming." Is this the latest Gimlet podcast to break the mold? In the Crime of the Week, an FBI sting operation on Capitol Hill! The target - no, not corrupt politicians - a bootleg DVD ring. Related: In this episode, Rebecca talks about a news station covering a trial with puppets. Here's a link.

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