Harsh Reality: The Story of Miriam Rivera: Shameful episodes from the history of trash TV

FIVE STARS

Occasionally heartbreaking, but often inspiring this is an intelligent and non-indulgent piece of work. Despite its reality TV subject matter, it never stoops to the gutter. On the contrary, it is holds its head high and dazzles. Just like Miriam did.

The Grand Scheme: Snatching Sinatra: Like an evening in a bar with a friendly drunk

TWO STARS

The entirety of The Grand Scheme is Keenan’s narration “complemented” by John Stamos commentary — and that’s it. No other witnesses. No accomplices. No cops describing their side of things. No reporters from the time reliving the story. Just two guys in a backyard shooting the shit.

Murder in Illinois: Half of a story

TWO STARS

Reporter Lauren Bright Pacheco and her team fail to tell listeners the truth — that Murder in Illinois never intends to present a balanced case and let them make their own minds up. Rather its narrators, witnesses, evidence and all journalistic effort is hell bent on exonerating Vaughn.

Once you know that, it’s probably easier to enjoy.

Firebug: Flame festishes are a thing

FOUR STARS

This is a fascinating story, told carefully and concisely by Kary Antholis, who deftly builds the character of Orr – and outwardly intelligent and highly renowned arson investigator – before introducing listeners to the clues and hunches that ultimately reveal him as an unlikely but prolific fire setter.

Algorithm: Can math help solve serial killings?

THREE STARS

The prospect of using pattern-matching algorithms for detection is already part of public conversation, but mostly in the negative sense. Kuebrich makes a good case for how more sophisticated methods could help clear unsolved cases, which tend to disproportionately effect black communities. He also manages to shed some important light on the issue of untested rape kits.

Murdaugh Murders: Suspicion and intrigue in South Carolina

THREE STARS

Of course, the Mudaugh case is fascinating to begin with, but what Matney brings to the table is expert knowledge — both of the case itself and also of good storytelling. She busts myths, introduces new and important details, carefully constructs and deconstructs scenarios and, critically, she’s does a brilliant job of familiarizing her listeners with the local politics and hierarchies of her part of South Carolina.

I Am Rama: Unconventional guru tale that lacks punch

TWO STARS

It’s important to remember something that seems to be overlooked here: a listener comes to any story about a New Age leader with a very healthy skepticism. They don’t expect to emerge as a convert. We want and expect to have our assumptions pummelled but, aside from a few tales of well-executed business plans, the building up of Lenz isn’t sufficient enough to make the taking down particularly satisfying.

No Place Like Home: A charming but unsatisfying tale for Garland lovers

THREE STARS

Have you either spent time daydreaming about Judy Garland’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz? Did you wonder where they are now, who owns them, and how you might one day get to see them up close and in person? No, me either. And yet No Place Like Home does an excellent job of convincing it’s listeners that they’re the most coveted and admired artifact on earth.