Podcast Review: Up and Vanished & Monster

With two seasons each of Up and Vanished and Monster, and a deal with the Oxygen network, documentary filmmaker Payne Lindsey, and his Tenderfoot TV banner, is fast becoming a singular force in both podcasting and true crime.

A good documentary should tell a good story, maybe peel away layers on a forgotten issue or person and if they’re really exceptional, they can bring about justice or change. Payne Lindsey is helping to do that with his podcasts, Up and Vanished and Monster

The first season of Up and Vanished focuses on the case of missing teacher Tara Grinstead, a cold case in Georgia. A gripping story that added attention to the case (to the tune of 50 million podcast downloads). The podcast eventually helped lead to the arrest of two individuals, one currently set to face trial on April 1 for the murder of Tara Grinstead.

No too shabby for a first time.

The second season of Up and Vanished focuses on the disappearance of Kristal Reisinger from the hippie haven Crestone, Colorado. Here again Lindsey has found an amazing story deserving to be told. Unfortunately, Reisinger’s story has yet to have the same result as Tara Grinstead’s. However, it has once again focused attention to the case.

Season two is filled with a cast of characters that you would find if John Waters and Ken Burns ever collaborated. Sadly, these people actually exist. The interviews with these characters are at first a little funny, then odd and finally just depressing. Their inability to form a cogent thought, and their downright dodginess, doesn’t bode well for their honesty. However, it does highlight how drug users sound when (seemingly) high.

While awkward and tragic, these interviews add a necessary and uncomfortable tension to the podcast.

Partnering with the folks at the How Stuff Works podcast, Lindsey and Tenderfoot TV launched Monster.

Season one of Monster focuses on the 1980’s Atlanta child murders. And season two focuses on the 1970’s serial killer known as Zodiac.

The seasons of Up and Vanished were more of a journey for both host and listener. With both seasons of Monster,Lindsey simply lays out the crimes and then the facts while avoiding too many rabbit holes. And like any good documentary, the drama and tension is heightened as more information gets revealed.

For example, we all know that the Atlanta child murders have long been attributed to Wayne Williams. Interesting for me is that I thought that was what Williams was in jail for. It turns out, he was never convicted of those murders. He was convicted of murdering two men, not children. Conspiracy theories be damned, there are some very odd things going on with this case. Very odd indeed.

The second season of Monster, about the Zodiac killer, stays true to both the Robert Graysmith book Zodiac and the David Fincher movie Zodiac. Which is not to say the podcast is dull, it’s not. It contains a few interesting interviews but with a cursory knowledge of the case, you’ll find you know more than you think.

Crime as an overarching genre is white hot these days. Even hotter is True Crime and podcasting serves as a great medium for these stories to be told. There are true crime podcasts, like Michael Connolly’s Murderbook and investigative journalism podcasts like APM’s In the Dark. And then there are documentary podcasts like Up and Vanished and Monster. Whether true crime, journalism or documentary, little may ultimately separate them . . . but the labels don’t matter. What matters is that the stories get told.

Podcasting is the perfect medium for these stories.

Thankfully, Payne Lindsey is around helping to tell them.

NOTABLE STUFF:

In January of 2019, Up and Vanished won iHeartRadio’s “Best Crime Podcast”.

Writer Neil Strauss has teamed with Tenderfoot TV to launch a podcast about the disappearance of aspiring actress Adea Shabani called . . . wait for it . . . To Live and Die in LA (launching February 28).

A version of this review first appeared on TheLatest.com on 2/21/18.

FURTHER READING & LISTENING: