My favorite podcast of 2019


Elly Kenninger, Editor-in-Chief

“I’m Phoebe Judge, and this is Criminal.” This introduction is so familiar to me that I can hear it replaying in my head. 

At the beginning of 2019, my sister introduced me to a podcast named, “Criminal”. As a fan of the mystery/detective genre of books and T.V. shows, I was excited to see if this series would live up to the raving reviews she continually gave to me each time she finished another episode. After pressing play for the first time and listening to one 20-minute-episode, I was hooked, and have been ever since. Needless to say, “Criminal” was my favorite podcast of 2019. 

“Criminal” is a podcast produced by Phoebe Judge, Lauren Spohrer, and Nadia Wilson. Judge leads all of the podcasts by narrating them with her soothing, melodic voice. She gives the audience background information, but the majority of each episode is her interviewing people involved in each case. She asks meaningful, tough questions that challenge both the interviewee and the audience.

She has such a talent that at times, the questions asked and the answers given seem as if they are a sort of poetry or a notable quote- almost too good to be true. Other times, they help you consider situations from different perspectives. For instance, one sentence from episode 6, “We lost them,” was stated as follows, “Family members of murder victims are often captured on television. We are shown their grief, and we watch them try to respond when they are asked impossible questions.” 

But she also has a sense of humor and brings some appropriate lightness into even some of the darkest cases. Perhaps the most appealing aspect about her is that she truly knows what information people want to hear. For example, it is not unusual for me to question the motives or actions of someone she is interviewing. However, with what seems like mind-reading superpowers, she asks the interviewee the exact thing I’m pondering, and shortly after I have my answer. 

Accompanying the story of each show is the work of Rob Byers who provides background music. Although subtle, it adds just enough suspense to intense parts and calmness to peaceful beginnings and ends. 

However, the production and details of the podcast are not what makes “Criminal” so interesting and intriguing. They definitely add to the professionalism that is quite apparent, but in all honesty, they succumb to the excellence accredited to the selection and delivery of the cases dwelled upon. 

One of the most unique aspects of this series is that although each episode deals with crime, they aren’t all the typical criminal cases you would expect. The show does dive into typical, criminal topics like murders and kidnappings. But they also cover stories like school shootings, identity theft, and bank robberies. Additionally, the show also has some light-hearted topics that add to the diversity like the story of the origin of “420,” the mechanics behind the common “shell game,” and the unexpected romance between a robber and a hostage. 

Also if the vast range of topic selection isn’t enough, it seems that each story is never told from the perspective you’d anticipate. For instance, an episode about a school shooting is told by an interview with a man who was an eighth-grade student at the time, and the podcast about the tragedies of identity theft was explained by a woman who discovered her mother was responsible for her identity being stolen. These first-hand accounts make every listening experience seem very personal and raw and consequently provide all the factors needed to demand the audience’s attention and sustain its interest. 

“Criminal” is labeled on Spotify as “true crime.” I think this label is fitting, for it does deal with the crime people have lived through or in. But at the heart of each story that draws listeners in time and time again, is the real truth — the true events, emotions, and thoughts that occur when dealing with or acting as a criminal.