From Night Vale to Homecoming, scripted podcasts are the new radio drama
Scripted podcasts are filling the storytelling gap once provided by radio dramas – an all but forgotten art on traditional radio stations.
The first scripted podcast to break out as a mainstream hit was Welcome to Night Vale. This surreal dark comedy is presented as a community radio station bulletin from a fictional town, one that feels like a mix between Twin Peaks and Buffy‘s hometown of Sunnydale. Cecil Baldwin is the presenter, reading announcements, advertisements, and so often hazards to avoid in the desert location – all with a deadpan delivery of a sadistic NPR host.
Night Vale has spawned two books, a spin-off show and will soon be coming to television. The podcast is being adapted for the screen by the producers of Breaking Bad.
Getting started with Night Vale can be daunting; while each episode can stand alone, there are many plot arcs and running jokes that reward long-term listeners. Thankfully, the website has a starter’s guide for new listeners, highlighting the episodes that introduce some of the major plot points of the series, as well as recap episodes to fill in the blanks.
Night Vale‘s format proved a popular one to mimic – with many successful scripted podcasts playing as radio bulletins or documentaries. Limetown is another breakout hit, this time presenting itself as a short-run documentary in the vein of Serial.