Books with multicolored bindings on a wooden table with headphones around them

The rise of podcast audio fiction dramas

Podcasting as a consumable medium has become mainstream – with two–thirds of Americans listening to podcasts, and nearly one–third that do so regularly. No longer a niche genre, podcasts feature shows in a large variety of topics and formats. Some of the top downloaded shows are daily news podcasts, commentary podcasts, educational podcasts, politics, and true crime podcasts. Note that these are all rooted in non-fiction. An interesting trend we’ve been keeping an eye on is the rise of fictional, scripted podcast dramas.   

The scripted format found in fiction audio dramas is nothing new. They share their origins with the radio dramas that captivated audiences in the 1930s. The early audio dramas relied on dialogue, music, and sound effects to help the listener imagine the characters and story, like Orson Welles’ The War of the Worlds. Today’s podcasts are breathing new life into radio dramas of olden times with stellar production value, well-written scripts, and drawing in big-name performers from film, TV, and theatre. They offer a similar serialized storytelling with creative flair and growing budgets. 

Well-written roles are attracting mainstream actors to this growing medium. Actors get to play parts that are considered too risk-averse for Hollywood and find the production flexibility very attractive. No need to sit for hair and makeup, and being able to record and wrap a project within days has its perks. The creators of fictional podcasts benefit as well. Casting well-known names help their shows rise above the noise and clutter and reach mainstream entertainment audiences. 

There’s undoubtedly more audio fiction podcasts than one person can consume, but here are a variety of shows that we enjoy getting wrapped up in their drama: 

Passenger List

The series follows a college student, Kaitlin Le (The Last Jedi’s Kelly Marie Tran), as she searches for the truth behind the sudden disappearance of a transatlantic flight between London and New York with 256 passengers on board, one of which is her twin brother. Starring Kelly Marie Tran, Colin Morgan, Rob Benedict, and Patti LuPone. 

Hunted

Parker Posey stars as the lead U.S. Marshal on the hunt for the country’s four most dangerous fugitives. After escaping from a maximum-security prison, Deputy Marshal Emily Barnes is called in to pursue the four convicts on one of the most treacherous and violent manhunts in United States history. 

Blood Ties

When Eleonore and lose their parents in a small plane crash, they must choose between honoring their father’s legacy as a world-renowned cardiologist and health care magnate and risking everything for the truth. Starring Gillian Jacobs, Josh Gad, and Amy Landecker.

Homecoming

The mystery “centers on a caseworker at an experimental facility, her ambitious supervisor, and a soldier eager to rejoin civilian life — presented in an enigmatic collage of telephone calls, therapy sessions, and overheard conversations.” Starring Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, David Schwimmer, Amy Sedaris, and David Cross. 

A Very Fatal Murder

A comedy podcast, A Very Fatal Murder sends Onion Public Radio (OPR) correspondent David Pascall from New York City to the sleepy town of Bluff Springs, Nebraska, to investigate the mysterious death of a 17-year-old girl, Hayley Price. Hayley was a popular, smart animal lover, with a bright future ahead of her. Everyone in town knew her name, and now everyone in town is a suspect. Join David as he works to understand why the initial investigation of Hayley’s death failed, and how a very inquisitive and Pulitzer-hungry podcast host might shed new light on the case.

Limetown

Following a reporter trying to find out what happened to a town where everyone suddenly went missing ten years ago while straddling the line between science fiction and horror.

The Bright Sessions

 Dr. Bright provides therapy for the strange and unusual – people with superpowers. Their sessions have been recorded for research purposes, focusing on government conspiracies, well-researched discussions of mental health, and some beautiful love stories. 

Have you gotten hooked on any fiction podcasts? We would love to know what you’re listening to!

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