“Welcome to Crimetown, a new series from Gimlet Media and the creators of HBO’s The Jinx.  Every season, we’ll investigate the culture of crime in a different American city.  First up: Providence, Rhode Island, where organized crime and corruption infected every aspect of public life.  This is a story of alliances and betrayals, of heists and stings, of crooked cops and honest mobsters--a story where it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys.”

At this point, it’s an indisputable fact that Americans are deeply, culturally attracted to the notion of the successful underground criminal kingpin.  Particularly if that criminal’s rise involves bootstrapping their way to the top.  We need only look at the successes of such films as The Godfather trilogy, or Scarface, or pretty much every Scorsese movie ever.  And that’s not even to mention all of the various hip-hop moguls who take a similar approach to success.  But just how much do we actually love these big shot gangsters and mobsters in real life?  Well, at least enough to elect one of them as the mayor of the state capital of Rhode Island.  For nine years running.  And then eleven more years after that.  With only a major felony separating those two stints, and another at the end of it all.  

If you pray to Gotti and have watched Goodfellas more times than you can count, then the first season of Crimetown, which recently wrapped, is definitely for you.  Crimetown profiles the meteoric rise, fall, and rise and fall again of the legendary Providence mayor and felon Buddy Cianci, as well as many of the most notorious members of the Patriarca Crime Family who helped him get there, including mob boss Raymond Patriarca himself.  

I chose to wait until season one of Crimetown had ended to review it for a reason: the story is complicated (even, at times, convoluted), and the number of characters and subplots contained within the podcast can be overwhelmingly hard to follow from week-to-week.  Like many other podcasts that follow an overarching narrative rather than an episodic framework, Crimetown is a dish best served binged, particularly if you’re juggling a lot of other podcasts at the same time.  Because I unfortunately did not follow my own advice, the show tended to lack some cohesiveness for me and often felt like it had trouble choosing a direction to follow.  But despite all that, Crimetown is worth it.  It’s worth it because of the many colorful characters it profiles.  It’s worth it because it reveals our problematic relationship with crime and the perceived glamour of the mob boss.  Most of all, it’s worth it because it really happened, which is knowledge we can and should use in understanding who we elect and why, regardless of the very real, publicly aired skeletons in their closets.  All I can say is the lesson I’ve learned: a powerful charisma eclipses just about any character flaw.
Excellent.  Gimlet Media delivers as usual.

Although each episode is good in and of itself, the lack of cohesiveness is a problem that makes the thread of the overarching narrative difficult to follow.  

This is a podcast that is more character/story driven, but Zac Stuart-Pontier and Marc Smerling do a great job regardless.

Driveway Moments:
How could you not be riveted by the prospect of the next mob hit gone wrong or a Mayor attempting to criminally assault a man with firewood?

Future Potential:
Personally, I can’t wait to find out the subject of next season’s Crimetown.

Episode Length: 
20-45 minutes

Overall Score: 7.6/10

Notable Episodes:
This is one you’re going to want to listen to in order, so start from the beginning.

If you like this podcast, you’ll probably like: 

  • Criminal
  • Serial
  • S-Town

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