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“Criminal is a podcast about crime. Not so much the "if it bleeds, it leads," kind of crime. Something a little more complex. Stories of people who've done wrong, been wronged, and/or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.”

At this point in the podcasting milieu, keeping up with the number of different true crime shows out there is nearly impossible.  Fortunately for those shows (and unfortunately for the rest of us), there’s no shortage of crime in our world, both historically and in an extant sense.  What this means is, for the true crime podcast lover, which is most of us, so long as a given show is covering previously unknown material, it’s hard to say that it’s redundant.  And Criminal, the Radiotopia podcast hosted by Phoebe Judge, is emphatically not redundant.  It doesn’t just deal with particular true crime cases (though it does do that, too), it deals with human criminality in a more general sense.

One thing I really enjoy about Criminal is that, with each new episode that premieres, I am in all likelihood going to be listening to something wholly original--something I haven’t heard about before.  Something that hasn’t been covered by ten other true crime podcasts.  And what’s more, what I’m listening to is going to be produced with the high degree of expertise and even audio innovation that we’ve all come to expect from a Radiotopia-branded show.  

What I mean is, it’s not just going to be two roommates with no audio engineering / storytelling production experience sitting down in their shared apartment with a shitty mic and questionably sourced internet research talking about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre over Bud Lites.  Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.  Some of the funniest podcasts out there follow a format just like that with great success.  But with Criminal you’re getting a more tangible level of quality.  

Phoebe and team don’t just tell the story, they go directly to the source.  They go on location to where a given crime actually took place.  They interview experts, and they try to understand the context in a more fundamental, less speculative way.  And that’s what makes Criminal unique, rather than just being another burgeoning true crime podcast trying to catch the wave started by Serial back in the day.  Well, that, and also the obscure historical crimes they manage to uncover and shed some light on, which allows each episode to retain a sense of originality.  So if you’re tired of the run-of-the-mill true crime podcast that just seems to offer the same thing all the rest do plus or minus a gimmick, and you want something well-produced with stories you haven’t heard seven times already, then Criminal is definitely the podcast for you.


Pretty good.  Even the episodes I’m not necessarily excited about going into them usually end up impressing me.

Phoebe has the kind of perfect radio voice that gives Criminal a glow of authenticity and authority at the same time.

Driveway Moments:
Chock full.

Future Potential:
High.  I doubt that even with all of the other true crime podcasts out there we’ve even come close to mining the full extent of human criminality.

Episode Length:
20 - 30 minutes

Overall Score:

Notable Episodes:

  • Episode 5: Dropping Like Flies
  • Episode 9: That Crime of the Month
  • Episode 17: Final Exit
  • Episode 21: Bloodlines
  • Episode 23: Triassic Park
  • Episode 32: It Looked Like Fire
  • Episode 35: Pen & Paper

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

  • Serial
  • In the Dark
  • This American Life
  • Accused
  • Crimetown

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