Mystery Show (podcast)

Lately, I’ve started exploring the giant world of podcasts, where I discovered something amazing called Mystery Show.

This blog has a pretty broad scope–I’ve gone into comics, movies, Doctor Who, Star Trek, and a lot more. But I’ve never really written about podcasts–up until lately, for whatever reason I’ve never really listened to them, not in earnest. But a little while ago I was hankering from audio content, and in my efforts to find something built around mysteries or puzzles, I came across Mystery Show, produced by Gimlet Media.

Mystery Show is not what I was looking for–it’s not a podcast about puzzles or games. Rather, it’s a show in which the host, one Starlee Kine, solves mysteries. Any mystery, really, as long as its not something one can just look up on Google. And she documents the process and then presents it in a fascinating audio narrative.

One episode, for example, is about an author who wrote a wildly unsuccessful book that nobody bought and nobody reviewed…but somehow it showed up in a photograph being held by singer Britney Spears. The author wondered how Britney Spears got ahold of her book, so Starlee Kines set out to find out.

Other episodes are about things like a video store that seemed to disappear overnight, the confusion that surrounds the height of actor Jake Gyllenhaal, and a strange vanity license plate that the host herself saw on a passing car. Many of the questions she tackles are years old, but through persistence and dogged determination, Starlee always finds her answers.

But even more fascinating, along the way she ends up meeting all manner of other interesting people and learning their stories. She has the kind of genuinely interested manner that just seems to let people open up and share about themselves. In attempting to find out how unavailable her friend’s book is, for example, she ends up having a lengthy conversation with a woman at the book store who tells her that her parents won the lottery which paid for her trip to Australia, where she had a bartender with an Irish accent…her favorite accent. When asked why she didn’t just take a trip to Ireland, she replies that she didn’t want to just fulfill all her dreams off of her parents’ money.

Sadly, only six episodes of Mystery Show were produced–the whole thing came and went in June and July 2015. I very quickly made my way through the whole collection, and wish I was in an alternate universe where there were more.

The best episode is probably #3, which featured Starlee tracking down the owner of a belt buckle that a guy had been given by a friend who had found it in a ditch…decades earlier. If you only listen to one, then that’s probably the one to choose. But if you stop there, you’ll never hear the story that television producer Alan Sacks (co-creator of Welcome Back, Kotter) tells about meeting Phil Spector that is just absolutely insane.

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