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Here's the thing about way too many true crime podcasts. There's a dramatic trailer that, if it's done right, reels in listeners like a fisherman casting at a fish farm. There's dramatic music, a big buildup — and lots and lots of the same dialogue.

"I'm not at liberty to say more about the case at this time." "This kind of thing just doesn't happen around here." "He had no enemies." Blah blah blah.

You commit to listening for hours, and then there's no resolution. You sit through countless dramatic pauses and musical crescendos that leave you wanting more.

That's basically how I feel about the second season of Hell and Gone from Catherine Townsend, who has been publishing weekly 'casts from Northwest Arkansas about the disgraceful and suspicious investigation into the 1998 death of teen Janie Ward at a cabin party in Marshall.

No big breakthrough has resulted from Townsend's investigation so far, though it is fascinating to hear tapes the victim's late father, Ron Ward, made while doing his own thorough and dogged probe of her mysterious death, for which no one was ever arrested.

Townsend has done her best, but when no one will talk to even local officials about the goings-on at that party all those years ago, it's pretty clear they'll slam doors in the face of the podcast's investigator.

There is one more episode to come, on Wednesday, and it doesn't look like we'll know much more than we did before the podcast began. We only relive the pain and heartbreak, something that must be excruciating for the Ward family to go through again.

It's not only Hell and Gone. Another example is a new one called Bardstown, from Tegna Broadcasting's Vault Studios. The first four episodes are behind me, and I'm waiting for the next one to drop. Already, though, I'm losing interest. The copy editor in me wants to go in and snip, snip, snip some of the repetitive questions and quotes and speculation. Those four episodes could have been two good ones.

Investigative journalist Jessica Noll and WHAS-TV reporter Shay McAlister are the hosts. It begins with the shocking setup and murder of a young and respected Bardstown police officer, Jason Ellis, in 2013. His was the first of a string of five as-yet unsolved murders that spooked the rural town before stopping in 2016.

There's never been so much as a suspect; motives are totally elusive, and the trail has long grown ice cold. The saving grace is that each podcast is only about 30 minutes long. But there will be 10, and if my math is correct, that's five hours I'd be dedicating to finding out nothing.

Am I over true crime podcasts, or am I just spoiled by the neat format of TV's Dateline and shows like it? Crime, suspect, arrest, trial, guilty or not guilty and, boom, it's time to turn off the tube and hit the sack.

Perhaps I should listen to the frustrating podcasts in bed instead of counting sheep.

THOMASON PODCAST

Ever wonder what Harry Thomason, the producer of Designing Women, is up to these days? A co-worker caught his post Thursday on Facebook announcing a new podcast, The Story You Never Heard, that will debut at 5 p.m. Sept. 20.

Here's more of the post: "I narrate stories about history events you never knew (other people you love will join us in narrating stories, also). Stories I told my students when I was a history teacher! You hear a lot of stories for free with a wonderful music score by Benjy Gaither! If you subscribe, you get even more stories with added gifts! Plus, you'll know things almost nobody else knows! Not political, just entertaining! Hopefully you will agree!"

COUNTRY FRIED

Arkansas Educational Television Network will debut a podcast today titled Country Fried. You can catch it at facebook.com/aetntv and "select podcast providers."

A news release called it a "podcast miniseries" that will be hosted by Arkansas singer-songwriter Ryan Harmon, who will talk to country music icons including Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie Daniels, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and producer Shawn Campo and Marty Raybon of the group Shenandoah.

The podcast is meant to accompany the new Country Music documentary by Ken Burns, which begins at 7 p.m. Sunday on AETN. New episodes of the podcast will air every Tuesday. More information is available at aetn.org/countrymusic.

STONED POLITICS

Insideradio.com's Podcast News Daily reports that Rolling Stone magazine has a new political podcast, its first, called Useful Idiots, hosted by senior writer and author Matt Tibbi and journalist Katie Halper.

Don't expect a conservative tone: The podcast will include debate-night drinking games. U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-N.H., was the first guest.

CAT OUT OF BAG

It had to happen because they own the Internet: A cat has its own podcast. Reid McCarter, writing for AVclub.com, reports that Bilbo the Cat and his human, Ellen Murray, have produced The Bilbcast, a podcast starring the black cat that also has its own popular Twitter account. The black beauty from Belfast has one job to do — purr as loudly as possible while Murray pets him. For 30 minutes, people all over the world can be lulled by the soothing sounds of a cat making that odd noise unique to the species.

Wouldn't you rather listen to Bilbo purring than annoying co-workers? Or a true crime podcast?

Listening to any good podcasts? Tell us about it by emailing jmcleod@arkansasonline.com.

Style on 09/10/2019

Print Headline: Podcasts on crime fall short

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