by Alasdair Stuart
Sammy is a new arrival in King Falls. A talk show DJ, he’s a kinder Howard Stern, a man who has no problem talking for a living but isn’t super up for engaging with the world around him. Like Pontypool’s Grant Mazzie, Sammy’s most comfortable in the booth alone. And, like Grant, Sammy isn’t given that luxury.
Ben is a King Falls local. Ben is Sammy’s producer. Ben is also a puppy in human form, a man who runs headlong at everything with absolute enthusiasm. He’s a perfect foil for the calm, distanced Sammy and a perfect introduction to King Falls. Because, as Sammy finds out, King Falls is a very, very odd town…
King Falls AM, superficially, looks very close to Night Vale. Both shows involve talk show hosts dealing with oddness, both shows involve small, strange towns and both shows are very fond of strange lights in the sky. However, once you look at the way they approach this idea, you see where the two shows differ.
Night Vale, brilliant as it is, is very artful. Every episode is carefully constructed in a way that means you’re aware of that structure. It’s The Muppet Show with added Glow Cloud, a show which is about a show which is about a small town and that level of transparency is one of the reasons it works as well as it does.
If Night Vale is Frazier, King Falls AM is Spaced.
Sammy and Ben are one of the most instantly likeable double acts in podcasting. As the first few episodes unfold you can hear how they influence each other too; Ben encourages Sammy to unbutton a little bit and Sammy encourages Ben to get a little more serious about what he’s doing. One of them doesn’t know the rules of the town at all, the other doesn’t know how to not think in the ways King Falls has conditioned him to. When they team up, they don’t so much fight crime as struggle to make sense of their incredibly odd home.
King Falls is as much a character in the show as any of the speaking parts. The home of a possibly vampiric author and philanthropist, a lake monster with a militant group of protectors and good old fashioned small town corruption, King Falls plays like what a town on the edge of the normal would be like. The episode is punctuated by wonderfully crazed ads for local businesses, regular calls from residents and, frequently, very odd news stories stories. It’s a little like listening to an episode of Northern Exposure that takes place entirely on the radio and with occasional UFO abductions and the script moves from dialogue driven comedy to moments of real unease with grace and style.
And then, a few episodes in, things get serious. The show masterfully unfolds a very subtle, sweet pair of stories that both collapse in on themselves and then expand outwards into something far darker than everything that’s gone before. A resident disappears, then, later, returns and the consequences of that for both Sammy and Ben are intensely personal and oddly poignant. The current run of episodes in particular have seen Ben forced out of his mild complacency into a masterful, desperate plan to rescue someone very important to him. It’s not going well, he’s running into constant resistance and changing and growing as a character. It’s smart and kind and untidy and very human. Not to mention compelling listening.
That’s what makes King Falls AM such a winner, the show’s ability to couch its supernatural story in human, messy terms. This is the show we’d all listen to if we lived in King Falls because while they don’t have the answers, Sammy and Ben are at least trying. And if they make it, then they may save the entire town. So, like the man says, stay tuned…
King Falls AM releases new episodes on the 1st and 15th of the month.
Their tumblr can be found at http://kingfallsam.tumblr.com/
Their website is http://www.kingfallsam.com/
Alasdair Stuart is a freelancer writer, RPG writer and podcaster. He owns Escape Artists, who publish the short fiction podcasts Escape Pod, Pseudopod, Podcastle, Cas