Serial radio programs have always intrigued me, probably more to do with Woody Allen’s Radio Days than anything else.
Welcome to Night Vale is a serial, a surreal serial, but a serial nonetheless. New episodes drop every pay day, the 1st and 15th of each month. It follows the goings on of the small fictional town of Night Vale. The mundane mingles seamlessly with the supernatural in this comedy/drama.
Night Vale’s unflappable host, Cecil Baldwin, guides you through each episode with a style so “Kai Ryssdal” in affectation, that even mention of a “glow cloud” that rains animal corpses onto the town center can feel like Marketplace.
The only real through line in the show is “the Weather,” typically a performance by an obscure musical guest. And of course there are the characters:
There’s Carlos, the scientist; the mysterious hooded figures in the dog park, the Apache Tracker, and the “sponsors.” It’s a little Stephen King, a little David Lynch, and a little Garrison Keillor all rolled into one surprisingly digestible 20-minute episode.
The show, not unlike a lot of avant-garde entertainment, can feel a bit self-indulgent, but therein lies its charm. Strip it down, and it’s simply science fiction with indie rock accompaniment and a touch of conspiracy theory to give it that small-town feel. It’s funny, peculiar, and well-produced. You may be satiated with just one episode. I think I was. But who knows?