The Cambridge Geek

King Falls AM

Sammy ("Shotgun" Sammy to his fans) is the new host of the King Fall AM late night talk show. It's the standard dial-in discussion of topics of the day, with a local news, important politics and naturally a few cranks. Helping Sammy run to schedule, and keeping a quick finger on the dump button is his producer, Ben, local boy and source of esoteric knowledge.

See, Sammy is new to King Falls, and hasn't quite yet worked out that it's not the most normal town. Luckily, as one of the major faces (voices?) of the media, he's going to get a lot of people crawling out of the creepy woodwork to tell him all the things he doesn't know.

What are those things? Well, let's start with the UFOs. They have a worrying, but perhaps expected tendency to abduct people. Then there's Kingsy, the lake monster, definitely not a knockoff of the Loch Ness monster. And the dog breeder, who might have particular problems every full moon. Also zombies are giving the local coroner difficulties, a local celebrity isn't very fond of the daylight, and the library is more than a bit haunted by Lincoln and Booth.

Naturally, Sam the skeptic only believes half of these things initially, playing Scully to Ben's Mulder, but as time slowly creeps by, he starts to figure it out. Especially when they keep happening on the air.

Obvious comparisons can be drawn with Welcome to Night Vale, with which it shares certain themes. It's presented as a fictional radio show, and it's set in a town that has weirdness built into it. There's two major differences though, that I think are real strengths. Firstly, where Night Vale starts with the premise that Cecil, the radio host, knows all about the oddities of Night Vale and expects the listener too as well, this is the story of Sam's discovery of the truth.

Secondly, the double team of Sam and Ben means that there's far more scope for back and forth, and a well-developed relationship between them, with one pushing in a given direction at any one time, where Cecil was mostly talking to the air. I must confess, I listened to a bunch of episodes of Night Vale a few years back, and eventually it bored me, with the overly surreal nature preventing what felt like meaningful development of plot. I had the same problem recently with Dreamboy. It's possible this is a fairly consistent problem of mismatched tastes.

In King Falls AM then, the fantasy/horror elements creep in slowly, with each plot strand coming back every 5-10 episodes to add a tiny amount to the various stories, letting it build to something quite nasty over time. That's helped both by the relatively short episodes (at least at first, they do creep up over time), and the fact that there tends to be a particular character attached to each plotline.

For example, Kingsy the monster and the corpses in the lake gets a crochety but not at all lovable old fisherman. The aliens deal with the person they first abduct, and his unfortunate family. One of the local Sheriff's deputies provides a bit of a legal insight, and the overarching baddie of the series is the Mayor, who tends to disapprove of Sam's riling up of the supernatural horrors of the town.

And then there's Emily, the local librarian, who Ben attempts to woo.

I bounce back and forth on romance subplots, mostly because they can either be done couched in reality, with a lot of hesitancy and valid concerns of consent and enthusiasm, or they can be done in a rather over the top Mills+Boon style, where it's all flowing tresses, gleaming chests, and bunk-ups in a hay bale. (It's spiky, don't try it.) I like the former, loathe the latter. See Steal the Stars for awkward.

This is the former. It stands out as a good one because there's a nice contrast between Ben's gentle questing and Emily's impressive self-awareness and ability to stand up for herself. She's not a damsel in distress, but she's also not wrapped in iron. It's a good balance.

A lot of waffle here, to effectively tell you it's an excellent series. I'm thirty episodes in, and I think there's currently about fifty more. Hadn't realised quite how many I'd listened to, which is indicative of how invested I'd managed to get. Heartily recommended.

Score 5

Tagged: Audio fiction Comedy Cast Fictional show Workplace/Employment Serial