The Cambridge Geek

The Candyman

"True" crime investigation podcasts are quite a good route for people into fiction podcasts, as they match a form people have seen a lot of, but start to introduce elements of comedy/horror or other genres in a way that isn't particularly difficult.

If you want to get people into horror, the BBC's The Lovecraft Investigations is a good option, but comedy is a pretty popular second option, as it's a slightly more lighthearted version of the often quite grim true crime. Good ways to expand people's interest include Someone Stole Something or A Very Fatal Murder, but you can now add The Candyman to that list.

It follows a gruesome number of breaches of workplace safety by a corporate entity named WonkaCo. Willy Wonka ran a chocolate factory, and decided to invite a group of five children (and their relevant guardians) to visit the factory for unknown purposes. And then utterly failed to insist on handrails, safety interlocks, protective covers or any of the other standard H+S requirements that would generally act to prevent the range of hideous incidents that befall his visitors.

It is fair to say that the investigative team; Ella, Maddie, and Millie, aren't necessarily the most competent investigative journalists, but they're definitely keen. They're disgusted that this crime has been given so much positive PR, in the form of both a book and a couple of films. The one that most offends them is the 1971 version, which had the far more likable Gene Wilder getting to improve the reputation of the awful Wonka. What this means is they've clipped out snippets of the film that act as evidence of wrongdoing, and good lord have they dug deep into it.

There's some excellent sideways moves that I never expected, including an incredible trip into 1970s pop. It's certainly funniest when it runs these little spinoffs, with dashes into regal conspiracies, the best way to deal with naughty children, and children's fantasy - with some excellent impressions. They're also excellent at sneaking in a cut of music at just the right time (and short enough to get away with fair use, I hope), in just the right way to punctuate a joke. Fair play to the 1971 film though, it does make me want to go back and re-watch it though, as the music is just so good.

The character work in this is probably my favourite element though. While one perfect example is the "naughty" children from the film, who the investigative team assume must have simply been smeared by the press, but actually really are that horrible, the team have to win for most fun. Like a lot of good parody works, it's just as much about the deficiencies of the investigators as it is about the crime itself.

Millie, after all, isn't actually a host. She's merely the tech, and so must live in the tech booth, where the techs live. Ella and Maddie are naturally always horrible to her, but they are definitely no better to each other, or indeed to themselves. Arden is the obvious cultural touchstone to hit here, but this runs funnier. Their conflicts are more absurd, and they're more incompetent. (Except, perhaps, when it comes to organising a bean feast, or deciding the grand prize.)

There's also some fun with the structure of the work, setting up parallels to the Wilder film. A definite recommendation for a listen.

Score 5

Tagged: Audio fiction Comedy Cast Dramatised Fanfiction Serial