Podcast Reviews – The Assassination, Who Killed JFK? And Serial

Serial, The Assassination, Who Killed JFK?
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Today’s three podcasts are a mixed bag or history, culture and true crime. Two are about two of the biggest political assassinations in my time. Both have spun off many theories and stories, but the conclusions of who and why are still murky.

I came late to podcasting, but in the two or three years that I have been listening to podcasts, I’ve become hooked.

The very first ever podcast I listened to turns out to still be one of the best ever. It is called The Assassination. A BBC documentary investigation into the best death of the very charismatic former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto.

Staying on the subject of assassinations, I really enjoyed Rob Reiner and Soledad O’ Brien’s Who Killed JFK?  Also known as “America’s great murder mystery.”

So, when I was thinking of what other podcast series to add to these two, I defaulted to Serial, just because it is ground Zeo for true crime podcasts .

Serial was one of the first podcasts to achieve mainstream popularity and widespread critical acclaim. Its first season was downloaded over 175 million times, making it the fastest podcast to reach 5 million downloads in iTunes history.

Serialized Storytelling

Its serialized storytelling and in-depth investigation of a single case over multiple episodes set a new standard for true crime podcasts

Serial became a major cultural touchstone, with fans analyzing every detail of the case online and in social media. It inspired countless think pieces, parodies, and even a live tour.

Serial’s investigation into Adnan Syed’s case led to a new trial being granted in 2016 based on new evidence. While Syed’s conviction was later reinstated, the podcast shone a light on issues with the criminal justice system and the presumption of innocence.

The Assassination

The Assassination podcast by the BBC is an excellent investigative series that delves into the death of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Today, the full truth behind Benazir Bhutto’s assassination remains a complex and unresolved issue, with various actors and theories at play

From the minute I pressed start I was spellbound for ten episodes.

Here are a few key points about the podcast:

It is an “award-winning inside story” that includes interviews with those accused of Bhutto’s murder.

The podcast provides a comprehensive and authoritative account of the assassination. There are times I was surprised by the participants who slotted into this huge story.

The podcast is hosted by veteran journalist Owen Bennett-Jones, whose voice is described as “perfect” for reporting this “horrible story” in a concise, non-repetitive manner

Reviewers praise the podcast as “journalism at its finest” and “absolutely perfect reporting of an absolutely horrific story” It won the British Podcast Award for Best True Crime in 2018

Who killed JFK?

OK, so we’ve all watched, read, and listened to more versions of the Kennedy Assassination than we can deal with.

WE know all about the grassy knoll and the theory of another shooter and we have blamed everybody from the CIA to the Mob to Russia to Castro for the death of the 35th President of the United States of America. What we don’t know is Who Killed JFK?

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get into this podcast because I’d seen and heard versions of this story most of my life. But I liked the two presenters so I clicked on the first episode. I was not disappointed.

In a gripping exploration of what he calls “America’s great murder mystery,” renowned actor and director Rob Reiner has launched a 10-part podcast series titled “Who Killed JFK,” aiming to unravel the truth behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Reiner claims not only does he know there was more than one shooter, but he is prepared to identify the shooters and their locations.

Veteran broadcaster Soledad O’Brien wo co-hosts the podcast, promises to shed light on the enigmatic event that has lingered in the American psyche for over six decades.

They interview CIA officials, medical experts, Pulitzer-prize winning journalists, eyewitnesses, and a former Secret Service agent who, in 2023, came forward with groundbreaking new evidence.

They also discuss their own theories of “who killed JFK,” how that question has shaped America, and why it matters that we are still asking it today.


OK, I must mention Serial, hosted by Sarah Koenig. All four seasons of Serial.

Serial is an excellent podcast series overall, with each season offering a compelling deep dive into a different aspect of crime and justice in America.

For many, Serial was their gateway to podcasts, especially true crime fanatics

Sadly, it seems to be getting a little dated now that it has just released a fourth season.

Four seasons of Serial: four great stories:

  • Season 1, which explored the case of Adnan Syed, is considered the most gripping and well-produced, even though some feel the case itself was “sloppy”. The podcast gave millions a personal connection to the realities of criminal prosecution
  • Season 2, which covered the story of Bowe Bergdahl, was harder for many to get into, with some finding it “tedious” However, others appreciated learning about the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region and the Haqqani Network
  • Season 3 took a systemic look at the criminal justice system in Cleveland and was praised by many as the best overall, with comparisons made to the acclaimed TV series The Wire
  • Season 4 This nine-episode, fourth season focusses on Guantanamo.

Season 4

In Season 4, Koenig and Dana Chivvis tell the history of Guantanamo through the personal stories of those on the ground.

Some listeners feel the reporting is biased and not truthful, with one Reddit post criticizing Sarah Koenig’s journalism as disappointing and no longer worth listening to. However, others defend Koenig as an excellent, ethical, and thorough reporter.

Reality Blurred argues the season feels stuck in the past, with a tone that is “flip” and “snarky” in the early episodes. They question if the subject matter is still relevant enough in 2024 to captivate listeners

Slate criticizes the season for abandoning the serialized storytelling that made the podcast famous, instead telling important but previously reported stories about Guantánamo in a sober, uninspired way

The Guardian review is more positive, stating that if anyone can make a nonfiction story gripping, it is Koenig and her co-host Dana Chivvis. They say the season has the “brilliantly clear direction, articulate writing and superb acting” that fans expect.

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