Welcome to Night Vale has rightfully earned its place as one of the most popular podcasts around. I am actually surprised it hasn’t been nominated for a Hugo already, and I chalk that up to the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) being the “TV category” in people’s minds and little consideration of non-TV and especially non-film dramatic presentations.
For those unfamiliar with it, it is best summed up as Prairie Home Companion meets the Twilight Zone (with a more than generous helping of Elder Gods-style mythos sprinkled in). It is a community radio program hosted by Cecil Palmer (voiced amazingly by Cecil Baldwin) for the small community of Night Vale – a town descried in the opening words of the first podcast as
“A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep.”
Then Cecil proceeds to happily announce the opening of the new community dog park – where no one is allowed to enter. Hooded figures may be seen in the dog park. Do not approach the dog park! Do not look at the dog park!!
And right from the beginning, they captured this amazing vibe of a radio host who absolutely loves this town he lives in all the while completely accepting of the fact that it is utterly bizarre and home to many strange and inexplicable things. Some storylines grow over the course the series, and there are often references to past events, but to a large extent, each half hour episode stands well on its own, explaining needed references. This can get amusing as Cecil will refer to people in specific ways every. single. time. he mentions them. Like John Peters (you know, the farmer?) or Old Woman Josie who lives out near the car lot who is visited by angels even those by law, angels do not exist. These references are both funny and are sly way to inform you about the character very quickly.
It is hard to pick out an individual episode to nominate (especially since I’m a bit behind), but one that stood out for me in really capturing what makes Welcome to Night Vale so special is “[Best Of?]”. It is actually an atypical episode (although there are many that aren’t typical each year – “A Story About You” and the two-part “Sandstorm” are particularly great examples of this). This time Cecil I son vacation and former host Leonard Burton (voiced by James Urbaniak) comes out of retirement to host the show and play some recordings from Cecil’s early career. What happens over that half hour is really fun as we get glimpses of Cecil’s past as well as Leonard hearing about his own “retirement” all of which embraces contradiction and nonsense that actually makes perfect in the town of Night Vale. It is a great episode.
in iTunes podcasts.