From chilling true-crime stories to inventive supernatural tales, podcasts have evolved into a platform as varied and engrossing as the content offered by television networks. So it’s no surprise that some of the most popular audio programs have been optioned for the small screen, attracting renowned actors, writers, and directors in the process.
Here’s a look at some of the thought-provoking podcasts that have recently inspired TV projects.
A radio play in the form of a podcast, Homecoming follows Heidi, a caseworker at an agency dedicated to rehabilitating former soldiers. But as she grows close to a patient, she begins to suspect the facility has sinister motives. The podcast was created by Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg, and stars Oscar Isaac and Catherine Keener. Now the psychological thriller is being adapted as an Amazon series, debuting Nov. 2 and featuring Julia Roberts, Stephan James, Sissy Spacek, and Bobby Cannavale. The small-screen version, on which Horowitz and Bloomberg also serve as showrunners, is directed by Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail.
Unraveling a remarkable true story, the investigative journalism podcast Dirty John is hosted by Los Angeles Times reporter Christopher Goffard and explores the relationship between Debra Newell and her seemingly perfect new husband John Meehan. Through interviews and testimonies, the podcast pieces together a chilling tale of coercion and control that builds to a shocking climax. As part of a new anthology series, Bravo is bringing Dirty John to TV in November, with Connie Britton and Eric Bana starring.
The folklore that has spawned some of the world’s most nightmarish tales comes to life in Lore. The audio program vividly illustrates the darker side of history in a format inspired by the campfire storytelling experience. Created by Aaron Mahnke, the podcast was adapted by Amazon last year. Developed by The Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, the anthology blends documentary footage with cinematic re-enactments. Season 2 premieres Oct. 19.
Combining elements of gothic mystery and sci-fi, Tanis follows a man’s quest to uncover the origins and location of the elusive entity of the same name. Created by Terry Miles and presented as a true story (though it’s fictional), Tanis weaves historical events into its plot, which includes encounters with a variety of cryptic groups and organizations. Now into its fourth season, the podcast has been optioned for TV by Universal Cable Productions and Dark Horse Entertainment. Miles will be part of the venture, as will TV writer Lee Shipman and producer Sam Raimi.
Alice Isn't Dead
The noirish mystery Alice Isn’t Dead follows a woman’s search for her missing wife, who has long been suspected dead. Taking a job as a truck driver in an effort to investigate the disappearance, she soon discovers there are eerie forces to contend with. USA Network is currently developing the story for TV with Mr. Robot executive producer Kyle Bradstreet, who will take on the role of showrunner.
Welcome to Night Vale
Something is amiss in the fictional town of Night Vale, the setting of the chilling podcast Welcome to Night Vale. Each episode presents a report on the strange goings-on in the area, complete with inventive advertisements. Garnering comparisons to the narrative voice of Stephen King, the series has such a devoted fan base that live readings of certain episodes have been staged before audiences in various U.S. cities. Last year, FX announced it would be adding a TV adaptation to its slate, set to be developed by Gennifer Hutchison, a writer and producer on Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad. Creators Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (who are also the duo behind Alice Isn’t Dead) have signed on to executive-produce.
Crimetown is hosted by Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier, the pair behind the HBO docuseries phenomenon The Jinx, and explores the ways in which organized crime and municipal corruption affect American cities. Season 1 focuses on Providence, Rhode Island, while the sophomore season centers on Detroit. The series offers a haunting foray into such themes as the war on drugs, poverty, urban decay, and race relations. Now FX is working to bring the show to life for TV, with scripts being penned by Smerling and Stuart-Pontier. Filmmaker Ted Melfi (St. Vincent, Hidden Figures) has signed on to direct.
Up and Vanished
Unexplained disappearances are given an extensive look in documentary filmmaker Payne Lindsey’s Up and Vanished. Season 1 investigated the 2005 vanishing of Atlanta schoolteacher Tara Grinstead, a case that had run cold, and arguably led to two arrests being made in the case earlier this year. The follow-up season delved into the mysterious disappearance Kristal Anne Reisinger from the small town of Crestone, Colorado. Last year it was announced that Oxygen would be adding Up and Vanished to its unscripted programming schedule.
The operating room was the grisly stage where more than 30 doomed patients fell prey to the murderous hands of sadistic Dallas surgeon Christopher Duntsch. During an 18-month spree of botched operations, Duntsch maimed, paralyzed, and killed patients in his care. Dr. Death (presented by the team behind Dirty John) searches for answers to the gruesome occurrences and exposes the flaws in the medical system that allowed Duntsch to carry out his crimes. Universal Cable Productions recently announced it will develop the series for one of its streaming services. Happy showrunner Patrick Macmanus will write the adaptation.
The podcast that helped rejuvenate radio programing and ignited a new fan base for the medium, Serial first delved into the case of Adnan Syed, who was convicted of the murder of Baltimore high school student Hae Min Lee in 1999. Hosted by journalist Sarah Koenig, the show’s episodes have been download 175 million times. Subsequent seasons explored the case of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier charged with desertion after being freed from Taliban captivity, and the cracks in the Cleveland court system. Earlier this year, HBO shared plans to release the documentary series The Case Against Adnan Syed, inspired by Serial, which sheds new light on the story as Syed awaits the new trial he was awarded in the wake of the podcast’s release. Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Amy Berg will direct the four-hour production.