×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Limetown’ With Jessica Biel

Facebook Watch's adaptation of the popular podcast makes for a tense, efficient thriller.

With:
Jessica Biel, Stanley Tucci, Marlee Matlin, Kelly Jenrette, John Beasley, Sherri Saum, Omar Elba, Louis Ferriera, Janet Kidder.

“Limetown” is about as meta on the persistent true crime phenomenon as it gets. The new Facebook Watch drama, based on Zack Akers and Skip Bronkie’s 2015 scripted podcast, follows a radio reporter who’s chasing down an unsolved mystery, recording what’s essentially a podcast all the while. (Though the original podcast unfolds in the vein of a radio drama, it’s not a coincidence that “Limetown” debuted a year after “Serial.”) Now, the podcast within a podcast has become a podcast within a TV show based on a podcast — a dizzying trajectory, but one that nonetheless appears to suit “Limetown” well.

The key difference between “Limetown” and “Serial,” however, is that Lia Haddock (executive producer Jessica Biel) isn’t trying to dig into a story she believes may be misunderstood, but one that no one has ever understood. Both the podcast and show open 15 years after the residents of Limetown, an entire makeshift community of scientists and researchers, vanished without a trace. Lia’s beloved uncle (played in flashbacks by Stanley Tucci) is among the missing; Lia of the present day is a jaded, singleminded workaholic who’s seemingly been haunted by this tragedy all her life. The show makes an early attempt to tie the world moving on from Limetown to the very real 24/7 news cycle that’s shortened our attention spans for tragedy, but the first two episodes largely focus on Lia’s personal connection to the case rather than its potentially global implications.

Determined lone wolf Lea will be an incredibly familiar archetype to anyone even vaguely into mysteries, a fact that “Limetown” embraces. As far as we know, in fact, Lia doesn’t have much in her life that Limetown and her pursuit of answers haven’t touched in some way. And yet Biel’s Lia isn’t the hard-drinking mess of a reporter we’ve grown accustomed to seeing onscreen. She’s focused and meticulous, somehow both too blunt and unsettlingly opaque. (One could even describe her as “competent,” making the moment when her phone rings during a crucial interview even more jarring than possibly intended.)

That the show’s most developed character barely exists outside the case should be more of an obvious narrative red flag than it ends up being in the early outing. A big point in favor of “Limetown” is that it eschews dramas’ traditional hourlong runtime for a tighter half-hour that leaves little room for any B or C stories too far afield from the main mystery anyway. (The first pair of episodes essentially act as a pilot split into two parts, but the abbreviated episode length plus the cliffhangers that practically scream “dun dun dun” are probably a more solid combination for a streaming service wanting to retain curious viewers.) And despite the density of the story she has to get through per episode, director Rebecca Thomas patiently builds a steady, creeping unease that rarely lets up.

Herein lies the most compelling strength of “Limetown.” Though it’s a more straightforward adaptation of its podcast source material than, say, Amazon’s “Homecoming,” it always feels slightly off-kilter in a way that suits its thriller roots. Its characters waver on a thin edge, like a record needle straying off the track. By the time a mysterious new witness (Kelly Jenrette) shifts the show into a higher gear by making her presence known, “Limetown” is so taut with tension that I both craved and dreaded its inevitable snap.

The first two episodes of “Limetown” had its world premiere Friday, September 6 at the Toronto International Film Festival, and will drop Wednesday, October 16 on Facebook Watch.

TV Review: 'Limetown' With Jessica Biel

Crew: Executive producers: Zack Akers, Skip Bronkie, Jessica Biel, Melissa Purple, Josh Appelbaum, Jeff Pinkne, André Nemec, Scott Rosenberg.

Cast: Jessica Biel, Stanley Tucci, Marlee Matlin, Kelly Jenrette, John Beasley, Sherri Saum, Omar Elba, Louis Ferriera, Janet Kidder.

More TV

  • Chuck Lorre, Scott Stuber to Keynote

    Chuck Lorre, Scott Stuber to Keynote Variety Innovate Summit

    “The Big Bang Theory” co-creator and TV producer Chuck Lorre and the head of Netflix Films Scott Stuber will keynote Variety’s Innovate Summit presented by PwC on Dec. 5 in Los Angeles. Lorre will share the career experiences that lead to his co-creating and executive producing “The Big Bang Theory,” “Young Sheldon” and “Mom.” Lorre’s extensive [...]

  • Devesh Raj Replacing Carsten Schmidt as

    Devesh Raj Replacing Carsten Schmidt as Sky Deutschland CEO

    Devesh Raj will take the helm at Comcast-owned Sky Deutschland, replacing Carsten Schmidt, who has stepped down and will leave at year-end. Devesh joined Sky as COO last summer after Comcast took over the European pay-TV giant. Prior to Sky he was at Comcast in the U.S. for five years in a strategy role. Schmidt [...]

  • Cardi B

    Pepsi Enlists Cardi B for Its Own Version of Holiday Gift Giving

    Pepsi is known for its Super Bowl half time show and celebrity-laden commercials. Now it wants to burnish a reputation for holiday cheer. The soda-maker will help consumers give cash gifts to friend and family members through a digital scratch-off game that can be sparked via QR codes found across 12 packs of Pepsi, Diet [...]

  • Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg. Democratic presidential

    CNN Will Simulcast PBS Democratic Debate in December

    CNN said it will simulcast the Democratic debate slated to take place in December that is being hosted by PBS NewsHour and Politico, a move that will likely bring more attention and audience to the event. PBS plans to broadcast the debate December 19 from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. At this point in [...]

  • Peppa Pig

    U.K. Competition Watchdog to Examine Hasbro's $4 Billion Deal for Entertainment One

    Britain’s competition watchdog will investigate Hasbro’s $4 billion takeover of Entertainment One. The Competition and Markets Authority said Thursday that it would examine whether the intended acquisition of eOne would result in a “substantial lessening of competition” under U.K. rules. The CMA was deeply involved in scrutinizing the sale of Sky, which was ultimately bought [...]

  • Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Ind.,

    MSNBC and Washington Post Air Strong, Substantial Democratic Debate (Column)

    The Democratic party primary debate in Atlanta ran long (by about 20 minutes) and had a crowded stage of 10 candidates — and yet, relatively speaking, flew by efficiently. After a passel of debates that had been wildly oversubscribed and caught fire more for personality conflict than policy difference, the MSNBC and Washington Post debate [...]

  • Subhash Chandra Chairman of the Zee

    Another 16% Slice of India’s Zee to be Sold by Essel

    The Essel Group is to sell a further 16.5% stake in Zee Entertainment Enterprise Limited, India’s largest private sector broadcast group. The debt-reduction move comes just months after Essel auctioned off an 11% tranche of ZEEL. “The Group seeks to sell up to 16.5% stake in ZEEL to financial investors, in order to repay loan [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content