Author: Alison Kaitcer
Living in a small town can be tough. People gossip, there’s only one really good restaurant within city limits, and occasionally the woods are full of eldritch horrors you have to do battle with. Super relatable, right?
This is the most basic concept behind the popular paranormal fiction podcast, King Falls AM. Yes, there are ghosts –though they prefer to be called apparitions–and aliens and all manner of spooky entities lurking around the secluded mountain town of King Falls, but often the most harrowing trial to face is small town politics. The story centers on Sammy Stevens (voiced by Kyle Brown, co-writer), a late-night radio host, and his producer/co-host/best friend Ben Arnold (Noah James) as they broadcast local news to the town in the wee hours of the morning– The two of them fulfill the roles of skeptic and believer, satisfying those of us who would have loved Mulder and Scully as radio hosts (I’m sure that exists somewhere in the realm of fan-fiction, but this is the next best thing).
Filling out the cast are a host of the eclectic characters one might expect from a small town like King Falls: the well-meaning sheriff’s deputy (Eric Kimelton, co-writer), the beautiful and witty librarian (Lauren Denham), the grumpy old men who bicker but truly love each other (both voiced by Trent Shumway, who provides many of the voices in the cast), the wealthy town recluse (also Trent Shumway), the seemingly-charming mayor (Kevin Bulla), and the loveable yet rough around the edges bait-shop owner (Matthew Walter). Less expected– but nonetheless important and hilarious–are the pom-chi breeder (Trent Shumway again), reality show hosts (Zach Book and Cameron Chambers), froggery owner and general menace (Lonnie Iannazzo II), and federal agent (Kelly Zimmer). These are just a few of the myriad characters that populate the rich world of King Falls in alternating bursts of humor and horror.
The show began in May of 2015 as a production of the Make Believe Picture Company, founded by Kyle Brown and Eric Kimelton. Since then, it has been released on the first and fifteenth of every month, barring a hiatus that recently ended. Aside from the show itself, the creators curate a robust Twitter presence, where they regularly interact with fans. They are very upfront about having lives, families, and day jobs outside the show, and that this project is done out of passion for the story. That passion shines out of every aspect of the show, from the acting to the storytelling to the handling of several sensitive issues addressed in-show. This is ultimately a work of love, and that love has built a dedicated listenership and fanbase.
Ultimately, King Falls AM is a love story. It’s about loving where you come from, your neighbors, and your friends. While there are romances depicted in the show–with varying degrees of comedy and tragedy–the central love story is between Ben and Sammy as they become closer and better friends. It is exceedingly rare for such a positive male friendship to exist in a piece of media, with no traces of the toxic masculinity that plagues a lot of popular culture. Throughout the series they love and support each other and aren’t afraid to voice those emotions even though it could be uncomfortable to address. Both Ben and Sammy are not afraid of the vulnerability that comes with being known, loved, and loving someone else. It serves not only as a reminder of the importance of different kinds of love, but also as a reminder to tell–and show!–your friends how much you care about them. It also demonstrates that just because you love someone doesn’t mean you can’t call them out when you need to. Neither Ben nor Sammy is perfect, but they are both made better through their love and respect for one another. It serves as a wonderful and timely reminder of the importance of showing up for your friends and telling them just how much you love them, because you never really know what someone is struggling with–be it an alien invasion or mental illness, people need to know that they have a support system to fall back on.
Even in the face of apparitions and horrifying shadow monsters, the characters of King Falls AM still suffer from more mundane issues of depression, grief, anxiety, and many other more familiar issues. Through the lens of the podcast (and a particularly moving musical episode!) listeners can see themselves represented, find comfort, and gather the courage to reach out and know that someone, somewhere cares about them. To that point, the creators and cast have stated that if anyone needs someone to talk to about such issues, they are always available through social media–and are true to their word. The King Falls AM fanbase–also known as the KFAM–is one of the most supportive I’ve seen in my years on the internet (although that’s another article for another time).
Beyond producing an incredible show and extending the legacy of the radio play into our modern era, the makers of King Falls AM have fostered a community of caring in their fans and inspired many to seek help when they otherwise might not have. There may not be such thing as a perfect show, but King Falls AM comes pretty close.
You can listen to King Falls AM on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. New episodes come out the 1stand 15thof every month.
ALISON KAITCER | #1 Ben Arnold Fan | KXSU Arts Reporter