By Long Story Short Productions
Social Link: @UnseenDotShow
Written and Directed by Gabriel Urbina @GabrielUrbinaTM , Sarah Shachat @sarahshachat, Zach Valenti @zachvalenti
*Review written before the release of their Valentines Day episode*
UNSEEN is the new urban fantasy audio fiction podcast by Long Story Short Productions. The premise behind it is simple:
In a world where magic is real but invisible to almost everyone, the few magical beings that do exist struggle, every day, just to be seen.
Season one of UNSEEN will feature ten different stories of identity, connection, and personhood (and, of course, magic) in the modern world. Some of them will be thrilling adventures. Others may be sad and melancholic. Some may be creepy and unsettling. Each of them will feature a single performer, guiding the audience through a new, original modern fantasy landscape.
Are you watching closely?
This phrase echoes throughout Unseen in a way that ties the entire series together in an engaging way. The way they present the world in a soft, subtle way that sticks so closely to our everyday life- but with a twist- is one of my favorite kinds of stories. The act of layering fiction on top of our everyday fact is a concept that goes back as far as mythology and helps us to appreciate reality in a heightened way. This is what makes so much of popular fiction so exciting: the world can- and must- be more than what we see.
But before I go too much further, it is impossible to talk about fictional magical worlds that lay adjacent to our own - without talking about THAT one. That boy wizard with the problematic author who dominates all realms of modern thought regarding magic.
The challenge for this series then is this: How does one separate a magical world, based on the reality of our own, with a whole new set of rules, from our own reality, and this other massive influence that simply can’t be helped?
This is an anthology series that stretches far and wide and explores so many different corners of the magical world with a different, highly engaging character every episode. This means that each episode you meet an entirely new character, with their own corner of the world - which stretches from Canada to USA to UK and the North Pole - and their own problems which range from the small, to the large, to the personal to the dramatic. The biggest advantage to this is that each character is highly detailed, well developed, and has their own unique world that they can inhabit and are all well performed by their actors.
But whenever you have a world like this, and you’re telling the stories in this way, it is inevitable that some stories are going to be more enjoyable than others. Some pieces are going to be excellent, others okay, and some you just might not care for. This doesn’t take away from the creators, the actors or the medium- but it’s just an inevitability when dealing with this sort of medium.
For instance, one story starred Zach Valenti as the son of a magical artist. The story itself is good: it’s well paced, well performed, engaging and the concept itself is unique. There’s a lot here- and it’s really bittersweet. It serves as a small beautiful look into a man and his life and the story he is telling is worthy and interesting.
My personal favorite is the first story in which Dottie James plays a store clerk named Harry who lives an ordinary life in this world’s magic shop. She is instantly likeable and Dottie does an incredible job breathing complexity, excitement, fun and intrigue into the world- which is good because ultimately this story sets the tone of the entire series. Her struggle, though foreign, is relatable and as a character, there is so much that can be done with her.
But the series doesn’t do anything else with her. She is here for one episode and then she vanishes.
The world is fed to us in a slow steady drip that defines itself into sharper focus with each passing narrative. We discover more about the world and how it operates- what their schools and economies look like. How they layer in the magic and mysticism is text perfect world play- and it allows each character to build not only their own stories, but to slowly flesh out the world layer by layer.
Now inevitably this does lead to a downside.
I like these characters. I love getting a sliver of their lives and finding out more about what their corner of the world looks like. I love the fairy bartenders, the newfound guardian and the more dangerous people in this world. But we only get a taste of it. With the first episode I was excited to see the impact of the simple store clerk on the world around her- but the world immediately changes to another place and character with no connection to them. Every now and then there is a hint of something connecting to the bigger picture - and in one episode where two characters actually meet- it’s exciting!
Now not every world needs to shrink to the size of the people inhabiting it. But it would be really exciting to hear these characters meet, interact, engage in a more substantial way.
In terms of overarching narrative- there isn’t really one. But there also doesn’t need to be. Each story stands on its own and is easy to pick up and listen to on it’s own time which is both the biggest blessing and the biggest curse. You can choose any episode, dive in and then pick and choose which one you would like to go to next.
Coming from previously episodic shows like WOLF 359, and as producer of a narrative driven podcast myself, I can see the appeal. I just wish there would have been just a bit more crossover- or even re-visits to these people later on. (Maybe that will come with season 2!)
Overall, it’s well done, well paced, well acted, well written and a welcome change of pace. It does tend to lean a little closer to the dramatic, but what they’ve created here is charming and well worth a listen.
You can support this podcast by going to https://www.unseen.show/support and donating directly.
Every week, a new story. A new voice. A new glimpse into the world of magic.
Technical: Excellent Quality
Voice Acting: Pristine
Characters: Well Defined and varied - but Many
Length: Medium - 30-50 minutes
Watching Closely: Are You?
Rating: 4 Stories - But Wanting So Much More
Review by Matti McLean - @thebigshibam
Can't Stand Sitting Productions is currently airing Tin Wings.