Premiering today on Facebook Watch, Limetown is certainly a unique project. Based on the popular podcast of the same name, the ten-part series stars Jessica Biel as a public radio journalist attempting to get to the truth of what happened in a scientific research community where, 15 years ago, all known residents of the town disappeared. The ensuing investigation will lead her down some dark, conspiratorial alleys, where before long she herself will become a part of the story.
So what's this new series all about, is it worth your time, and what the heck is Facebook Watch anyway? Those answers and more below:
If you're picturing a sunny Florida town lush with citrus groves, think again. In this case, the title refers to the Limetown scientific research facility in Tennessee (it's fictional; don't you start searching for it too).
The series follows the investigation of public radio journalist Lia Haddock (Biel), who delves into the mystery of Limetown, long after it's become just another piece of cultural ephemera that we obsess over for a while and then move past. But the fact of it is that 15 years ago, nearly every resident of Limetown — 326 men, women, and children — all disappeared, and no one ever found out why. There were clues left behind: a 9-1-1 call, the charred remains of one of the residents. But the rest has remained a mystery, one which Lia is determined to solve, not only to get to the truth but also because her uncle Emile (played in flashback by the wonderful Stanley Tucci) was one of the chief architects behind the Limetown project.
Limetown is based on the podcast of the same name from Gimlet Media. Described as an X-Files-meets-Serial true-crime thriller, the series has run for two seasons, totalling 11 episodes. The second season debuted only a year ago, so the book isn't closed on future installments. The first season of the podcast presented Lia's public-radio reports on her Limetown investigation, as she tracks down leads and witnesses that got her ever closer to what was really going on at the research facilities at Limetown.
I'll say this: you'll know by the end of the first episode whether you're hooked or not. I certainly was. The lean nature of the half-hour episodes keeps the story moving forward, even as we're just a fly on the wall of Lia gathering details about the story. The premiere episode begins in medias res, which is far from a novel tactic, but it works well, bookending that first episode with a scene of terrifying ambiguity (when you first see it) and then nerve-rattling tension (when you see it again).
Biel plays her role as tenaciously as possible, and on the other side of all that acclaim she got for The Sinner, there's a real confidence in her that she can carry this series. The promise of more Stanley Tucci down the road is tantalizing, as well. But the truest appeal of Limetown is of unraveling a good, old-fashioned mystery. The inexplicable ghost town has been a captivating tale since the Roanoke colony at least. Add to that the wrinkle of a scientific research facility where suddenly science fiction elements are on the table. And throw some conspiracy paranoia on top, as Lia is constantly told to watch her back and that her life is in danger for pursuing the Limetown story … it's gripping in a very old-fashioned way, even if this is all being investigated via podcast.
Limetown is exclusively available on Facebook Watch, which is the social network's free streaming platform. Best known for its short-form reality fare, Facebook Watch is also home to Sorry for Your Loss, the underrated drama series starring Elizabeth Olsen. If you haven't had the occasion to watch anything on Facebook Watch, it's pretty easy: go to your nearest Facebook app, find the Watch tab, and you're there; to watch in your browser, just click here. The first two episodes of Limetown become available today, with subsequent episodes released on Wednesdays.
The first-season order was ten episodes, with each episode running around 30 minutes or so.
No. But a Jessica Biel/Cobie Smulders team-up/crossover event would be excellent.
Will you be watching Limetown? Weigh in on our forums.
Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.