“The Living Room” Story Critique

The Living Room is a powerfully crafted interview produced by Briana Breen at Radiolab. The story weaves together human nature, intrigue, layers of love, and the eminence of death through the personal story of a spying New Yorker. To focus on the quality of this piece, I will elaborate on the traits of presentation, originality, pace, and economy.
I love the presentation of this story. The format allowed Diane to be coaxed to give her tell-all experience of a movie that unfolded before her eyes through her neighbors’ curtain-free windows. Diane’s tell-all interview lets the audience indulge in her understandably human desire to monitor and invest herself in a fascinating couple that has no idea they’re being watched over the course of a year.

The third person perspective is just the beginning of this story’s originality. Diane initially hates her twenty-something neighbors who appear to have all the things she does not, but as the story progresses, she realizes the male partner is irreparably sick. The Living Room tackles the topics of a slow death, parallel lives, and a tragic love story. We get to see Diane grow to care for the couple she will never meet. Diane tells us of an incredibly tender and tragic love story that every human being can relate to.

The pace and economy of The Living Room are codependent in this story. Both traits had to be spot on in order to cover continents of information within 22 minutes of airtime. I think that with such a heavy topic, the audience needs to be led through quickly, so they can feel the emotions and cry, but not stay stuck in that tough place too long. In the sleek execution of the story, we are able to see Diane’s love story emerge as she helplessly watches her neighbors’ love story disintegrate.

I do not see a way to improve upon the story’s execution. If anything, I will try to model The Living Room’s presentation, originality, pace, and economy in my digital storytelling style. Well done!

(Photo Credit: Bernhard Suter/Flickr)


  • Hi Susahhah, good critique of Briana’s narration. Her tone, pace, and infliction were spot on. She was easy to listen to and it didn’t seem to drag like many other narrations. Perhaps one think I would consider doing over is omit the background music. I understand it is supposed to emphasize her point – dramatically. However, I don’t think it adds any value to her storytelling. She does a good job setting the scene.

    • I can see your point Jason. There story is so loaded that music isn’t truly necessary; however, the music feels very “NPR” to me. It’s almost like a branding component of the station.

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