My Week in Podcasts (Sept 4th – 10th)

I haven’t actually listened to that many podcasts this week, because I spent most of my spare time re-listening to the first two seasons of The Black Tapes in preparation for the start of season 3! I’ve been eagerly awaiting this one for a while now, so it’s good to get back to the crew at PNWS, following a beleaguered and sleepless Alex Reagan as she navigates cults, demons and sacred geometry while investigating the unsolved cases of paranormal sceptic Dr. Richard Strand. While listening again, I’m able to vividly remember where and when I first heard certain episodes, and how genuinely spooked I got – I can’t say I recommend listening to any eps while walking alone at night, but especially not episode 203! Upon re-listening, I couldn’t help but think of another podcast from the network, TANIS – it’s one of my favorite shows, but I wonder if, with all the crossover in terms of characters, the timelines will ever connect again. Seems pretty weird that Nic would be dating Amalia in one show but not another!

Reply All is one of my absolute favorite shows, and I waited impatiently while they were on semi-hiatus over August to produce more episodes. I may have excitedly taken an early lunch at work to go listen as soon as I saw this week’s episode downloading – and honestly, it was as good as I’d hoped. This episode is the story of a woman who gets hundreds of strange phone calls at work, leaving her with surreptitious and inexplicable audio snippets with no explanation, and PJ Vogt’s attempts to track down answers. Before the conclusion, I was reminded of the John Darnielle novel Universal Harvester, where a VHS store clerk begins to find strange and often disturbing footage recorded onto the tapes – or like the whole thing was an elaborate art project (perhaps by Zardulu?) This is a show that manages to not only tell fantastic stories, but also tell them fantastically well. I can’t heap enough praise on this show, though – this week I was left with that fizzy, glowing feeling you get when you consume truly great media.

A few other (of many) episodes that have left me feeling that way:

#68 Vampire Rules:
“It’s an old story. Two people date, they break up, they both go on Tinder. And on Tinder, one of them stumbles across an incredibly creepy photo, taken inside the apartment they used to share.”

#79 The Boy in Photo:
“I first saw the picture a couple years ago, and at the time I didn’t see what made it special. It looked ordinary. A picture you’d look at once and then immediately forget. You’d move on. Except of course, that’s not what happens when people look at this picture. It’s not what happened to Grady — it is not at all what happened to me.’

Wonderful! is the reboot of Griffin and Rachel McElroy’s podcast Rose Buddies, which previously discussed the Bachelor/ette franchise. In light of the increasingly garbage content they were having to discuss, they opted to start anew with something different. At first, I was almost too bummed to even listen, let alone write about it – Rose Buddies was one of my all-time favorite podcasts, and I felt momentarily bereft. Listening to this (first?) episode though, I realize that how I felt wasn’t actually due to some kind of loss – it was the overwhelming realization that one of the most popular television shows in the world, and the mediascape it inhabits, had become so insidiously toxic.

Looking back, I’ve noticed that more than a few episodes were actually incredibly upsetting to me, even barring the Bachelor/ette franchise’s rape allegations and hideous race-baiting (not to mention the physically and verbally abusive “villain” who doxxed a journalist). Not through any fault of the hosts, but because I actually watched part of the show, I was really unsettled by their episode about Paradise Hotel 2 – in large part because of the palpably rapey dynamic it placed female contestants in. It was also jarring to find out that the only seemingly-decent guy in the cast later committed suicide, though I don’t think it was related. I also started watching Are You The One? because of Rose Buddies, which eventually devolved in an unsettlingly violent direction.

Listening to Rose Buddies was never upsetting for me, but watching the media they were discussing was more often than not a really sour experience – which makes me wonder how difficult it must have been for Rachel and Griffin. So, listening to this first ep was actually a really – dare I say it? – wonderful experience. Hearing people talk about things that they’re super into – even just the tiniest things that make them happy – is just plain nice. I particularly appreciated Griffin discussing his love of Carly Rae Jepson, and found it really affirming to hear that he loves her completely unironically. That’s something I’d like to do more of – be more openly, unrelentingly passionate about the stuff I’m into. I’m sad to see the context shift that changed Rose Buddies, but I’m excited about where the show will go next!