Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
<i>And Almost Starring</i> shows us the <i>Alien</i> franchise that might have been

And Almost Starring shows us the Alien franchise that might have been

Photo: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis (Getty Images)
PodmassPodmassIn Podmass, The A.V. Club sifts through the ever-expanding world of podcasts and recommends the previous week’s best episodes. Have your own favorite? Let us know in the comments or at podmass@avclub.com.

And Almost Starring
Alien

Illustration for article titled iAnd Almost Starring/i shows us the iAlien/i franchise that might have been
Screenshot: Apple Podcasts

From a faux French pronunciation of “alien” to cheerful banter between husband-and-wife hosting duo Jeff Ronan and Amy Jo Jackson, And Almost Starring is a charming listen. Rounding out their month of creepy movies, Ronan and Jackson discuss the Alien franchise and their initial impressions of the now-iconic first installment in the series. The premise of the podcast is simple and compelling: Which notable actors nearly landed the roles in some of your favorite movies, and how would the movie be different if they had been cast? There are a few impressive folks who were up for some key roles in Alien, even behind the camera. Robert Altman, for instance, was almost the director instead of Ridley Scott. The hosts (who are actors themselves) punctuate each episode with bits, character voices, and commentary; Jackson is hearing Alien’s alternate casting choices for the first time, trying to guess who might have been in consideration; as an added bonus, Ronan goes through the list in the order in which the characters are killed on screen. [Jose Nateras]


Black Men Can’t Jump In Hollywood
Eve’s Bayou

Illustration for article titled iAnd Almost Starring/i shows us the iAlien/i franchise that might have been
Screenshot: Apple Podcasts

Eve’s Bayou has to be one of the shiniest hidden gems from the ’90s. A spooky, voodoo-themed narrative that focuses on a Black family in New Orleans, the movie is a great fit for Black Men Can’t Jump In Hollywood, a series that analyzes films “in the context of race and Hollywood’s diversity issues.” Hosts Jonathan Braylock, James III, and Jerah Milligan agree that it’s not necessarily a scary movie, but there’s still a lot to talk about. Offering personal insight on voodoo and the bastardized cultural understanding of a belief system that still exists in the modern era, the hosts unpack Eve’s Bayou, 23 years after it was released, complete with content warnings about some sensitive topics from the movie’s plot. The movie, written and directed by Kasi Lemmons, stars Jurnee Smollett as a child, a fun detail considering Smollett is now one of the stars of HBO’s Lovecraft Country, which shares a lot thematically with Eve’s Bayou. The hosts note and appreciate the fact that the National Film Registry recognizes a movie that addresses the Black experience beyond a stereotypical presentation of oppression. [Jose Nateras]


Maintenance Phase
Fen Phen & Redux

Illustration for article titled iAnd Almost Starring/i shows us the iAlien/i franchise that might have been
Screenshot: Apple Podcasts

On the heels of top-line debunking podcast You’re Wrong About comes another series in that researched vein: Maintenance Phase, co-hosted by YWA’s Michael Hobbes and Aubrey Gordon of Your Fat Friend. The new show aims to dismantle the “junk science behind health fads, wellness scams and nonsensical nutrition advice.” In other words, it’s taking a skeptical view of wellness culture where the vast majority of podcasts take it at face value. So far, we’ve been served an episode about the inherent flaws of the President’s Physical Fitness Test (remember that schoolyard indignity?) and one about the dangers of Fen Phen and Redux, two so-called miracle drugs that made users lose weight simply by bringing them to the brink of cardiac arrest (a fair tradeoff, certainly!). Gordon and Hobbes approach the topic of fatness from several perspectives, deftly zooming in and out on the individual experiences of fat people, society’s knee-jerk response to obesity, and modern civilization’s stubborn refusal to surrender its fear of fatness. As they point out, the myth of the “maintenance phase” is that anything achieved by extreme dieting is good for you, or that any of the results can possibly last. [Marnie Shure]


Unseen
Never-Ending Circles

Illustration for article titled iAnd Almost Starring/i shows us the iAlien/i franchise that might have been
Screenshot: Apple Podcasts

The team behind audio dramas Wolf 359, Time:Bombs, and Zero Hours has returned with a new, strange fiction venture: Unseen, an urban fantasy about the unseen world of magic that lies in our own reality. The show’s debut follows a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign: over $40,000 was pledged by over 1,000 backers for an initial goal of just $10,000 for the show’s first season. This first episode, featuring Dottie James as Harry Winter, starts off Unseen by laying down the ground rules of the world: Magic is real, and it’s here, and it’s accessible by those who simply look. Taking cues from musical, cinematic fiction podcasts like Night Vale Presents’ Dreamboy, Unseen is scored by Alan Rodi, a constant musical touch of tenderness adding warmth and sincerity to the narration. Likewise, Zach Valenti’s sound design is expressive and lush, almost feeling at times like a second narrator. The episode backs off for a few breaths to rein in the earnest whimsy, but otherwise truly revels in the sense of magic the script aims to evoke. [Wil Williams]

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