Image: The Stuff poster (1985
Podmass_In [Podmass](https://www.avclub.com/c/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](mailto:podmass@avclub.com)._  

In 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.


Friends At The Table
Spring In Hieron 00: What Came Before 

Advertisement

“Critical world-building, smart characterization, and fun interaction between good friends.” That’s what Friends At The Table promises, and week by week it delivers it in spades. While other actual play podcasts can get bogged down in game mechanics or just spend too much time goofing around, game master Austin Walker and his cast of players work hard to collaboratively construct imaginary worlds with rich, complex lore rivaling the fictional universes of George R.R. Martin and Ursula K. Le Guin. Needless to say, it can be an intimidating podcast to jump into. Luckily, it’s just recently wrapped up its augmented-reality space drama “Twilight Mirage” and has returned once more to the fantastical, crumbling world of Hieron. This three-and-a-half-hour prequel episode functions as a recap of all the things that happened during the group’s three previous Hieron campaigns and offers the best chance for new listeners to catch up with this ever-growing story. The high volume of names, places, and similarly named gods can feel a bit overwhelming, but by the end of the episode you’ll be anxious to hear what comes next for our band of heroes as the ominous “Heat And The Dark” descends on Hieron. [Dan Neilan]


Horny 4 Horror
Talkin Bout The Stuff (1985)!!!

Advertisement

Television commercials in horror movies hit on such an uncanny, disorienting, and darkly comedic nerve that it’s no wonder they’re often the most memorable scenes despite being the briefest. Audiences that appreciated Casper Kelly’s noodly contribution to Panos Cosmatos’ wild Mandy this year would do well to check out one of its spiritual predecessors, Larry Cohen’s The Stuff. The 1985 spooky satire bluntly parodies diet fad culture and corporate malfeasance, in large part via a series of spectacularly ’80s ads, which Horny 4 Horror’s hosts compare to the neon-lit anti-drug campaigns of the era. Since launching the podcast last fall, improvisers and horror-obsessives Adam McCabe, Betsy Sodaro, and Mano Agapion have allowed themselves a lot of latitude in their approach to an ongoing horror-comedy show, and their looseness with the format has given the series longevity without exhausting any one angle of the genre—like movie commentaries. This week, in their breakdown of Cohen’s cult hit, the general consensus among the hosts is a love of the grotesque practical effects, a revulsion to the lo-fi image of people eating goop, and support for Agapion’s idea to improve the dog scene: a fake paw shot, the surest of surefire comedic gold. [Dan Jakes]


Saturday Night Movie Sleepovers
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, 1994

Advertisement

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the first printing of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus. Arguably the first published science-fiction story, Shelley’s novel deftly combined Gothic and Romantic elements with horror, creating something wholly original. While the tale has been adapted to film countless times since Edison’s 1910 short, this week Dion Baia and J. Blake Fichera look back at Kenneth Branagh’s 1994 adaptation starring Robert De Niro. The second film in their monthlong Halloween celebration, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein hits that nostalgic sweet spot for anyone who was a horror-loving teen in the ’90s. Saturday Night Movie Sleepovers remains one of the most listenable film podcasts thanks to the charms of its hosts: Always informative and entertaining and never pretentious, they go all the way back to the 19th century, exploring the life and times of Shelley. It’s fascinating to consider that Shelley was only a teenager when she wrote one of the world’s most enduring pieces of literature. Just as compelling is how her work would become a big, loud­, and critically panned Hollywood spectacle so many years later. [Mike Vanderbilt]


Scored To Death
Alan Howarth Halloween Special—Part 2

Advertisement

Composer Alan Howarth first collaborated with John Carpenter on 1981’s Escape From New York, the beginning of a friendship and working relationship that would carry through the decade. The two went on to compose and perform memorable movie music together for Halloween II, Big Trouble In Little China, Prince Of Darkness, and They Live. On this week’s Scored To Death, host J. Blake Fichera explores Howarth’s work on Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers; Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers; and Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers, which of course were made without the involvement of the horror master. Scored To Death is always a treat for fans of movie music as its host is never afraid to get into the nitty-gritty of composition with his guests. Howarth details director Dwight Little’s hands-off approach on Return, the daunting task of reworking a classic movie theme, and the rock ’n’ roll edge achieved in Curse with guitars and pumped-up drums. Of particular interest to Carpenter aficionados will be Howarth’s stories of working with Carpenter’s band The Coupe De Villes on their limited release Waiting Out The ’80s. [Mike Vanderbilt]


Science Vs
Gentrification: What’s Really Happening?

Advertisement

Gentrification has been a hot-button issue long enough for science to weigh in on some of the outcomes attributed to neighborhood transition. Host Wendy Zukerman turns to researchers to answer three big questions surrounding gentrification claims: Does gentrification displace longtime residents? Do gentrifying neighborhoods report more calls to the police? Does gentrification build thriving communities, and if so, who benefits? The answers are found in the work of 76 sources combined with ad hoc research into New York City’s public nuisance calls. Without spoiling the findings, it’s fair to say some commonly held assumptions about gentrification are confirmed, while others are refuted. Then, as a sort of meta-conclusion, the team places gentrification in context of the larger conflicts involving inequality. Without denying specific harmful effects caused by the process of gentrification, Science Vs argues that gentrification spotlights the inequality that exists everywhere in ways that aren’t as luminous when everyone lives in segregated quarters. [Zach Brooke]


Sex With Strangers
Legal And Illegal Sex Work In Nevada

Advertisement

America’s top-paid legal sex worker takes home $600,000 a year. Alice Little actually makes double that amount, but she hands over half to her brothel employer. Despite this, she is the one driving her earning power, whether it’s through negotiating fantasies with potential clients or advocating for sex worker rights. Little’s big income underscores what she says is a great argument for the legitimacy of sex work: Sex workers get paid. It’s a claim reinforced in a second interview with independent (read: illegal) escort Kate Layne operating in Las Vegas, who began charging clients upfront after being stiffed by so-called “sugar daddies.” But to say this show only dwells on the economics of sex work would be a disservice to this frank and fun podcast. There’s a great primer on the realities of legalization versus decriminalization of the sex trade, as well as an overview of the coming referendum seeking to close many Nevada brothels. And there’s plenty of NSFW tricks of the trade, like women who dress in alien costumes on request at a brothel near Area 51. [Zach Brooke]


The Other Stories
Daniel Johnson

Advertisement

Specializing in genres such as sci-fi, horror, thriller, and “WTF,” The Other Stories offers a variety of stand-alone short stories, read aloud with musical augmentation that adds to the eeriness of the weird tales. The brief runtime makes for a convenient listen that suits the show’s style and mood, allowing for questions to be raised without the need to supply any answers. In this episode, narrator Persephone Rose performs a story written by Josh Curran, with music from The Oligoclonal Band and Thom Robson. In a world where everyone shares the same name except the central protagonist and a former lover of his, the mystery unfolds slowly, revealing a reality-questioning spiral where everyone’s identity has been warped into a single status quo. The structure, length, and repetition of something as simple as a name being said over and over has a surreal and dreamy effect. Overall, The Other Stories achieves its goal of following in the steps of such classic series as The Twilight Zone; the quick, quirky, episodes are a fun and eerie listen that leave you eager for more weirdness. [Jose Nateras]


This Is Capitalism
The Bailout

Advertisement

One of the things that made Adam McKay’s film The Big Short so great is that it explained the complex causes of the 2008 housing crisis in terms that general audiences could understand. But for all of the film’s colloquial lecturing, it still offered a relatively limited perspective on what was, in reality, a massive financial meltdown on a global scale. This episode of BBC 4’s new capitalism-focused podcast gives a different and much drier perspective on those events, this time from across the pond. As Britain’s biggest banks stood on the precipice of total ruin, then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown was faced with a critical decision. He would have to convince the British people as well as his fellow world leaders to agree to recapitalize the banks before things passed the point of no return. In hindsight, the bailout could be criticized for asking taxpayers to put a Band-Aid over a hemorrhaging and flailing financial system. But hearing the story presented in this way—blow by blow, with no spin or partisan commentary—it’s difficult to see how Gordon Brown could have made any other choice. [Dan Neilan]


Twenty Thousand Hertz
The Theremin

Advertisement

Secrets are revealed in the latest episode of this celebrated sonic stories pod. Secrets behind the ghostly whine of invisible electromagnetic waves manipulated through a performer’s spasms. Secrets of creator Léon Theremin, who birthed the instrument by happy accident, before disappearing from New York in 1938, either kidnapped by or in cahoots with the KGB. Whatever the case, the eerie quivering sound produced by the theremin made its way onto the roster of noises at the hands of Hollywood sound technicians and was first featured to great acclaim in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound, winner of that year’s Best Soundtrack Oscar. From there, host Dallas Taylor tracks its movement from ’50s sci-fi to the more far-out orchestras of ’60s psychedelia. Along the way, the theremin launched the career of Bob Moog, a brilliant electrical engineer who was able to learn the instrument’s workings. Moog started out selling his own theremin designs before wrangling music around his own electric bent with the Moog synthesizer. [Zach Brooke]