Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
<i>Product Failures</i> looks back on the boring, unnecessary life of Google+

Product Failures looks back on the boring, unnecessary life of Google+

Photo: Sean Gallup (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.

Down The Hill: The Delphi Murders

Three Words

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The cultural obsession with missing girls is nothing new, but Down The Hill: The Delphi Murders unravels the case of the Snapchat Murders in a uniquely startling way. The series investigates the deaths of Liberty German and Abigail Williams, two girls who went hiking in the woods on an unexpectedly warm winter day, posted two pictures to Snapchat, and were reported missing just hours later. Each episode features interviews with friends, family, and law enforcement, but this episode digs into one of the strangest and most unsettling pieces of evidence: After discovering the snaps, investigators find a short video on Libby’s phone, which shows a man walking toward the two girls, giving them an almost unintelligible order. The revelation of this video sparks a local press conference of epic proportions, and though the image and the voice of the alleged killer are released, real answers seem out of reach. [Morgan McNaught]


I, Podius
“A Touch of Murder” / “Family Affairs”

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Early last fall, rumblings about a forthcoming podcast dedicated to the 1976 BBC adaptation of I, Claudius started cropping up on shows from the Maximum Fun network. Several months later, it’s finally here! As hosts John Hodgman (Judge John Hodgman) and Elliott Kalan (The Flop House) explain in the opening of this debut episode, their long-anticipated show is late for good reason. What started as a simple rewatch podcast guided by the familiar dynamic of one expert host and one newcomer host (with Hodgman and Kalan fulfilling those roles, respectively) has blossomed into a much fuller production, compete with bonus features like archived actor interviews and special guests, including Sir Patrick Stewart, who portrayed the ruthless, back-stabbing Sejanus in the first half of the series. Old fans of I, Claudius will likely commiserate with Hodgman’s fond remembrances of seeing the Ancient Romans engage in all sorts of scandalous behavior, while first-time viewers will connect with Kalan’s incredulity about the horrible old-age makeup. And the podcast’s theme song performed by Paul F. Tompkins is an instant classic. [Dan Neilan]


Let’s Not Meet
Complex From Hell

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Let’s Not Meet is a true-life horror podcast where listeners submit tales of their encounters with people they hope to never see again. The stories, expertly narrated by host Andrew Tate, are almost never supernatural in nature and are all the more unsettling for it. They can range from flat-out terrifying ordeals with murderous intruders to more subtly unnerving experiences. This episode is filled with the latter type of story. Two of them take place in the same apartment complex filled with some very troubled people. The writer introduces us to Bob, a 28-year-old creep who liked to wander the complex swinging around nunchucks and asking children if they wanted to play. Apart from Bob’s stalking, the writer also had to deal with two Satan-worshipping girls next door who claimed to have demonic boyfriends. Though there is some variation in the quality of the writing from one episode to the next, the authenticity always shines through, leaving the listener with feelings of creeping paranoia. [Anthony D Herrera]


Music Exists With Chuck Klosterman And Chris Ryan
Does Music Sound Like a Place?

Illustration for article titled iProduct Failures/i looks back on the boring, unnecessary life of Google+

After years of somehow eluding internet trends, pop-culture critic Chuck Klosterman finally has a podcast. He’s in good hands, too, as he’s joined by The Ringer’s Chris Ryan to philosophize, criticize, and wax poetic about all things music on this Spotify-exclusive show. The podcast launched with a batch of three episodes that go deep into the spectrum of music, explaining the whys and hows of subjective listening. But the show’s first episode framed by a question—“Does Music Sound Like A Place?”—is the best example of what we can expect from Music Exists: fast-paced band association, brief music history lessons, and free-form introspection presented by an enthusiastically nerdy set of hosts. The conversation kicks off with Ryan recalling a drive from Lake Tahoe to Los Angeles at sunset while blasting Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Ramble Tamble,” and he explains the euphoria that results from the inextricable link between music and locale. The hosts also jump from Jeff Tweedy’s book, to the relationship between space and rock, to surf rock origins. These are the conversations overheard at your local record store. [Kevin Cortez]


Rocketship.fm: Product Failures
Google+

Illustration for article titled iProduct Failures/i looks back on the boring, unnecessary life of Google+

Google is not a company famous for its failures, but the release of its own social network in 2011 was a flop that failed to impress the public. Rocketship.fm, now in its eighth season, plays it mostly straight as it picks apart what went wrong with Google+. Compared to some product launches that seem genuinely cursed, there’s surprisingly little to the Google+ demise besides its lack of any reason to exist in the first place. Interspersed among jargony banter are snippets of poorly aged hype videos and a current interview with a former Google+ product designer who dismisses the whole endeavor as a “me too” product. Its chief unique feature allowed users to group their friends into buckets based on where they intersected with users’ lives, such as college, work, neighbors, etc., and the long internet arm of the tech giant was able to rack up 50 million users in just 90 days. But that wasn’t enough to overcome a clunky user experience rife with spamming. Though its promise died out quickly, Google+ lingered on until 2019, when it was shuttered amid security concerns. [Zach Brooke]


Radio Survivor
Documenting & Preserving Radio at HBCUs

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The hosts of Radio Survivor can barely contain their unquenchable passion for radio’s past, present, and future, so it’s no surprise that audio preservation is a topic near and dear to their hearts. They find a kindred spirit in guest Jocelyn Robinson, a longtime archivist who dug into the recordings of WYSO-FM in Yellow Springs, Ohio, almost a decade ago to create a show called Rediscovered Radio. Her time at the station inspired her to seek out the audio collections at Historically Black Colleges And Universities (HBCUs), and as director for the HBCU Radio Station Archival Survey Project, she’s on a mission to help these institutions continue the work of preserving their recorded history. In the face of college administrations quick to sell FCC licenses to pay some other bureaucratic expense, some stations are too busy just trying to stay on the air to worry about library preservation protocol. Robinson has found that the situation at HBCUs is no different, stressing the need for radio staff and archivists to strategize: “We carry around archives of our lives in our phones,” she observes. “That’s not how people thought in the past.” [Jason Randall Smith]


Reset
Why Video Game Actors Are Fighting To Be Seen

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Most recent stories about workers’ rights in the video game industry have focused on developers and crunch culture, and not without reason. But unfortunately, this isn’t the only area in need of reform. The performers behind the video games, from the motion capture actors to the voice actors, are also engaged in a largely unseen struggle. In this episode of Reset, host Arielle Duhaime-Ross speaks with Jessica Jefferies, a mocap actor who’s worked on games like Until Dawn, and Allegra Frank, a journalist formerly with Polygon, now with Vox. Jefferies and Frank explain the current working conditions for video game actors, while also getting Duhaime-Ross to play Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. Frank uses the video game to explain how games and cinema have become nearly indistinguishable from one another, especially where acting is concerned—which makes it an even more conspicuous issue that game actors and screen actors aren’t being treated the same. [Wil Williams]


Seren
Truth

Illustration for article titled iProduct Failures/i looks back on the boring, unnecessary life of Google+

In space, no one can hear you scream—and it turns out no one can hear you have an existential crisis either, much to the dismay of Seren’s eponymous protagonist. Sent away on a months-long journey to terraform a new planet with a bleak state-sanctioned AI as her only company, Seren reflects on life back on her home planet in a dystopian future where humans have left Earth. The series is carried by writer Nerys Howell’s performance; she excels at making the audience feel her character’s frustrations and slow-building panic, creating a visceral, almost claustrophobic listening experience. In just three episodes, Seren has already built an atmosphere drenched in motor oil and draconian societal expectations. [Alma Roda-Gil]


Tales From Beyond The Pale

Who Killed Johnny Bernard?

Illustration for article titled iProduct Failures/i looks back on the boring, unnecessary life of Google+

Billing itself as “radio plays for the digital age,” Tales From Beyond The Pale is a storytelling podcast that specializes in spine-tingling tales of the macabre, told with kitschy, yet sincere flair by hosts Glenn McQuaid and Larry Fessenden. The theatrical nature of radio plays always lends the show a hint of melodrama, but “Who Killed Johnny Bernard?” adds a layer of poignancy to the proceedings that makes this week’s episode extra special. Peppered with the sounds of ticking clocks, rolling waves, and smashing glass, “Who Killed Johnny Bernard?” weaves together past and present to tell the tale of a seafaring adventurer turned suburban dad who makes a deal with a demon to save his teenage son from a fatal car crash. Fessenden wrote this week’s episode, inspired by the tragic real-life death of a childhood friend. And his decades of experience as a filmmaker are evident in the final product, whose use of dramatic structure, voiceover, and audio transitions are all uncommonly evocative and cinematic. [Katie Rife]

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