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 email@example.com.
Ben Burtt Day Party
In a vast galaxy of Star Wars podcasts, Blast Points is certainly one of the silliest. The show prides itself on loving “Sebulba and Ben Quadinaros just as much as we love Leia, Luke, and Han.” This week, hosts Jason Gibner and Gabe Bott celebrate the birthday of an integral artist of the Star Wars franchise, Oscar-winning sound designer Ben Burtt. The show is a mixture of interview clips, history, and nostalgia. A child of the ’60s, Burtt had more interest in joining the space program than filmmaking, though in a roundabout way, he did end up among the stars. His work on Star Wars is the focus of the episode, which explores Burtt’s relationship with Lucas—as well his distinct blending of mechanical and organic sounds—and how that was a perfect fit with the lived-in look of the films. Gibner and Bott also reveal their 10 favorite sound effects from all eight theatrical Star Wars releases. While the list leans a touch heavily on the prequels, it’s wonderful to hear two fans discuss the roar of a dewback or the percolation of Aunt Beru’s food processor.
SPIDER-MAN with Fred Kennedy
With the recent release of Spiderman: Homecoming, the crew at Rewatchability take the opportunity to revisit Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man. Joining hosts J.M. McNab, Rob LaRonde, and Blain Watters is Fred Kennedy of the Issue Zero Podcast, and the group starts off discussing the first time they watched the Tobey Maguire hit. Most of the guys saw the movie in theaters, and recall their general appreciation for this and other Raimi films. As ever, Rewatchability examines how movies of the past hold up, bringing humor and context from the groups’ personal lives. Opinions regarding the movie’s treatment of the Green Goblin villain, and Raimi’s apparent grappling with the studio, differ from host to host, allowing for a fun and informed conversation that brings a fresh perspective to a now-classic film. Detailing the plot of the blockbuster, the hosts notice things they missed the first time around, especially the age of the actors playing high school roles, and the less-than-subtle puberty allegory of Spider-Man’s origin story.
That Awful Sound
I Am Claus (Aqua - Barbie Girl)
For a novelty hit that’s clearly the product of a bygone time, Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” has some weird staying power. Technically speaking, there are many pop songs like it. More accurately, there’s nothing like it: a Eurodance duet from the perspective of a living Barbie performed by a brunette singing about being a blonde bimbo while being courted by a bald man with racing stripes along the side of his head. These two, we’re told, met on a cruise ship prior to forming the band. Perhaps inevitably, a lawsuit was brought by toymaker Mattel, ending with the judge declaring, “The parties are advised to chill.” All this and more is discussed ad nauseam over 90 minutes in the only podcast dedicated to dissecting the half-lives of strange chart-toppers from the recent past while also daring to tackle a riddle posed by a YouTube commenter: What is an emo hole? (Answer: It’s the hole cut out in a sweater sleeve in which to slide one’s thumb through.)
The $8 Game Show
Jake Regal Is Royal, And He’d Like You To Join His Cult
As podcasts grow in popularity, attracting major media companies and personalities to the field, it is the medium’s underground efforts that often help to hook prospective listeners with a blend of quaintness, humanity, and passion. There’s no greater example of those qualities than Los Angeles comedian Josiah Jenkins’ new program, The $8 Game Show, an engaging and hilariously high-concept but low-stakes trivia podcast. The pitch is simple: Each week a contestant competes against Jenkins’ gauntlet of eight ridiculous questions for the chance at winning exactly eight dollars. Jenkins has a glossy, rich timbre, belying the fact that the show is recorded in his Los Feliz bedroom. That quality, coupled with Jenkins’ abundant charisma and hilariously convoluted topics (“Design a cult,” “all-sounds charades,” “respond to one-star Yelp reviews”) and its bedroom setting, make the show sound like a cousin to Mike O’Brien’s transcendently weird 7 Minutes In Heaven video series.
The Tip Off
It Started With A Body
British investigative journalist Emma Youle clearly remembers the phone call that shaped the next year of her life. On the line was a female voice that spoke in Italian accent. It belonged to a woman living in homeless shelter. A man there had died recently, the woman said. He was still there. No one had come to take him away, and it had been days. The woman herself lived in a space not much larger than a prison cell, with a sewage line running past her bed. She told Youle she had been a successful fashion designer back in Italy, until an abusive relationship forced her to flee the country and enter a life of poverty in London. Later, Youle saw firsthand workers disinfecting the dead man’s room. He too was once successful, a software developer who had fallen on hard times. This episode of The Tip-Off describes the long running investigation into the scope of homelessness in the borough, which found that the government often paid exorbitant prices to obtain these appalling conditions despite the widespread availability of similarly priced alternatives.
A Lot Of Homosexual Skating
Truu Stowray is a new podcast from self-proclaimed ’90s pop-culture obsessives Dave Holmes and Mike Doughty in which the pair rewatch classic seasons of MTV’s The Real World, providing unfiltered takes on the show and the era itself. Often using the Real World episode as a jumping-off point for tangents, the podcast packs a great balance of personal stories pulled from their lives and witty recapping in a short but sweet 35 minutes. It’s compelling to hear what specifics from the show spark reminiscing, and every anecdote deserves its time slot. In this third episode, they find themselves retracing their sexualities, and the notion that many gay men (including Holmes) declared themselves to be bisexual in the ’90s. Their friendship and innate chemistry makes for an enjoyable back and forth, whether they’re lovingly poking fun at Andre or discussing the bad art of the era. In today’s reality TV landscape, it’s interesting to look back at how it all began alongside podcast hosts who have such a fondness for it, but more importantly, who make each other laugh and welcome listeners on their trip down memory lane.
Why Oh Why
Dressing Room Confessionals
Sometimes the most refreshing voices in podcasting are the ones that mirror our own. There’s a candid quality in non-professionals that reminds a listener why they might listen to podcasts in the first place: for a connection. This week, Why Oh Why presents a selection of clips recorded in confessional booths set up at live shows over the summer. In the dressing rooms of Bonobos Guideshops in Chicago, L.A., and New York, audience members spill their secrets on all things dating, hook-ups, and love. Host Andrea Silenzi prompts the participants with simple questions left in the booths: Where is the weirdest spot you’ve made out in the city? Who are you texting the most right now? These questions inspire honest, funny, and oh-so-relatable stories and ruminations on the lovely, complicated relationships that weave their way into our lives. Silenzi comments later in the show about how she is constantly looking for ways to get at a grander truth, and the transparency of this episode truly does open doors for empathy, understanding, and a sense of closeness with strangers who quite possibly remind us of ourselves.