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)._  

Blast Points Podcast
The Beginning—The Phantom Menace That Could Have Happened

Never forget that film critic Roger Ebert gave Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace four stars upon its release 20 years ago. While Episode I disappointed many longtime Star Wars enthusiasts, Blast Points hosts Jason Gibner and Gabe Bott are celebrating the film’s 20th anniversary with 12 monthly episodes focusing on the original divisive Star Wars film. This week, the hosts look back at George Lucas’ original draft of the script, titled Episode I: The Beginning. The episode provides a funny and fascinating look back at the bones that would eventually become the film that introduced Jar Jar Binks to a Star Wars–hungry public. While Gibner and Bott explore some of the wild differences between this draft and the final product—Shmi Skywalker’s original last name was Warka; Jabba The Hutt was to provide color commentary for the pod race sequence—it’s interesting to note that the basic plot remains the same, and that The Last Jedi might have left some fingerprints on The Beginning, cribbing unused ideas and concepts. Also, Lucas intended to kill off Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’ll just have to listen to find out how that was going to work out. [Mike Vanderbilt]


Broadway Baby
Broadway Baby Meets RENT, disc 1

The premise of Broadway Baby centers on husband and wife Kimberly and Jay Schmidt educating their co-host, Alex Fossella, on all things theatrical. Starting off with their word of the week, Kimberly and Jay show off their theatrical knowledge with a history lesson on the term “ensemble,” which stems from ancient Greek theatre; the couple even highlights contemporary examples of Greek choruses in modern musicals such as Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, Legally Blonde, and Little Shop Of Horrors. Eventually connecting back to the first installment of their two-episode coverage of Rent—described as “The Magnolia of musicals… or the Rent of movies”—the hosts (along with special guest Bryan Plofsky) have a lot of fun discussing a variety of topics. Beyond just introducing Fossella to the most iconic ’90s musical, the hosts provide insight and colorful commentary on the professional nuances of ensemble contracts. It’s fun hearing the group reminisce about their shared experiences in college theater as well as bearing witness to the joy of friends sharing something they love with their less familiar friend. Broadway Baby is a great listen for newcomers and aficionados alike, looking to learn the basics or reconnect with some of their favorites, respectively. [Jose Nateras]


Friendly Fire
Paths Of Glory

Explosions are cool, but what do they mean? Find out with this fascinating showcase of war movies hosted by a trio of podcast heavyweights: Benjamin Ahr Harrison and Adam Pranica (who also host Greatest Generation), and John Roderick (Roderick On The Line; Road Work; Omnibus). This week the 100-sided die used to randomly select films lands on Stanley Kubrick’s 1957 caustic heartbreaker Paths Of Glory. At 97 minutes, the conversation runs longer than the movie itself, and though some of that is random bullshitting de rigueur to the medium, it all comes after Harrison’s sweeping masterstroke of introduction that begins with WWI’s place in cinema and continues through the final shots of Paths Of Glory and its subsequent legacy. All three hosts eventually dish out personal takes on the film that are more or less in harmony, but that might just be a product of Kubrick’s powerful vision, which unified the worldviews of thinkers as diverse as John McCain and David Simon. Bits of trivia season the conversation throughout. Roderick, a well-known know-it-all, brings his A game to the did-you-know portion, but is charmingly not above real-time Wikipedia browsing to color whatever point he’s sketching. [Zach Brooke]

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Hold On One Second We’re Talking About Britney Spears
HOOSWTABS Presents: Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club Episode 1

Hosts Ashley Hamilton and Claire Parker have found the perfect subject for their particular brand of repartee in the new MTV reality show Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club. Stepping away from their more strictly Britney-centric coverage, Hamilton and Parker focus the yin/yang of their bright voices and dark takes on everything from Lindsay Lohan’s troubled history to the reality show’s cast (“Everyone sucks and is an idiot”). But their conversation isn’t limited to the series itself; Hamilton and Parker also discuss the post-show hosted by Jonathan Bennett, who played Aaron Samuels in Mean Girls. There’s a lot of well-placed scrutiny on Bennett’s participation; they compare his level of enthusiasm upon seeing Lohan to that of an over-it, cool older cousin at Thanksgiving. The hosts’ recaps are sure to please the demographics drawn to watch Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club in the first place, and will definitely be a nice diversion for more regular listeners of HOOSWTABS looking to spice things up. [Jose Nateras]


Ken Rudin’s Political Junkie
Shutting Down the Government…And Civility As Well

At a time when our nation’s political coverage is simultaneously frivolous and charged, it’s nice to hear from a pundit who’s trivial yet grounded. NPR devotees of a certain age will recall Ken Rudin’s absurd riddles cobbled from old campaign buttons, a tradition he’s kept up since leaving the network and launching his own show in 2013. His 2019 debut reunites him with former podcast partner Ron Elving, then and still a senior NPR politics correspondent. The professionally circumspect Elving clearly relishes the opportunity to riff off Rudin and his groan-worthy dad puns, and the substance sparkles as much as the personalities as Rudin and Elving reflect on the legacy of 2018. Even this aggressively middle-of-the-road pairing concludes it was a bad year for America, largely because of the big vinegar daddy in the White House. Greatest hits fondly recounted include the raid on Michael Cohen’s office, the Trump-Putin Helsinki presser, Kavanaugh’s hearing, and the midterm results. Expectations now set, Rudin brings in a separate expert to wager on the new Congress’ productivity, and a final guest to take a stab at what in god’s name we can expect to happen to Syria following the latest reshuffle. [Zach Brooke]


Monster: The Zodiac Killer
The Most Dangerous Game

Even in this era of true-crime obsession, in which every gruesome murder has been meticulously picked over by amateur detectives, the Zodiac Killer remains a consistently intriguing case. So when the team behind Atlanta Monster announced that the Zodiac would be the focus of their second season, listeners were happy to revisit this undeniably creepy tale. After spending the first two episodes establishing the setting for the infamous string of murders that took place in Northern California in the late ’60s, host Payne Lindsey (Up And Vanished) finally gets to the thing most people think about when they think of the Zodiac: creepy symbols and codes. In August 1969, three nearly identical letters arrived at three separate newspaper publications in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was in these letters that the anonymous killer dubbed himself the “Zodiac” and began his years-long campaign of taunting police with complex cryptograms and references to Richard Connell short stories. The fact that the Zodiac was so terrifying and so brazen, and has managed to remain unidentified to this day, is what makes this case something true-crime fans never tire of dissecting. [Dan Neilan]

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The Big One: Your Survival Guide
The Earthquake

For people who live along the San Andreas fault line on the western coast of the United States, earthquakes are just a fact of life. Minor tremors are a regular, mundane occurrence, while the larger, more disastrous shake-ups tend to hit every decade or so. But the Big One—the kind of cataclysmic earthquake that brings entire cities down—has yet to arrive. And according to every scientist worth their salt, we’re underprepared and long overdue. The Big One: Your Survival Guide is a new podcast from KPCC in Los Angeles aimed at preparing Southern California residents (and, really, everybody) for the once-in-a-century 7.8 earthquake that is due to hit the West Coast any day now. This first episode—built out of interviews with experts and survivors—walks you through the first few hours following a major hypothetical earthquake in downtown L.A. and gives you at least some idea of what to expect. While there isn’t much you can do to prepare for a natural disaster of this magnitude, a little foreknowledge might help you survive those first chaotic moments. Hopefully, the remainder of this miniseries drops before the real Big One arrives. [Dan Neilan]


What Next
How We Became Shutdown Nation

Yes, this new daily offering from Slate is another political podcast, providing context on the latest headlines. These shows aren’t hard to come by now that a sizable chunk of the country is in a constant state of jonesing for news. Some are very good, and others are somewhat snoozy. This one seems to fit in the former category. Hosted by former NPR producer Mary Harris, it’s not just a quick and disposable take on the latest happenings in D.C. This feels thoughtfully produced, like some time went into each day’s episode aside from how long it took to record. Harris isn’t just going off on whatever happened in the previous 24 hours. She takes one big story and spins it into a comprehensive 20 minutes of radio, with actual reporting and interviews with people who can offer genuine perspective. For example, last Thursday’s episode on the government shutdown features a conversation with former GOP congressman Tom Davis, who was on Capitol Hill in the ’90s, when shutdowns first became chic. It’s an episode whose value outlives its current news cycle. [Dennis DiClaudio]