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.
A Podmass series spotlight
Who? Weekly is a podcast that exudes pure joy. One might not imagine that would be the principal quality found in an ostensibly snarky celebrity chat show, but there is something magical about the chemistry between hosts Lindsey Weber and Bobby Finger that makes it a continually rewarding and hilarious experience. The podcast covers, as the hosts succinctly put it, “everything you need to know about celebrities you don’t.” And they’re right. There is almost no celebrity news worth a damn on the show, but that might also be its X factor. If indulging in trashy celebrity gossip is considered a guilty pleasure, then Who? Weekly might just be the death penalty of pleasures, because it’s hard to get any guiltier.
In an era of democratized fame where each new day greets a fresh crop of middling talents vying for their turn in the spotlight, it can be next to impossible to pay attention or care. Rather than dismiss these budding nonstarters out of hand, Weber and Finger convene each week to pore over the hot gossip regarding these denizens of Hollywood’s D-list in explosively funny fashion. For a show predicated on mocking also-ran celebrities, the main targets of the hosts’ acerbic observations are more often the PR flacks and publications attempting to foist them off on a disinterested public. This has the curious effect of an absence of malice toward the talent profiled.
Having put out their 100th episode last week, it’s safe to assume that Weber and Finger have consumed vast sums of terrible content, and it shows in their academic recall of obscure celebrity facts and stories. Theirs is not just a passing interest, but something more holistic and genuine. This commitment makes the listening experience that much more enjoyable, as the pair are able to weave an engaging tapestry out of these half-baked attempts at relevancy. More importantly, in a world increasingly fixated on its own unmaking, Who? Weekly holds a fun-house mirror up to society, giving us all a chance to enjoy the surreality of modern life.
We Still Like You: The Podcast
We Still Like Higher Education
Based in Chicago, We Still Like You: The Podcast is a curated presentation of some of the pieces performed as a part of the city’s “We Still Like You” live show. As ever, this week’s show gave contributors the opportunity to make private shames public by sharing their most cringeworthy stories—in this case, those from presenters’ respective academic careers. Featured guests include comedian and Splitsider contributor Ethan Stanislawski, who recalls his experience studying abroad in Spain, during which he eventually ended up getting a fellow student deported. Joining him is series regular J. Michael Osborne as he divulges an instance in undergrad when, under the influence, he defaced a precious photo belonging to his neighbor. The highlight of the episode, however, has to be when comedian and Vice podcast producer Tim Barnes tells his own story of refusing to participate back in his high school gym class. Residual embarrassment notwithstanding, the audience responds to each tale with their ever reassuring chant: “We still like you!”
Fast Jack, The Card Shark
New from Panoply, The Grift takes listeners into a world full of deceit, interviewing con artists and examining the lives they’ve ruined. The 10-episode series will cover everything from card sharks to cult leaders, asking the question, “Why do we fall for these con artists time and time again?” Hosted by bestselling author and The Gist regular Maria Konnikova, episode one, “Fast Jack, The Card Shark,” becomes immediately engrossing when it’s made clear that what you’re listening to is the sparring of two storytellers, with Konnikova asserting that she will not be had by Jack’s attempted emotional manipulation. This doesn’t stop him from trying to win over his mark as he details his career as a card shark and dice manipulator—one of the best that’s ever lived. His sleight of storytelling paired with the podcast’s straightforward approach and clean production is the perfect combination for a riveting and balanced show, and this first episode flies by, leaving you immediately ready for the next.
Saturday Night Movie Sleepovers
Slap Shot, 1977
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Slap Shot, the beloved Paul Newman hockey comedy that Maxim named the best guy movie of all time. On this week’s episode of Saturday Night Movie Sleepovers, co-hosts Dion Baia and J. Blake Fichera are in the penalty box “feeling shame” as they discuss George Roy Hill’s hockey classic with their deft blend of trivia, fun facts, and nostalgia. The guys look back on their own history with the sport (Fichera played high school hockey) and shed light on the history of the making of the film, including the fact that one of the “best guy movies of all time” was written by a woman. Writer Nancy Dowd based her screenplay on the stories that her brother Ned shared with her about his time playing for the Johnston Jets minor league hockey team. While they also address some of the sociopolitical elements of the film—the death of an East Coast steel town looms over the story—the conversation is fun and entertaining and will remind listeners of chatting about their favorite movies with their best friends.
Time To Shoot
What’s left to say about Psycho? Film buffs obsess over it as a watershed moment in cinema; true crime junkies gawk at Ed Gein, the maniac who gave birth to Norman Bates. Inside Psycho weaves together those two narratives for an examination of the most messed-up mainstream movie that almost never was. “Time To Shoot” marks the midway point of a six-episode run, and it’s here that director Alfred Hitchcock finally gets around to filming his masterpiece. Not that he hasn’t been busy: The leads are cast, and all copies of the source material (Robert Bloch’s eponymous suspense novel) have been bought up from local bookshops so as to keep the plot a mystery. Most importantly, Hitchcock and his agent have secured a grudging go-ahead from studio execs wanting nothing to do with the project. So much creative energy has been exhausted by this point that, over champagne one afternoon, Hitchcock remarks that the movie is done and all that remains is filming. That story unfolds through host Mark Ramsey’s intimate and atmospheric storytelling, placing listeners on the set in real time and heightening their senses with a score as suspenseful as the infamous staccato strings of the shower scene.
Blank Check With Griffin And David
War Of The Worlds With J.D. Amato
This week, Griffin Newman and David Sims are joined by returning fan favorite J.D. Amato to discuss the 2005 movie War Of The Worlds. As Blank Check listeners know, Newman and Sims love to discuss Tom Cruise’s career, so there’s no shortage of Cruise-centric chat as they try to understand why he felt so compelled to play Ray and get the movie made, his falling out with Steven Spielberg after that infamous press tour, and, of course, his weirdly muscular chest. The trio break down the wild preproduction development of the movie, which lends itself to some hearty tangents, and Sims is particularly riled up this episode. The humor is balanced out brilliantly by actual film analysis, as there’s much to unpack: War Of The Worlds is full of post-9/11 imagery, as one of the first big disaster movies to tap into the collective feeling of that era. Dakota Fanning’s performance is also discussed, as is the fact that the film becomes an entirely different movie at the halfway mark. It’s an intricate investigation of a fascinating movie, and the three hosts are a delight from start to finish.
Bad With Money
Transactors And Revolvers (A.K.A. Credit Cards)
Holy shit! Did you know there’s a website that lets you opt out of preapproved credit card offers? It’s called optoutprescreen.com, and it’s one of several bombshell revelations about the universe of credit cards in the latest episode of Bad With Money. Host Gaby Dunn talks to three industry experts to shed light on the way credit card debt is marketed as a must-have: There are the points systems designed to lure consumers into making charges in return for promises of free airfare or shopping rewards, as if the psychology of buy now, pay later wasn’t enticing enough. But eschewing credit cards altogether removes a prime building block of credit scores, the modern consumer tracking system that influences the interest rates on personal loans and determines whether prospective tenants qualify for an apartment, and which just so happen to be saddled with a long history of racial and gender bias. As someone who has made her own financial missteps in the past, Dunn offers advice on using credit cards as a transactor (someone who pays their balance in full before the due date) instead of a revolver (those who let credit card debt roll over and accumulate).
2 Dope Queens
A Jon Hamm Sandwich
Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams bring their New York standby to Williams’ hometown of Los Angeles for the season-three premiere this week, and with that comes some star power. Sandwiched in between reliably hilarious stand-up sets from Chris Garcia and Morgan Murphy is a cheeky interview with Jon Hamm about his early days in Hollywood, his fan base full of moms, and his first kiss—which to the hosts’ delight was with a black woman. While the comedy sets on this show are always excellent, the inclusion of these interviews gives Robinson and Williams a welcome chance to play with each other more. It devolves into Robinson aggressively flirting with Hamm in a way that makes the Mad Men star uncomfortable, and the more uneasy he gets, the more entertaining Robinson’s advances become. It’s great to have the queens back with such flair, hosting with even more confidence than before.