Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Blade Runner, Polybius, and Flatliners abound in this week’s retro-heavy Podmass

Julia Roberts in the 1990 film Flatliners (Photo: Trailer screenshot)
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.

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.

Not A News Source 


Did you catch the Emmys? Taz and Zahra did, and they’re quite pleased by the run that Muslim entertainers were on. Statues went home with Dave Chappelle, Aziz Ansari, and Riz Ahmed, who, during his acceptance speech, thanked an organization Taz has worked with before, South Asian Youth Action. Taz also takes time to praise Rihanna’s makeup line, Fenty Beauty, and its 40 foundation shades, helping Taz on her quest to merge feminist and girly/high-fem. It’s not all high-fives and shout-outs, however. Zahra talks about how she wishes 9/11 could become “Be Nice To People Day,” and Taz is particularly worked up by a white woman giving her the “Not All White People” footnote treatment, all the more upsetting because she forgot it ever happened until a random occurrence jogged her memory. Sadly, all this is insignificant compared with the Muslim genocide unfolding in Myanmar, which is discussed fairly in-depth. But above all, no matter how much people might enjoy the show, the hosts plead with listeners not to mistake them for a news source. [Zach Brooke]

The Supreme Court Term RBG Is Calling “Momentous”

Given just how few blockbuster cases were heard by the eight-justice court last year, it would have been reasonable for even prudent news consumers to have missed the 2016 Supreme Court term altogether. Make no mistake, that will absolutely not be true this time around: voter suppression, partisan gerrymandering, digital privacy, anti-LGBT discrimination, union fees, and likely President Trump’s travel ban will all come to a head in 2017. When David Cole accepted his new position as the American Civil Liberties Union legal director last summer, the organization’s executive director asked what it would be like for him to finally practice constitutional law in front of a liberal-leaning SCOTUS after 30 years of conservatism. One Senate Republican-led Machiavellian coup for Antonin Scalia’s seat plus one game show host president-elect later, and that equation has been turned on its head. With host Dahlia Lithwick, Cole breaks down the nitty-gritty of the unsexy-sounding but infinitely consequential cases that could determine huge swaths of public life for the foreseeable future. Is it reassuring? No. But as Lithwick points out, the most effective defense against the erosion of U.S. democracy hasn’t been showcased in Congress—it’s been in the nation’s courts. [Dan Jakes]

Bloody Mary


The smell of autumn is in the air, and with it brings an increased interest in watching horror films, and with Bloody Mary brings the opportunity to discuss horror through a different lens. You see, there’s a long-held belief that women don’t enjoy horror as much as men. This is supported by no substantial evidence. Bloody Mary understands that and pushes back that false rhetoric by looking at sexuality and feminism in horror movies. This week host Kristin Lytie invites A.V. Club contributor Ashley Ray-Harris to talk about her favorite horror film, Brian De Palma’s 1973 film Sisters. The two dig into a conversation around mental health, controlling relationships, and the roles women are sometimes forced into. To hear such a revered horror film dissected in this manner is both entertaining and educational, but most of all it is refreshing to look past the obvious and give a horror movie the respect and reflection it deserves in relation to women. [Becca James]

Inspector Spacetime (Part 1 of 2)


A newish podcast from the team behind Myths & Legends, Fictional recaps famous works of literature. The show removes many of the barriers to classical texts by skipping discussions of the authors and context surrounding a story, instead just offering a straight-up cold open with the plot, retold with modern cadence and an occasional raised eyebrow toward outdated literary devices. This episode delves into H.G. Wells’ enduring Victorian political sci-fi novella, The Time Machine. We begin at the home of an unnamed time traveler, who’s having a smashing good time with some gentlemen friends discussing the merits of geometry, when he casually drops that he’s built a time machine. This genteel display of alpha-ing culminates in the time traveler vowing to use it and report back by their next meeting. Thus begins his journey 800,000 years into the future, where he meets an idyll tribe of puny humanoid creatures called Eloy. Background helps host Jason Weiser paint scenes and heighten dramatic moments, and with source material this imaginative, the story is enthralling. [Zach Brooke]

Hot Mic With Dan Savage
Kissin’ Don’t Last, Featuring Jen Kirkman


Imagine a podcast in which columnist-activist Dan Savage solicits people to talk about the intimate details of their sex lives before offering his own singular perspective. Wait, no. Imagine a different podcast like that. That’s Hot Mic, the Seattle native’s new show for Audible. And aside from surface-detail similarities to his long-running advice show, Savage Lovecast, this is an endeavor that’s worth the attention of his regular audience. It’s mostly a personal spin on a workhorse podcasting idea—essentially a storytelling podcast in the vein of The Moth, but focused specifically on sex and relationships. In this episode, comedian and author Jen Kirkman connects the dots between her mother’s sex-shaming parenting philosophies and her own sexless (and now defunct) marriage, but in as jocose a manner as the situation allows. Afterward, the two recovering Catholics deconstruct the situation and compare notes on what it was like to have ’70s men in the vein of Vinnie Barbarino imprint upon their burgeoning sexualities. Since Savage’s flagship podcast can sometimes get a bit heavy, this might be a nice alternative for those in need of lighter fare. [Dennis DiClaudio]

Las Culturistas
“Tragical” With Jo Firestone


Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang, hosts of Las Culturistas, were born to have their own podcast. Together they are an unstoppable force of charisma and energy, tackling the culture of the past and present with so much style and passion that they’re becoming cultural icons themselves. Each week they welcome a new guest on to the show to talk about the media and moments that shaped their understanding and affinity for pop culture today. Comedian Jo Firestone (Dr. Gameshow, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon) slides perfectly into their dynamic. Firestone is uniquely delightful, and the trio of personalities bounce off each other well; together they praise/sing Demi Lovato, share horror stories from past jobs, and in one of the purest confessions in podcasting history, Yang reveals what happened when he encountered Trump after the latter’s SNL episode. Although their take on pop culture is definitely the hook, Rogers and Yang are just as interesting when talking about their own lives; their inviting spirit makes you feel like part of the conversation. [Rebecca Bulnes]


Remake This Movie Right!


In this installment, hosts Aaron Peterson, Amanda Sink, and Courtney Davenport discuss the then-impending remake of the ’90s classic Flatliners. As per usual, they take a three-pronged approach, accounting for The Original, discussing which direction The Remake should take, and ultimately providing their Final Pitch. The group appreciates the cast of the Joel Schumacher film (Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts, and Kiefer Sutherland) and admires its now dated hairstyles as much as its originality. Regarding tweaks for the remake, Aaron would hope that some of the plot’s dependence on envy concerning Julia Robert’s character might be handled differently, while Amanda has some issues with prop continuity in the original, and Courtney believes the ending falls short and could stand some improvement. With its analysis, trivia, and fresh takes, Remake This Movie Right! definitely piques interest in every version of the film. [Jose Nateras]

Saturday Night Movie Sleepovers
Blade Runner, 1982


It’s a three-hour episode—only about 20 minutes longer than Blade Runner 2049—but unpacking the different cuts of 1982’s Blade Runner, as well as the novel on which it’s based, is no small task. This week’s Saturday Night Movie Sleepovers forgoes the usual nostalgia and behind-the-scenes banter for a deeper discussion of the film’s themes of empathy, slavery, and humanity. Even host J. Blake Fichera admits to not really being taken with the film until more recently. Quite a bit of time is dedicated to noting the differences between Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep and Ridley Scott’s adaptation, which is loose to say the least. It’s a fascinating listen, particularly for those who aren’t as familiar with the works of Philip K. Dick. This being a discussion of Blade Runner, the debate of whether Deckard is a Replicant presents itself, as well as conversations surrounding Harrison Ford’s divisive narration (found in the original film but cut from subsequent releases) and, of course, the unicorn dream. [Mike Vanderbilt]


The Polybius Conspiracy
The Player


If you’re a gamer, you’ve heard of Polybius. Unlike other gaming urban legends—elaborate hoaxes like BEN Drowned, for example—the legend of the mysterious, unmarked arcade cabinets that housed Polybius remains vibrant, if only because skeptics can’t disprove such a threadbare theory. That theory involves a game that in the early ’80s briefly popped up at a few arcades in the Pacific Northwest. Anyone who played it, legend goes, suffered headaches, nausea, and other physical ailments. New series The Polybius Conspiracy centers around the most notorious tale to emerge from the legend: A kid named Bobby, an avid gamer, was allegedly abducted from his home one night after playing. It’s Bobby himself who opens the first episode, sharing his experience of that night and how it’s come to define the rest of his life. It’s hard to know where hosts Jon Frechette and Todd Luoto are going after the first episode of this seven-part fiction series—if they’re going to dig deep into Bobby’s story or, lacking evidence, into the culture of modern urban legends—but the production here is top-notch, the interviews compelling, and the button hot enough to get one jonesing for the second episode. Not just for gamers and conspiracy theorists, this one. [Randall Colburn]

Weird Work
I’m A Professional Bridesmaid


Weird Work hinges on a simple concept: “This podcast looks at all the jobs that leave us saying, ‘Wait, you make money doing that?’” This week calls to mind the Katherine Heigl vehicle 27 Dresses as listeners are introduced to a professional bridesmaid. Bucking the traditional nine-to-five in favor of a weirder world, Jen Glantz makes her living on the weekends as a rotating cast of brides’ right-hand gal. Her professional duties vary as much as her clients, but like all else in the world of weddings, her career is lucrative. And rightfully so, one comes to find. A “normal” weekend for Glantz can include anything from tracking down a missing ring bearer to sobering up an inebriated groomsman. Perhaps the oddest part of her job, though, is the secrecy she must operate under in such an intimate gathering, acting as if the presence of a stranger is no big deal. “Oftentimes my job is to enter a room where people are wondering who I am, or are mad that I haven’t shown up to anything until now,” says Glantz. [Becca James]

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