Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
<i>Decoding Westworld</i> is here to unravel the most batshit show on TV

Decoding Westworld is here to unravel the most batshit show on TV

Photo: John P. Johnson (HBO)

Adult Swim Podcast
Joe Pera

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For the past year, the Adult Swim Podcast has been doling out interviews with the network’s talent, from Casper Kelly and Dave Willis, co-creators of Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell, to George Lowe, the voice of Space Ghost on Space Ghost Coast To Coast. This week, host Matt Harrigan sits down with the most soft-spoken comedian of all the network’s stars: Joe Pera. Harrigan probes Pera on his past and asks how he got his start, while Pera earnestly answers in his typical elderly demeanor. It’s a pretty straightforward conversation about the inner workings of Joe Pera Talks With You as Pera explains how he and co-writer Conner O’Malley produce the subtle, mostly wholesome television show. Pera also takes a few minutes to recall Bob Dylan’s role on a random episode of Pawn Stars, which feels like a joke in itself, but it’s not. It’s a perfect encapsulation of Pera’s uniquely dry/feel-good style of comedy. [Kevin Cortez]

Decoding Westworld
The Absence Of Field

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Hosted by David Chen and Joanna Robinson, Decoding Westworld is a useful tool for fans of the high-concept HBO sci-fi series. When it comes to a TV show so intent on playing with reality, warping timelines, and blurring the identities of its characters, Chen and Robinson provide an in-depth analysis to decode narrative elements, even finding anagrams in characters’ names. Devoted fans are constantly constructing elaborate theories to stay one step ahead of the showrunners that keep them guessing; the podcast hosts highlight various theories submitted by listeners and use the most recent Westworld episode to test whether they hold water. It’s no small task to pick apart Westworld, a show whose worlds within worlds, easter eggs, and homages inspire obsession—but Chen and Robinson are up to the challenge, and their podcast elevates the viewing experience for the diehards. [Jose Nateras]

Home Cooking
Bean There, Done That (with Josh Malina)

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Last month, millions of Americans began adjusting to life in quarantine, which, among other things, meant many of them began the slow process of learning how to cook for themselves and their families. Luckily, celebrated chef Samin Nosrat (Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat) and podcaster Hrishikesh Hirway (Song Exploder) are here to help people through this difficult culinary transition. Using a combination of professional know-how, folksy wisdom, and a healthy dose of puns, Home Cooking will teach you how to make something tasty out of the odds and ends you might be discovering at the back of your kitchen cabinet. What’s the protocol for soaking beans? Can you make a dal using split peas? How can you best celebrate a food-centric holiday alone in your apartment? These questions get thoughtful, practical, and humorous answers in the premiere episode. As an added bonus, actor Josh Malina (The West Wing, Scandal) stops by to share his tips for making latkes. Hopefully you’ve got some spare applesauce hiding in that cupboard. [Dan Neilan]

My Mate Bought A Toaster
Dan Thomas

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You are what you buy. At least that’s the premise of My Mate Bought A Toaster, in which host Tom Price (Torchwood) browses through a guest’s entire Amazon history to tell the story of their life. In this episode, Price takes comedian Dan Thomas all the way back to 2002 and his first Amazon purchase: An All Girl Summer Fun Band CD. From there, they embark on an 18-year odyssey that sees Thomas go from a broke student living with his mother to a touring stand-up and father of two. Along the way, Thomas must explain why he once purchased an erotic retelling of The Phantom Of The Opera and is completely baffled by his decision to buy The Brave Little Toaster on DVD in 2004. Price is genuinely fascinated by what these decisions say about his guests: When talk of a sci-fi novel leads Thomas to explain how and why he stopped believing in God, Price happily wades into that darker territory alongside him. My Mate Bought A Toaster is a funny and thoughtful piece of digital archaeology. [Anthony D Herrera]

Phoebe Reads A Mystery
Chapter 11: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

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Criminal fans, rejoice: Phoebe Judge has a new low-key podcast in which it’s just her, the mic, you, and a mystery novel—in this case, Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair At Styles, the author’s first novel featuring Hercule Poirot as he solves the murder of Emily Inglethorpe with his soon-to-be boon companion Captain Hastings. Judge’s approach to the true crime cases featured on Criminal informs the tone of Phoebe Reads A Mystery. Her narration is soothing, pitched low and slow and even in order to effectively guide listeners through the story. Though murder might seem like strange material to take comfort in, Christie and Judge together form an impeccable balm to the crisis on the page: These are crimes where the murderer doesn’t get away with it, set against a peaceful backdrop meant to contrast with the gruesome nature of the act (and that act isn’t afforded any overly grisly description). This series showcases the best aspects of podcasting and audiobooks at once: a single narrator, an engaging narrative, minimalist production, and an invitation to accept Judge’s outstretched hand and escape reality for a while. [Elena Fernández Collins]

The Art Of Manliness
A Survival Expert’s Guide to Bugging-In

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Preppers are basking in a prescient glow right now, even if their doomsday scenarios don’t quite match what we’re experiencing right now. After all, we still have water, power, food, and the internet. Still, as the scope of COVID-19 continues to wash over us, it’s never too late to start looking ahead to the next disaster. Survivalist Creek Stewart shares his three-tiered process for anticipating future shelter-in-place orders. Everyone, he says, should come away from this experience recognizing the need for keeping three days’ worth of supplies on hand at all times. For those with the means and inclination to stockpile enough for one year, it’s a journey that leads to rain harvesting, seed stocks, and field rations, all purchased in quantities from suppliers that make Costco seem single-serve. Not that small progress can’t be made. (Pro tip: Water can be stored in juice bottles, but milk jugs degrade quickly.) Going further also means going back in time and trying to live as your grandparents did. What good is hoarding a big stack of wheat if you don’t know how to make bread? Stewart ends with evergreen advice for building a comprehensive first aid kit and some responsible discussion about self-defense. [Zach Brooke]

The Left Right Game
Have You Heard Of The Left Right Game? 

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The sci-fi pod gods have delivered stay-at-home manna in the form of The Left Right Game. Produced by QCODE, this supernatural horror adventure feels like a more focused sibling of Rabbits from Pacific Northwest Stories. Alice, a young femme journalist voiced impeccably by Tessa Thompson, discovers a weird game on a creepypasta message board and wants to make a name for herself by beating it. Like any good Alice story, we begin at the end, after Alice has disappeared, and follow one of her old school friends down the rabbit hole as he tries to make sense of her found recordings. The story unfurls at a clip, and it’d be wild to not remind you to wear headphones as you enjoy the sonic playground created by sound designers Will Files (War For The Planet Of The Apes) and Matt Yokum (Midway). This is only the first episode in the ten-part series, and the episodes are longer than other QCODE productions, so you have a lot to look forward to. [Morgan McNaught]