Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
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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.

Business Wars
Netflix V. Blockbuster


We almost lived in a world where Blockbuster won. It was so, so close. Months of industrial espionage had start-up Netflix gasping for breath as Blockbuster straight up copied its website and distribution network to the best of its ability; the company had the gall to launch its doppelgänger site at the very moment Netflix representatives were giving an earnings report to financial analysts. History veered from the path of Blockbuster supremacy, however, largely thanks to an internal blood feud between CEO John Antioco and investor Carl Icahn. This, plus a few tricks hidden up Netflix’s sleeve, dealt a fatal blow to Blockbuster’s solvency and forced the chain into chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010, roughly a decade after Netflix’s launch. That death match and subsequent brawls brought about by Netflix’s burgeoning influence comprise the first eight episodes of this new Wondery show dedicated to replacing opaque business school jargon with juicy recaps of cutthroat corporate rivalries. Hosted by former Marketplace anchor David Brown, this initial series, dripping with landmark accounts of pivotal moments forged in deep-seated passive aggression, suggests many epic stories to come. [Zach Brooke]

Hidden Brain
Why Now?


The New York Times’ exposé on Harvey Weinstein unstoppered a torrent of accusations against men who have systematically abused positions of power for personal pleasure. Perhaps the most shocking revelation is that so many of the stories had long been an open industry secret. This week’s episode of Hidden Brain focuses on exploring why these stories sometimes go unreported—and how the changing tone of the discussion changes our reception to them—using the case of playwright Israel Horovitz as an object lesson. Horovitz had been accused of repeated sexual misconduct against women in his employ in the early ’90s, but despite the publication of those accusations in a Boston newspaper, nothing of consequence happened to him. Some 24 years later, the allegations against Horovitz have finally stuck. Host Shankar Vedantam puzzles over how the exact same stories can have such extremely different impacts, investigating phenomena from preference falsification to horizontal violence. The episode is an example of what makes Hidden Brain such an excellent podcast, blending in-depth reporting with unique storytelling, and assured intelligence with a thoughtful analysis of human behavior. [Ben Cannon]

Keep It!
Bye Bye Bye


Following a week full of huge pop culture moments (including Super Bowl LII), host Ira Madison III has a lot to unpack. This week, Madison—accomplished Tweeter and columnist for The Daily Beast—is joined by Kara Brown and Louis Virtel. After covering Justin Timberlake’s less-than-impressive halftime performance and his lackluster new album, the conversation shifts to the marked absence of protests and political action during the game itself. Madison, Brown, and Virtel discuss cultural happenings with a mix of humor and nuance, from wryly taking down an out-of-touch Timberlake to dissecting Maureen Dowd’s interview with Uma Thurman for The New York Times. Madison provides insight on Dowd’s track record of problematic, “messy” writing on women and assault. According to the hosts, Dowd’s coverage of Thurman failed to include important context while focusing on the sort of details that arguably undermine Thurman’s testimony. Virtel and Brown join in on a special Black History Month edition of Madison’s “Keep It” segment before he’s joined by another guest, comedian Rhea Butcher, to discuss RuPaul’s Drag Race. [Jose Nateras]

Paper And Glue


If you’re unfamiliar with Scriptnotes—the screenwriting podcast that John August hosts with Ted Cruz’s college roommate, Craig Mazin—all you need to know is that it takes a remarkably granular look at filmmaking. It primarily concerns itself with the screenwriting process, but it’s so much more than that. Whereas Scriptnotes has been running for years with no end in sight, August’s new podcast about the process of writing, printing, and releasing a young adult novel will only last a tight six episodes. So far, Launch is packing a lot of nuts and bolts into its limited runtime. This week’s installment, situated two-thirds of the way through the process, finds the newly branded novelist at a printing factory in Virginia where the primary copies of his book, Arlo Finch In The Valley Of Fire, are being spit out into the world. We follow the still-warm editions as they’re packed up and shipped out to bookstores and libraries, with their giddy author providing precise accounts of the process at each stage. It’s essentially pornography for bibliophiles. [Dennis DiClaudio]

Scored To Death
Richard Band Interview, Part 1


J. Blake Fichera loves the podcasting format: His Saturday Night Movie Sleepovers is a Podmass favorite, and his 21 Pod Street will undoubtedly return someday. Scored To Death, Fichera’s latest project, acts as a companion piece to his 2016 book Scored To Death: Conversations With Some Of Horror’s Greatest Composers. On the premiere episode, the host welcomes Richard Band, who comes from a B-movie family including his father, Albert, and brother, Charles, famous for being the creative drive behind both Empire Pictures and Full Moon Features. Band recounts his teenage years spent overseas playing rock and prog and details his eventual move into scoring films with 1979’s drive-in cult classic Laserblast. Fichera gets into the nitty gritty of film scoring with Band, who discusses composing on a low budget, “temp love” (when a director or producer falls in love with a temporary track), the importance of themes in composition, and their absence in modern film scores. Band appears to really enjoy diving deep into his work and even drops some classroom knowledge for those who are not musically inclined. [Mike Vanderbilt]

Someone Knows Something


Serial is often held up as the podcast that took the medium mainstream. Whether or not that’s accurate, it’s clear the investigative journalism series influenced many a crime podcast, and Someone Knows Something is no exception. The show is focused on revisiting cold cases in small towns across Canada, but where it veers notably from the likes of Serial is that it encourages listener assistance in the form of tips, hence the title. Hosted by director David Ridgen, 9-1-1 is the first episode of the podcast’s fourth season, which focuses on the murder of Wayne Greavette. Over 20 years ago, Greavette received a package in the mail containing a wrapped present and a typewritten letter addressed to him with the postscript: “Have a very Merry Christmas and may you never have to buy another flashlight.” Immediately after Greavette turned on the flashlight, it exploded, killing him instantly. Another notable difference from Serial is the composition of the investigative team, as Ridgen is joined by Greavette’s wife and children. Give it a listen; maybe it’s you who knows something. [Becca James]

Switchblade Sisters


Hosted by film critic April Wolfe, Switchblade Sisters provides “deep cuts on genre flicks from a female perspective,” inviting female filmmakers and actors to “slice and dice” some of the most beloved horror, exploitation, and sci-fi films. On this episode, celebrated horror actor Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, Body Double, From Beyond) joins Wolfe to look at last year’s coming-of-age horror film Raw. Written and directed by Julia Ducournau, the film garnered critical acclaim and was praised for being “distinctive and refreshingly female in its gaze.” This in turn sets up a distinctive conversation that doesn’t require the presence of a man in the same way a discussion about Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (which Switchblade Sisters has also covered) would. The podcast is filled out nicely with Crampton’s personal anecdotes and thoughts on the use of sex and nudity in horror films. [Becca James]

The Magnus Archives
Nothing Beside Remains


The titular location of the assured horror podcast The Magnus Archives is the dusty repository of supernatural investigatory British organization The Magnus Institute. From its first episode (this week’s is the 92nd installment), the podcast has deftly juggled the monster of the week and overarching mythology elements of the horror anthology more satisfyingly than The X-Files ever managed. Written and narrated by Jonathan Sims, each episode takes the form of an audio recording of one of the cases from the archives, which stretch back centuries and were left in seeming chaotic disarray by the institute’s previous archivist, who has recently died. Sims’ fussy archivist is a singular creation: Fastidious and not especially likable, his paradoxical skepticism about the cases he performs into an antiquated tape recorder is only one of the podcast’s long-burning secrets. Over three seasons, the joys of listening to Sims’ stellar short horror fiction are enhanced not just by the subtly excellent voice acting from Sims and a judiciously expanded cast (Alexander J. Newall’s guileless archival assistant Martin is one of the most endearing characters ever), but also from the incremental revelations of both the institute’s purpose and the unexpected interrelatedness of each week’s seemingly random—and genuinely chilling—encounters with darkness. [Dennis Perkins]

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