Sunday, 14 March 2010

What I've Been Listening To: Podcasts

Regular readers of this blog will know I've been trying to do a monthly What I've Been Watching: Television section, but rather than merely reviewing season 2 of Being Human on its own, I'm gonna hold out until next month when I'll have finished Mad Men season 3, and Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles season 2 and review them all at once.

35AFD20D-8634-4BAE-AFDB-C5184A49E873.jpgSo instead, I've decided to introduce you to some of the podcasts I listen to. Being a fairly new medium, it's interesting that podcasts have, in the main, filled a gap television hasn't adequately covered. Providing listeners with both in-depth reviews of films/television/video games, etc; as well as the ever-popular genre of a group of guys talking rubbish in a mildly entertaining way (i.e. The Ricky Gervais Podcast, Adam & Joe, etc.)

It's also interesting to me that they are as good a representation as any of the way we now consume media in the digital age. In the days before the internet there were only a few critics, and they all worked for major newspapers and television channels. Now there are literally millions of people who tweet, blog and podcast their opinions on the latest releases.

Podcasts represent the fact people can now pick and choose whose opinion they listen to, as well as where and when they listen to it. I, for one, have taken full advantage of this development, and believe the conversations I'm able to have about films, television, and so on has been enriched by hearing like-minded people talk about their chosen subject in a similar manner.

DE0C3D06-F70D-49CB-BC52-7A5D7120FD94.jpgThe Totally Rad Show
Hosts: Fanboys
Length: 1 Hour

A video podcast which, in the main, sees 3 self-confessed geeks reviewing the latest movie and video game releases. This show is a celebration of geek culture, and is as good a representation as any of what that lifestyle is all about: Debates, excitement, and unwavering devotion to their favourite films, characters and series.

Like Top Gear the enjoyment comes as much from the relationships between the hosts and love for what they're talking about, as it does the actual content of the show. As well as reviews, we'll also see the hosts try out things from their youth, like laser tag; lego; and scalectrix. In the same way the show of Clarkson, May and Hammond is a celebration of fast, noisy, gas guzzlers; so The Totally Rad Show is a celebration of all things geek: a show for people who have grown up playing as a plumber and a hedgehog, knowing the difference between a Romulan and a Vulcan, and knowing never, ever to cross the streams.

Hosts: Fanboys
Length: 1 Hour 30 Min

The format's fairly simple: three presenters plus a guest (normally a film actor/director/reviewer) talk about what they've been watching, this week's film news, and then a lengthy review of one of the latest releases.

Clocking in at around 90 minutes, this is a podcast I normally leave on in the background and tune in and out of depending on what they're talking about. Its strengths lie when talking about news, trends, and the fan's experience of watching films. The reviews are normally well presented: the format of four people with different opinions allowing for plenty of debate around the merits or otherwise of a film.

There's also an 'AfterDark Show' which doesn't really have a format beyond the hosts and their guests talking about movie-related stuff. It's lack of structure means this can be a little hit-and-miss, and very much depends on the topic they're talking about that week. Examples of discussions include the dying art of film criticism, how to deal with annoying people in the cinema or comparing the US and UK versions of The Office

Overall, this is great podcast for fans of film, who enjoy the debates and discussions around film, the joy of discovering a low-budget classic or dissecting the latest trailer to an inch of its life. If you take part in these types of discussions on a regular basis, I'm sure this is show that you'd greatly enjoy.

C6A43330-58F3-4325-AA3F-537B98AD5496.jpgMark Kermode & Simon Mayo's Film Reviews
Hosts: Academic & EveryMan
Length: 1 Hour 30 Min.

The film podcast that got me into film podcasts. Surely the format that this show was made for. Such is its popularity, it's now been moved from 1 hours to 2 on the radio. When moving to Radio 2, Simon Mayo explicitly asked to keep this slot on Five Live on a Friday, showing us the importance the show obviously has to him, and the nature of his relationship with his fellow-host Mark Kermode.

The reason it works so well, as Kermode points on in his autobiography It's Only a Movie, is because of this special relationship. The infamous Kermodian rants work so well because of the blasé nature of his fellow host. Mayo's ability to hold his fellow host to account allows us to laugh with the manner in which Kermode actively despises Pirates 3, Ice Age 2, or Bride Wars.

It's perhaps the unique nature of these rants that makes the show so compelling. Where most critics would merely dismiss such crimes against cinema, our valiant critic makes it clear how unacceptable these films are. This passion gives the podcast its weight and enjoyment: having a critic who actually cares about seeing films which are worthwhile.

5EA0A39E-AC67-45B9-BBD8-19C7B9ED14E0.jpgTobolowsky Files
Hosts: Actor & Film Reviewer
Length: 45 Min.

Hosted by Stephen Tobolowsky, a character actor from films/t.v. shows like Memento, Groundhog Day, Heroes and Glee, this podcasts is unlike any of the others. Each episode can be thought of as a chapter from the actor's autobiography, as he details his experiences from the sets of Deadwood, Wild Hogs, Mississippi Burning, and so on.

As well as an insight into what an actor's life is actually like, we also get to hear about his experiences from his early career. Stories like sharing a table at a cabaret bar in Paris with a man with a bloody nose sneezing uncontrollably. Or the time his apartment got infested with flees, and as a result he had to drive naked to his mother's house at the other side of town.

A nice mix of humour and poignancy, it gives the actor a chance to reflect on important moments from his own life, and how the strangest of events can influence our lives.

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