Podcasts are taking over the world. Not only does it seem like everybody has a podcast of their own (I mean, even I have a podcast), but it also feels like everybody has 10 podcasts they just can’t wait to recommend to you. Of course, this absurd level of ubiquity doesn’t mean that the podcast train is likely to slow down anytime soon, so I might as well join the fray. A while back, I recommended the fantastic Song Exploder to you fine folks, and I mentioned that it’s host, Hrishikesh Hirway, hosts The West Wing Weekly, a show dedicated to episode-by-episode recaps of one of my favorite TV programs of all-time, complete with interviews with the cast and the people who held the characters’ real-life jobs at one point or another.
I love the recap/discussion format because it feels interactive, even though it’s not. I’m rewatching The West Wing with my wife (it’s my third time through the series), and so I get to follow along with the show’s discussions having freshly watched the episodes and spending time with characters I know and love. It’s great.
But sometime soon, my rewatch will conclude, and when it does, I’m gonna need something to pick me up. Here are a few ideas for other recap podcasts that I would listen to, especially if the cast/crew/creators were involved.
Author’s note: I did absolutely no research into whether or not some version of these shows already exists. On the one hand, you could call that laziness, but on the other hand, you could say it was me preserving the ideal version of my list without interference from reality. I don’t want just any recap podcasts, I want the Platonic ideal of recap podcasts.
#1: The Wonder Years
The Wonder Years was probably the first show I fell in love with. Kevin Arnold was just as hapless and earnest as I was, and his life had a killer soundtrack. But I’ve only seen the show once through, via old Nick-at-Night reruns, and I’d love to take a stroll back through the suburban 60s of Kevin’s youth, guided by those who made it so awesome in the first place. If Daniel Stern could host, that would be awesome, since, as the show’s narrator, he’d be removed enough from the main cast’s performances and the story that he could provide some authentic insights from a viewer’s perspective and a cast members.
#2: The Simpsons
This would be an absolutely gigantic undertaking, but there’s perhaps never been a show (maybe SNL) in TV history that has as much to mine from minute scrutiny as The Simpsons. It’s staggering just to think about the number of superstar writers, comedians, and guest stars who’ve been apart of this show over the last 30-plus years. Bringing even a fraction of those people on to discuss the show’s 600-plus episodes would make the whole thing worth it. A rotating cast of hosts including people like Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer (a pipedream, I know) would make it appointment listening without a doubt.
#3: Sports Night
People always bring up Arrested Development (which would make a worthy addition to this list), when they mention shows that got cancelled to early, but I would argue that Sports Night is the best TV comedy never to get to five seasons. It’s another Aaron Sorkin project, which means it’s full of work-obsessed, hyper-literate people quipping their way through walk-n-talks galore. But this one’s about sports and the ways in which they can give us identity and bring us together and mean more than what the box score says. And since it only survived two seasons, the hosts (Josh Malina from The West Wing Weekly could transition seamlessly to this one) could knock the whole show out in less than a year.
#4: The Wire
Ok, so I’m almost 100% certain that this one has to exist, but I’m also pretty sure that the real life one couldn’t possibly compare to the idealized version that I have in my head. Here’s how it would go. Like with The West Wing Weekly, they should only have David Simon on at the ends of seasons to talk about the show’s overall creative arc and how that particular season fits his vision. For all other episodes, they should have (A) an actor from the episode, (B) the episode’s writer, and (C) a person from Baltimore who does (or did) the real-life job of the character played by the actor from that episode. Everyone (correctly) talks about how Baltimore is really the main character of The Wire, so any discussion of the show has to include the perspectives of the police, residents, teachers, leaders, and journalists from the city. As the seasons change, so would the lens through which we view the city. The Wire is the best TV show ever, and it deserves the best possible version of a podcast about itself.