When I first heard of the concept of the TV episode recap years ago, back during the internet's earlier days, I was pretty baffled. "How could a summary of an episode possibly be anywhere near as enjoyable as the episode itself?" I thought. But browsing through televisionwithoutpity -- a pioneer of the form -- I got my answer. The summaries were full of wit, insight, and trenchant commentary. Occasionally the humor reminded me of the format of the sitcom itself, an endless series of setups and satisfying payoffs.
There's a certain art form to summarizing TV, film, or any other cultural element, and former TWoP staff members like Tara Ariano, Joe Reid, and David T. Cole have totally mastered it. But is it possible to transfer this hybrid of humor and pop culture appreciation into an audio format? After listening to their podcast, Extra Hot Great, my answer is a resounding "Yes!"
I'd listened to these guys' previous podcast experiments before, and while the content was good, I found the audio quality sorely lacking. Thus, when I heard they'd be starting up a new project, I was fairly intrigued. After listening to a few episodes this past week, not only did the Extra Hot Great podcast blow away my expectations, but it has become my new podcast love. I am tearing through older episodes in a way I haven't for any podcast I've ever listened to, and I'm deeply sad that I will soon run out. (Note: While the sound quality isn't perfect, it's vastly improved from their earlier efforts and definitely listen-able).
So what makes this show compulsive listening? To start with, each of the guests is insanely knowledgeable about pop culture, to an extent that deeply intimidates me. And while I often find myself violently disagreeing with them (especially Tara), they're able to communicate their love for TV and film in a way that I find insightful, and that sometimes makes me think, "Hm, I never thought about that episode/moment/series that way before...but that's definitely the way I'm going to think about it from now on!" We should long for these "Aha!" moments in general, but to get them from a podcast is a special sort of gift.
In addition to discussing recent TV shows and films, there are also some great segments such as "The Canon" where one of the hosts tries to present the case to "canonize" a specific episode of a beloved show, as well as "Game Time," an ultra-nerdy game show segment that will make any TV junkie feel right at home. A plethora of (what I assume are) painstakingly collected sound clips from all the TV shows discussed are interspersed throughout each episode to spice up the proceedings. At its best, the Extra Hot Great podcast is a celebration of the love of pop culture. It's a wonderful reminder that these TV shows we spend hours watching each week can illustrate truths about ourselves and, hopefully, bring us together in some small way.
If you have any appreciation of pop culture, I'd urge you to give it a listen. I can't wait to hear more!
[P.S. Tara, if you end up reading this, I'd love to get you on my own podcast at some point. Let me know if you're interested.]