THE rise of critically acclaimed TV shows over the past decade-plus led to the phrase Peak TV, following on from the earlier ‘golden era’ when The Sopranos, The Wire, West Wing, and Mad Men, to name a few, led the way.
And now, with the rise of podcasts, we are seeing the ideas coalesce as Peak TV recap, where stars or fans of the original shows detail, episode by episode, their favourite characters, titbits, and storylines.
Whereas The Sopranos is Exhibit A of the golden era, its podcast equivalent is The West Wing Weekly, which started in March 2016, co-hosted by one of the titular show’s stars, Joshua Malina, and Hrishikesh Hirway of the Song Exploder podcast.
Slowly but surely they made their way through all 155 episodes on the Bartlett administration, culminating in 30 guests, including Aaron Sorkin and Martin Sheen, on a stage for the live finale in January. All other such recap shows are following in West Wing Weekly’s presidential footsteps.
The Wire: Way Down in the Hole, started earlier this month on the always innovative Ringer Podcast Network (its Binge Mode series is a similar such recap show and exploded in popularity ahead of the final season of Game of Thrones).
It doesn’t feature a Wire star, nor are its hosts, Van Lathan and Jamele Hill, well known on this side of the Atlantic, but their deep dives on David Simon’s show will satisfy fans of the original. “The themes of The Wire, and the back and forth of all of these systems — they still exist, all of this stuff is still real,” says Van Lathan, to which Hill adds: “The texture of what The Wire is about has all aged exceptionally well.”
Fans don’t need to be convinced but newcomers beware, spoilers abound.
Its not just acclaimed drama series that are getting the recap treatment. Office Ladies began last autumn, hosted by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey — aka Pam and Angela from The US Office. It’s a delightful listen.
And they have already inspired another podcast: Fake Doctors, Real Friends, from Donald Faison and Zach Braff, discussing Scrubs, which started almost 20 years ago.
Whether you want hour-long listens about a 22-minute comedy is a personal decision, but for fans of the TV shows, these podcasts are essential — and will drive you back to the pilots.