My apologies, Earwolf Challengers -- my schedule finally caught up with me last week and made posting a recap all but impossible. It had to happen eventually. Well, maybe it didn’t have to, but...it did.
Besser rants. Our host dedicates several minutes at the top of Monday’s show to explaining the difference between constructive criticism and asshole criticism. And it’s not exactly, um, calm and level-headed, which is what makes it so compelling. Besser’s forthrightness and raw honesty starts the week off with a bang.
I’ll admit, this great opening isn’t unmitigated. Besser and Producer Frank pose the question: “how can we make sure everyone gets the same wisdom from Besser every week during the coaching sessions?”…and then immediately dismiss it as unsolvable. How about the solution of adding a little off-air prep time with Besser? Prepping some “wisdom” for the contestants ahead of time? Too much to ask?
Interesting challenge. This may be the first week with a challenge that actually feels like something you’d see in an actual reality-show competition. The playing field is leveled; everyone has the same resources to work with and the same standards to meet. Plus, it’s specific. It’s not just “hey, go find a guest and do something with them,” or even “give us some original material.” It’s “here’s Nick Thune for an hour; come back with five minutes of material.”
Meet the Producer. Spending a little time with Producer Frank does a lot to counteract the impression I’ve gotten in previous weeks that Matt Besser sometimes barely tolerates his producers. It’s nice to see evidence of his interest in Frank.
Guest Judges. Maybe it’s because I’m still riding high on Harris Wittels’ absurdly hilarious turn on last week’s Comedy Bang! Bang! (I listened to his episode with Adam Scott and Chelsea Peretti twice in a row), but something about him just being on the show really brings it up a notch for me. Of course, Wittels is more of a podcast regular than a podcast expert but it seems appropriate for this particular challenge. Besides, joining him is Doug Benson of Doug Loves Movies, who qualifies as something of an authority. Between the two of them, they contributed a good mix of humor and insight.
Real tension. It’s getting down to the wire now, with only four competitors still in the running (as of Week 8, anyway). Everyone turns in a competent submission, even if some are more competent than others. By Wednesday, it really feels like it could be curtains for either Totally Laime or The Bob and Dan Cast. In the past, the week’s last-place finisher has been pretty easy to pick out. This week it really seemed like it could go either way.
I happen to think it went the right way, incidentally. Both Totally Laime and Bob and Dan revealed that they’d lost sight of the goal of the challenge and possibly the contest as a whole. Elizabeth and Andy make the mistake of thinking “knowing your audience” means “play to the judges.” Worse, though, Bob and Dan refer to themselves as a couple “nobodies on the Internet,” revealing pretty conclusively that they’re just not ready for what Earwolf’s offering. I like those guys, but they need a hook.
A good lesson. Just about every week’s challenge is rife with subtext, but everyone seemed to miss this one. For example, when the judges tell Left Handed Radio their submission is so Nick Thune-centric that it didn’t give a good impression of who the hosts are, they answer back with “But the challenge was ‘Using the Guest’!” Yes, but it’s not “Using the Guest to Showcase the Guest.” It’s really “Using the Guest to Make Your Podcast Compelling.” It’s a fine line, maybe, but an important one. And, certainly a contributing factor to Bob and Dan’s downfall.
Now that we’re down to the final three, I’m psyched to find out how it’s all going to wrap up. All three of the remaining competitors have been the front runner at some point (that The Little Dum Dum Club has never been in the Bottom 3 is really pretty remarkable). I can really see any one of them coming out the winner.
Before we get to that, though, I’ll have to get to it and give Bob and Dan a proper listen. That’s right -- I’m literally going to hear them later. On to Week 9!