Reality TV, RHOC

#RHOC OPINION: Emily Simpson & Gina Kirschenheiter Are Good Cast Additions

Like Kelly Dodd and Shannon Beador before them, Emily Simpson and Gina Kirschenheiter are facing some backlash as the new “Real Housewives” of Bravo TV’s Orange County franchise. Only one of the two is currently a “wife”, but that barely matters to a brand that has basically phased out the 4-letter word’s significance.

Impatient Real Housewives fans haven’t yet acclimated to the personalities of these two ladies who, I feel, are good additions to Real Housewives of Orange County. They don’t hesitate to get into the fray and last night’s episode was testament to that fact when Emily, as the caught-unawares newbie (who probably should’ve known better), found herself defending her husband Shane against Gina, the loud, unfiltered, Long Island-accented East Coast transplant.

Kirschenheiter possesses that same magical ability that catapulted Kelly Dodd from “Be Wary” to “Whoop It Up” on the Real Housewives Richter Scale. Brash, ballsy, having a tough exterior to mask sensitivities…The model of this particular make might just be Dodd 2.0.

Gina will inevitably clash catastrophically with someone in the episodes ahead (probably with Kelly Dodd herself) and compel us to tune in for the subsequent “redemption” season. I’m not in the hater camp at all: She is already serving us a heaping of drama as the inebriated cackler at Emily’s house party who was asked to leave by Shane, Emily’s husband.

Subsequently, Gina stirred things up as she relayed those events to her cast-mates, only to leave them wondering if Emily’s husband is controlling and in any way comparable to the creepy, exed out David Beador.

Emily Simpson, a lawyer and party planner (of all eclectic combinations) told Bravo.com she was blindsided by this spouse scrutiny she’s being subjected to. This is something Reality TV critics would have warned her about early on — had she only consulted us!

It will therefore be interesting to see how Emily navigates the intrusions of her cast mates during filming…and of RHOC fans now watching the events unfold.

We are still in the early episodes of Season 14 and Emily already confronted Shannon Beador about how erroneous any David likeness would be. She proved to have an ally in her corner when Tamra Judge scolded Shannon for picking at a “good marriage” as if it’s a bad scab, knowing from experience how hurtful it is to be on the receiving end of that type of social brutality.

At this point into the RHOC season last year, we were twiddling our thumbs waiting for Lydia and Peggy to mesh – in any meaningful way – with the other ladies. Now, in episode 7 of Season 14, which aired last night, we see a friendship has been solidified between Emily and Gina. The two seem to have formed a Big Brother-style alliance, #NewGirls, as they navigate the Housewives game with its mazes of moods and challenges of ever-changing temperaments.

No one could have predicted that the seemingly toxic, clashing duo of Shannon and Kelly would solidify a bond after discovering common ground. There have been numerous other instances of feuding Housewives who seem to hate one another becoming best friends, once they’re done trudging through the muck and mire….

And all of that annoying stuff Shane would change the channel on to avoid watching.

At this point last year, I was begging Peggy Sulahian’s publicist to clear up misconceptions making the rounds during an immensely aggravating silence. Lydia’s esoteric trippiness – which seemed like an LSD ride to Nowhere Land deserving of a full refund – no doubt led to an increase in Dramamine sales.

Although one woman didn’t want her marriage becoming a talking point and the other was ill-prepared for the demise of hers to be caught in the cameras’ cross hairs, Emily and Gina are giving us more to think about than whether ball can be played in the kitchen (although it’s safe to assume it would be outlawed in Shane’s home).

I’m interested to see the inevitable turmoil the OG gals will suffer at the hands of these polarizing newbies. I’ll tune in to find out what Emily sees in Shane and how she defends him against cast mates that are clearly “not his cup of tea.” I’m also wondering if he regrets signing those release forms.

The fact that I have questions shows I’m far ahead of where I was at this point last season. I see promise in these cast picks and I think Evolution Media has good insight and foresight. Only time will tell for certain, but there’s a reason this franchise is still around and still going strong after more than a decade.

(Photo Source: AllAboutTRH.com)

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Bravo TV, Reality TV

#SouthernCharm: Poised for a Feminist Evolution Amidst #MeToo?

My past articles on Bravo television shows have introduced me to fans as well as foes. During my years contributing to Huffington Post (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/sweiss-904) and covering reality TV, I was afforded some perks for a period. However, I was also subjected to lambasting and outright harassment from fans. While this may be hard to believe, there are show enthusiasts who react extremely to matters of reality TV. They go for the jugular and intensely personal when launching an attack on those who craft the columns. So I’ve been hesitant about conducting a deep-dive into Bravo’s Southern Charm and elaborating on what has been brought to my attention from behind the scenes. I also take allegations that have not been 100 percent confirmed with the requisite grain of salt. That said, it’s been apparent to me that a show initially pitched to be centered around Southern Gentlemen (the name listed in the show’s “bible”) has faced growing pains in the #MeToo era.

“He hates me and I know he hates HER too,” one cast member of the franchise, which also now includes Southern Charm New Orleans and Southern Charm Savannah, lamented to me.

It was approximately a year ago and she was making reference to behind-the-scenes angst. I deliberately use the vaguest of terms here because, while I don’t want to discredit the account of another woman, I also was not there. Based on what I was told though, the contentions among select female cast members and their close off-camera confidants was that a particular individual – one calling the shots from behind the cameras – came across as sexist, patting the good ole boys on their backs for their player ways while acting scornful of certain female cast members. The man in question has been described in the most general terms, including: “He has a mean streak,” or the more benign “He can be unpleasant. He can be tough to deal with”, to the overt “He’s an asshole” (the latter expressed to me by one cast member’s close confidant). Because he’s someone in control on set, it’s been tricky avoiding him, although that cast member has related to the confidant that “avoidance” is precisely her tactic of choice.

The cast member who I personally spoke with accidentally overheard him tearing into the other female Charmer by phone. While her knowledge of his regard for that Charmer could be debated, she acutely felt his disdain for her. Furthermore, she took issue with his desire to portray her in a way that made her truly uncomfortable as a feminist, manipulating the reality of events for the sake of “reality” television.

Again, I will state the following disclaimer here: Perception of one’s regard is not always actuality and I received no response after emailing the man in question for an interview.

Because these sentiments fall under the umbrella of “allegations”, I won’t share a name and no, it is not the bemused looking, deer-in-the-headlights-glazed Whitney Sudler-Smith who is both a cast member and producer. Whitney seems to possess an aloof Southern politeness and has been looking wistful in the most recent episodes, as if he’s uncertain he wants to be privy to the meddling into personal lives that unfolds on camera. A source confirms to me that Whitney feels conflicted about being on the show because at heart, he’s a behind the scenes man. His aspirations lie in production rather than being a TV star. His screen time has decreased visibly from Season 1 to the present.

As I watch Whitney squirm, there’s symbolism there for me regarding the Charleston franchise. Here’s a show that launched with the premise of an “all boys club.” As we see, the plan was always to have supporting characters, the women who fawn over these boys…plus the few who give the guys guff (“Wendies” to the Peter Pans) and say it’s time they grow up. The latter (Cameran Eubanks in particular) was always a step in the right direction while the former was problematic. In 4 short years however, a seismic cultural shift took place and here we are amidst the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements of 2018. While feminist writers and the more astute critical observers turned Southern Charm over analytically, grappling with discussion points in 2014, they became more vocal in 2017 when an episode brought the phrase “rape culture” to one progressive recapper’s popular column: http://www.vulture.com/2017/06/southern-charm-recap-season-4-episode-11.html.

Brian Moylan of Vulture questioned the aggressive behavior of Shep Rose towards a new female Charmer named Chelsea. It remains debatable whether the recapper (as well as his readers and select viewers) came down too harshly on Shep. Perhaps, again, editing was mainly to blame. When I brought up the episode in question to a network employee several months ago, his terse and defensive response was: “You got some bad information, Shira.”

The employee’s implication was that Moylan had sized up the situation incorrectly in his analysis.  Furthermore, he seemed to be cautioning me, I should not be weighing in on a recapper’s analysis in my own Huffington Post column (although at that point, it was too late: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/boys-will-be-boys-and-so-we-have-relationshep-bravo_us_5a10d636e4b0e6450602ebb0) and perpetuating myths. Regardless, the editing certainly welcomed opinions and observations. If those sentiments were entirely unwarranted, show editors should be fired rather than writers blamed for their scrutiny of what aired.

This season, I have softened my judgement of Shep without discrediting Moylan’s recap or negating what Chelsea may have expressed. I just feel that now, at the start of Season 5, he is showing a more sensitive, compassionate and considerate side. Perhaps it is remorse, regret…repentance (?) for the debatable debacle of last season. Or maybe he is a more “woke” individual today…That said, the key word for last season’s conundrum is “editing” and the questions are: Can we trust our perception of what went down on camera? How much of what transpired wasn’t included and was anything “left on the cutting room floor”?

In the case above, it also became an issue of potentially not believing a woman’s account of feeling violated. We never want to discredit a woman’s feelings in this regard, so the issue of what was shown versus what wasn’t (potentially) only complicated matters.

This type of thing always opens up the floodgates for heated argument. Bravo and Southern Charm’s production company Haymaker can be angry at me for exploring things and feeling perplexed, but ultimately, they’ve left a lot open to audience and journalistic interpretation. It should be known that I remain riveted to the show. I find the drama compelling. But yes, an integral aspect of what keeps me rooted to Southern Charm is waiting for the women to flip the script.

That brings us again to the current season of the “OG” Southern Charm (Charleston). The overall feel during Season 5 is different right off the bat. Only two episodes have aired and the women have used the phrase “girl power”. They are banding together and supporting one another. Naomie wants JD to know that any poor treatment, disrespect and disregard for his wife’s feelings is completely intolerable. Chelsea underscores Naomie’s sentiment emphatically. Kathryn is finally surrounded by the feminist allies that have eluded her in previous seasons. In the aughts of the franchise, tut-tutting about her single mom status and turbulent romantic life (no thanks to the much older, complicated and controversial playboy Thomas Ravenel, who excels in getting away with shit while making Kathryn – the mother of his babies – out to be the crazy one) was her all-too-familiar backdrop. I always silently rooted for Kathryn, also notably the youngest cast mate. To have your missteps highlighted on a show focused on Southern propriety, while you are essentially coming of age, is no easy feat. The one ray of sunshine for her (and me) has been the constant of Craig, a male cast mate and friend who has remained faithfully in her corner since the beginning.

Now his ex Naomie and their friend Chelsea are exuding supportive sentiments. In an era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, I can’t help but wonder if this wave will rise higher and higher until we achieve a feminist crescendo. I wonder if a certain member of production who was so enamored by Whitney’s original pitch for Southern Gentlemen, is now realizing how we (the viewers) need to hear more from the women. I wonder if he senses how much we desire Kathryn to have a voice and feel emboldened in a way she hasn’t in the past. I wonder if he knows how much we’d like the “boys’ club” to get a rude awakening to the changes being made around here. Here being this nation in the modern day.

There is the juxtaposition of the prim and proper, good ole fashioned, traditional South (with its plantations that some cast members have no shame referencing and alleged Nigerobilia in a parlor room) with the current American political climate. Both republicans and democrats alike account for #MeToo and more generally, the landscape of modern feminism. Regardless of party affiliation, it is impossible to ignore how the U.S. is changing in this way. For years, it’s been a curious fact to me that a cable station watched predominantly by women and gay men hosts Southern Charm. Today, I’d like to think that the Hospitality so notable in that geographical tip of our nation, compels producers to honor Bravo’s demographic.

This will sound trite, but it’s also true: We’ll have to stay tuned and see.

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Bravo TV

Finding Dorit: The #RHOBH Character Who Has Viewers Talking

finding dorit

I frequently hear complaints that a reality television character is offensively over the top. However, week after week those same folks lamenting are the ones tuning in to the program they gripe about. It is the outlandishness of various cast members that keeps us riveted to shows, despite our efforts to deny that fact. Let’s face it: For a majority of us, without the contrast of these obnoxious personalities we would not be watching — or more precisely, “hate watching.”

Last season on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Dorit Kemsley came across as a troublemaker…with a grating quasi-English accent to boot. Arguably, the latter offense maximized the phony vibe this nouveau riche, pretentious and ostentatious Housewife gave off from the start of her Real Housewives tenure. Dorit comes across as privileged, entitled, showy and exceedingly effusive, while at the same time there is something fishy about her and her husband PK. We keep watching as we try to figure out who this person is and what makes her tick, what is authentic versus what is for show. If you fancy yourself a Real Housewives anthropologist or an armchair psychologist, the act of dissecting Dorit…finding Dorit….comes instinctively as she’s a rather baffling character.

“Isn’t she from Connecticut?” we all asked one another last season, and shortly thereafter, awkward photos from her high school days surfaced. In no time at all, they were circulating widely throughout social media. There she was in the graduation shot from her all-girls school class, 1990s poof curls and that signature reddish brown lipstick that marked its territory (all of our lips) during that decade.

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Dorit’s undying and overboard professions of love for her questionable cad of a husband PK – who looks much older and is noticeably less attractive than his wife – and their taunting of Erika Jayne for unintentionally flashing her undies (AKA “Pantygate) pitted many a RHOBH viewer against her last season. Camille Grammer was once labeled “The Most Hated Housewife” and Real Housewives of New Jersey‘s Siggy Flicker may have LITERALLY taken the cake, but Dorit wore the gold plaited crown on RHOBH. Some viewers have decided that she is the “worst Housewife” in Real Housewives history.

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But, she’s pretty.

The many looks, the cakey maquillage, the expensive designer duds, the lavish affairs, the ever-changing hair (about a dozen wigs so far this season alone) combined with absurdity and superficiality…Say what you will, but it all earned Dorit a fawning following last season. If Boy George – who is purportedly managed by PK and inexplicably seems to live with the Kemsleys – can appreciate Dorit, then so can many others. Testament to that is the fact that her Instagram blew up after her inaugural season. For some, there was a certain allure to Dorit and her bloviating manner. Then this year, she returned and turned up the level of brashness full force. Viewers have recently expressed that they’re fed up seeing her gunning for the most stable – and entirely-too-normal – new cast addition Teddi Mellencamp. When the most laid back Housewife was called “psycho” by Dorit, viewers expressed that she had surely lost her marbles.

The question with Dorit is: How far is too far? How much will RHOBH fans be able to tolerate? Viewers seem to have sharpened the focus even more upon hate-watching the Housewife this season. Some have even begged Bravo (via the various social media channels that exist) to fire her.

Based on what we are seeing of Dorit this season, many of us have questions:

Is that indeterminate accent a put-on? Or is it the sort that was legitimately acquired from being married to a Brit and exposed to his diction day after day?

Does Dorit always act as if she hasn’t seen her children in over a decade? Why does she prance them around in front of her friends as if they’re show ponies before a live audience?

What exactly does PK Kemsley do (besides manage singer Boy George – although maybe that is enough?)? More specifically, how does the couple afford their sprawling mansion?

There have been allegations that the house we see them in actually belongs to businessman, investor and philanthropist Sam Nazarian. What we do know is that the mansion is on the market, currently listed with Mauricio Umansky’s real estate company. https://pagesix.com/2018/01/16/dorit-and-pk-drop-mega-mansion-listing-price-by-1-8m/ Is it merely a salacious rumor about Nazarian owning the house, or is it fact? In short, viewers wonder: How much about the Kemsleys is a facade and how much of the glamor and glitz is reality beyond “reality TV”?

Sam Nazarian

WIKIPEDIA, Sam Nazarian

Erin Martin, a writer for Reality Tea and host of the Pink Shade podcast says that Dorit reminds her of former RHOC Alexis Bellino, just “a smarter version, with a British accent and bad wigs.” Martin further elaborates: “Like Dorit, Alexis was totally fake with HUGE boobs and had a gross husband like PK. She and her husband both turned out to be lying about their financial status the entire time. They were broke and were renting everything they showed off. This is very much like what has been alleged to be the case with Dorit and PK.”

erin martin twitter

TWITTER, Erin Leah Martin

Then there is the question of: Is Dorit for real when she makes a big deal? We see it this season when she makes a whole stink about the cup from which she takes a drink. We want to shove each glass up her….

And as you know from the show, there’s one for wine, another for champagne, one for red that should never be utilized for rosé…and so on….

wine glass dorit

BRAVO TV, “The fact that I know a wine glass from a champagne glass is etiquette,” Dorit told Teddi in an earlier episode of RHOBH, “Sorry, I know it.”

Dorit is a very particular woman and she makes her preferences and thoughts known without much filtering. After all, she was responsible for making last season’s “Pantygate” a huge debacle, and this season, the focus seems to be on “Lategate.” Her costar Teddi Mellencamp was miffed that she arrived an hour after their scheduled meeting time, but Dorit is the one who refuses to let Teddi’s annoyance with her go. She remains unapologetic for her tardiness, claiming instead that Teddi is uptight.

Danny Pellegrino, host of the podcast Everything Iconic with Danny Pellegrino had this to say about the Dorit of last season and the Dorit we’re seeing now:

Danny Pellegrino

FACEBOOK, Danny Pellegrino

Dorit didn’t impress me much on her first season of RHOBH, and she’s not impressing me now. The problem, I think, is that she is a solid ensemble player, but she has become the star and villain of the show in her second season. I don’t think it’s necessarily her fault that the storylines have revolved around her. Unfortunately, I don’t think the other women gave enough for production to latch onto, and it’s forced Dorit to take center stage. These shows are soap operas, and every good soap opera needs a villain. Dorit has taken on that role, but she’s not a strong enough villain for us to root against (or for, if you love the drama a villain brings).”

“Because of that, she ends up coming across as simply annoying, like a discarded Batman villain. If the show had a stronger villain, someone like Brandi Glanville or season 1 Camille, I think it would come across better because the audience wouldn’t be relying on her to drive the story as much as we are now. Lisa Rinna seems to want to take a backseat this season after spending so much time filling that role previously, and Lisa Vanderpump  and Kyle are coasting by on their seniority. The tardiness storyline that is driving this season is so incredibly weak for a series that has dealt with domestic abuse, alcohol addiction, squabbling sisters… In another season, that storyline would be a great little B-story that audiences would love because it would be campy, over-the-top and the right amount of ridiculousness. Unfortunately, Dorit being tardy has become the A-story of the season, it’s leaving viewers upset and it’s hard to point the finger at anyone but Dorit since she’s the tardy one. “

“The one thing I do really appreciate from Dorit is her fashions. Her choices range from ridiculous to flawless in any given scene. Even if you don’t like her, it’s fun to see what she’ll be wearing, and that’s not something you can say about any of the other Housewives, save for maybe Erika. I hope for Dorit’s sake that someone else (or multiple people) step up next season to drive the storylines so that we can appreciate Dorit in smaller doses than what they are giving us now. As is, I think a lot of us are rooting for Dorit to get off our screens so we can get some more meat in the drama. It is entirely possible that Bravo is looking to move away from that type of show, and giving us more lifestyle porn with tiny bits of drama, instead of dramatic catfights and table flipping. If that’s the case, I think it will turn off a lot of fans. Lastly, I think we can all do without PK entirely. I think all fans are in favor of him appearing even less than Mr. Girardi.”

The 80s icon and famous pop star Boy George recently chastised an Instagram user for not being able to appreciate a campy woman. Is that where many of us are going wrong with regard to Dorit? While some viewers have stated that they can’t wait for her to leave the show already, I’ve referred to this season as “The Real Filler Scenes of Beverly Hills” and feel that Dorit spices up an otherwise boring show. I have not been able to identify many “storylines” since the current season began.

So, even as Dorit offends and irks, I feel she is delivering necessary drama through her erratic and mind-boggling antics. There is no denying that her questionable behavior has fans talking, tweeting and weighing in…albeit, to their own chagrin. I’m not sure where we would be without her, or who would still be watching if she wasn’t on our screens.

 

 

 

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Podcasts

“What’s Your Podcast Pleasure?”

When I asked friends “What are your favorite podcasts?”, I was not expecting Nell Kalter, a teacher and writer, to send over two pages. People really like their podcasts and they’ll tell you exactly why, but then there are those who have never yet listened to one. In my experience, which is thus far limited to informal polling, those people are mainly high school students, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. Many of my friends in their 40s, who are essentially 9-7 professionals, are just beginning to take an interest in podcasts. Yes, believe it or not. They’re just beginning. Others caught Serial when it was the “not-to-be- missed” sensation, but haven’t listened to another podcast since.

“Do you listen on the computer?” is a question I’ve gotten from a few individuals I shall not name.

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I think it’s a little embarrassing in this day and age post-Serial, but I DO get it. I’ve been told brashly by others “I have a life. I have a job” – only the most insulting thing you can say to someone as they too toil away (with a podcast in the background for good measure, of course).

I’ve also been the recipient of the side-eye from folks who have listened to podcasts since they began cropping up and regard me as a dinosaur. The act of creating podcasts, “podcasting”, was first known as “audioblogging” and its genesis predates to late 2004.

There are currently hundreds of thousands of podcasts (and counting!) to listen to if you are an English speaker. My own interests vary from true crime (i.e. Sword and Scale, Criminal, White Wine True Crime, Suspect Convictions, My Favorite Murder) to reality TV-related interviews and recaps combined with light chitchat that distracts me from national news (Watch What Crappens, Reality Life with Kate Casey, Adderall and Compliments, Realizing Stuff with Kara and Ryan, Emotionally Broken Psychos, Feathers In My Hair ,Everything is Iconic with Danny Pellegrino,  Grants Rants, Things We’re Too Lazy to Blog About, Buttered Pop and so many more).

I also delight in listening to a podcast about politics that is actually more about two funny ladies giving their comedic perspectives on the current presidential administration (Dumb Gay Politics with Julie Goldman and Brandy Howard from Bravo’s The People’s Couch).

podcasts 3

Here is what two of my friends had to say about their own podcast preferences. Nell Kalter is a Gen Xer who helpfully broke hers into categories. Rachel F. is a Millennial who spoke about her favorites (and requested anonymity due to the nature of her profession).

I. NELL KALTER – Gen Xer

nell kalter 2

The Reality TV podcasts: The very legitimate need for escapism from the latest news about whatever horrifying thing the ‘head lunatic in charge’ just said on any given day has multiplied recently – much like that creature in Human Centipede 3 – and there’s perhaps no greater escapism than listening to intelligent people yank and pull reality television apart. I’ve written recaps of reality shows for a few years now (Vanderpump Rules, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Are You the One?, etc.) and I’ve taught Film and Media for even longer, so the podcasts I gravitate to in this arena are those that explore how manipulated these shows truly are in a manner that I seriously hope every person watching fully understands.

I listen to Reality Life with Kate Casey because she scores timely subjects for interviews and she asks probing questions that often make me appreciate certain participants of reality shows in a way I haven’t before. Shep Rose, a key player on Southern Charm, came off as far wiser and more politically aware than he does on his series when he spoke with Casey, and knowing he has those attributes somehow enhances the show for me. I’m not an avid fan of The Bachelor – I watch the first episode each season before suddenly remembering that seeing a grown woman named Lindzeeee cry in a corner about feeling rejected by a man she met ten minutes ago could potentially stunt my growth – but I have written on Reality Steve’s site for some time and I crazily respect his unparalleled ability to spoil the show. He started a podcast a while ago and I don’t know every person he interviews because I don’t follow The Bachelor closely, but he still manages to pull me in because his interview style is effortless and quite charming. If you haven’t listened to him yet, check out the episode he did with Michelle Money. She exhibits a level of real bravery while discussing the choices she’s made throughout her life that may end up inspiring you.

Kate Casey

The Erudite Pop Culture podcast: How was Your Week with Julie Klausner was the first podcast I ever listened to and she hooked me immediately with her hilarious takes on of subjects as varied as serving on jury duty and the Met Gala. Klausner, the creator, writer, and star of the brilliant and subversive show Difficult People, is sort of my idol; she literally has completed the trajectory of the exact career I’d chant for if I actually believed something like chanting worked. She used to write scathing and hysterical reality TV recaps before she moved on to writing her own television show, and though she hasn’t done as many podcasts as she used to, she came back recently with a brand new episode that is laugh out loud funny. (And I swear I’m not just complimenting her work in the hopes that she’ll send me one of those snack blankets she trotted out on the most recent episode of Difficult People – but should she be reading this, I’d like a Savory Blanket in pale pink.)

julie klausner salon

SALON.COM, Julie Klausner

The True Crime podcast: Like everyone else I know, I consumed Serial like it was arsenic-laced candy. I’ve had an interest in the most bizarre crimes that have ever occurred throughout the annals of history since the day I accepted my own double-dog-dare and finally read my sister’s copy of Helter Skelter, a book I’d peek at constantly but shied away from because I feared the stark black and blood red cover and the warning scrawled on the first page that the book I was about to read would scare the hell out of me. The cautionary note was accurate, but I realized that what I found most fascinating about Charles Manson ended up being not the man himself, but his followers.

As someone who is not religious and not fanatical about anything except Springsteen, the devout belief Manson’s followers had in him intrigued me, as did the line within them – the one that grew shadowy and pale after months spent gobbling acid on the dusty terrain of Death Valley – that delineated those once light sides from their growing dark sides. It’s an internal line we all have, and I guess the perverse side of me is drawn to understanding what causes someone to hop over that line in a spectacularly cruel fashion.

After obsessing over Serial, I moved on to the podcast version of one of my favorite shows, 48 Hours. The podcast may not be hip, but the stories are explored in a taut, compassionate, and totally consuming manner.

The Best Interviewer podcast: A friend turned me on to The Tim Ferriss Show a while ago and I’ve perhaps never heard a finer interviewer who has been able to delve into so many subjects with verve and legitimate enthusiasm. This guy examines the life of a Navy Seal in one episode and ponders how to live without limits in the next. His interview with Jamie Foxx made me wish my own name ended with at least one “x” because Foxx was revealed to be patently ambitious, beautifully wise, and wildly funny all in the same breath. My guess is that Ferriss’ podcast would have the greatest mass appeal of all of my favorite podcasts because he examines everything within the zeitgeist exactly as it’s occurring. Want dating advice? Ferriss has you covered. Ever wonder what spiritual fuel Tony Robbins downs instead of Adderall to achieve enlightenment? Ferriss will be your guide as you wade into that crystal water of wisdom. In short, Ferriss manages to instantly relate and form a rapport with every person with whom he speaks and he knows how to hone in on what will interest his listeners the most in each moment – and he keeps those listeners thinking long after each episode ends.

The My-Obsession podcast: Listen, I don’t love anything more than I love Bruce Springsteen. Seriously, I’d give up Twix bars, iced coffees on August mornings, my favorite six-inch heels that make my feet bleed, and several family members just to have a five minute meeting with the man I believe to be the single finest songwriter in the stratosphere – and I’d give up those people and those things without even a smidgen of guilt. I’ve been to countless shows and there were many months when I was in my twenties when I couldn’t afford my rent because my priorities were: 1)Springsteen tickets 2)Huge pretzel at the concert 3)A roof over my head. I appreciate fellow fans who worship him as the deity I believe him to be, and Tramps Like Us is a podcast for Springsteen aficionados. Lee McCormack’s appreciation for Springsteen’s artistry is evident in every single episode, and if you’re a Springsteen fan, I recommend you check it out. And should you snag the tickets to Bruce’s upcoming appearance on Broadway that I feel deep in my soul are MINE, I also recommend that you hire yourself several burly bodyguards.

Nell Kalter teaches Film and Media at a school in New York. She is the author of the books THAT YEAR and STUDENT, both available on amazon.com in paperback and for your Kindle. Her Twitter is @nell_kalter

 

II. RACHEL F. – Millennial

Okay, I thought hard about this because I listen to about 20+ podcasts. Here are my top 5:

 

1. Bowery Boys: New York City History

This was the first podcast I ever listened to. My dad recommended it when I moved to New York 4 years ago. Before I started working, I binged its episodes to get acclimated to the city. I grew to love my new city with every episode. The creators Greg Young and Tom Meyers recently published a book of New York City history and of course, I went to one of their signings. Meeting them was a dream come true and I expressed how appreciative I was for their work.

 

2. The Black Tapes Podcast

This podcast is a serialized horror story about a young reporter teaming up with a paranormal expert to investigate unsolved paranormal activity. The story-line is very compelling, but unfortunately, it is ending after 3 seasons this year. The mystery gives me the creeps, but I cannot stop listening.

 

3. You Must Remember This

This is another history podcast, but it is about old Hollywood. The creator is Karina Longworth, a Hollywood enthusiast, and every few months she posts mini-series about Hollywood’s history. This season she focuses on the parallels between Jane Fonda and Jean Seberg, two contemporary actresses who were investigated by the FBI for their ideologies. Other topics she covered previously were Charles Manson, the Hollywood blacklist, and Joan Crawford. Karina has a wonderful voice to listen to, as well.

 

4. Ronna and Beverly

Well you and I met at their show, so enough said. Jessica Chaffin’s and Jamie Denbo’s Ronna Glickman and Bevery Ginsberg (respectively) make my week! It has been a rough summer without their humor because they are currently on hiatus. But when they release new episodes, I have a hard time focusing on work because I am constantly cracking up at my desk. Impeccable timing, great guests, it is the best comedy podcast out there.

ronna and bev

 

5. My Favorite Murder

When thinking of this list, I thought about what podcasts I cannot wait to download on my phone. My Favorite Murder is one of them. Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark deep dive into high-profile and unknown crimes. I always look forward to their mini-episodes with people’s hometown murders as well as their main episodes. Karen and Georgia have created a community where not only do we like talking about murder, but we also look out for each other in signs of danger. “Stay sexy and don’t get murdered” is a motto more people live by because of the podcast.

 

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