The week of September 13, 2015

The podcasts breathing new life into classic TV

By Gabe Bergado

There’s nothing like a chill night in, turning on the television, and watching one of your favorite childhood classics. Nostalgic classics such as Saved by the Bell and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are just a few clicks away, thanks to streaming video. Casual fans who haven’t seen a show in years, devotees who own the full box-set collection, or even people who feel guilty for having never caught The West Wing—yesteryear’s rich bounty of pop culture goodness awaits you.

There’s also a growing collection of podcasts devoted to re-watching, interpreting, and celebrating these bygone masterpieces. It’s a simple formula: a small group of friends getting together to discuss classic series, episode by episode. Some are longtime fans, others are newcomers. Sometimes the discussions are nostalgia-tinged; other times, they have the force of fresh revelation. Always, though, they’re a way of creating a new experience around what might otherwise be an ephemeral piece of pop culture.

We talked to five podcasters about why they decided to talk about old TV shows, what they learned, and why you should listen.

1) Go Bayside!Saved by the Bell

April Richardson started this podcast as a goof. She’d liveblog old episodes of the show on Facebook, recapping all of Zack Morris’s shenanigans and Bayside High School’s drama. Friends suggested she try a podcast; she started inviting guests to watch the show and recap with her. She’s recorded more than 80 episodes, featuring the likes of Jimmy Pardo, Paul F. Tompkins, and Aimee Mann. Go Bayside! became a way to catch up with friends she didn’t get to see frequently. She often gets them to talk about their high school experiences in contrast to those of Zack and the gang.

“When I started it, I knew it would probably only really appeal to a specific age range of about five years older/younger than me, and that would be about it,” Richardson says. “But I guess I’m thankful Jimmy Fallon is close to my age, because his constant mentions of SBTB on his show and his attempts to bring the entire cast back together repeatedly couldn’t have hurt my numbers, ha!”

2) Tiny FencesBuffy the Vampire Slayer

Veteran fan Andrea Westaway and newbie Amanda Hennessey team up for this re-watch podcast following the adventures of Sunnydale’s scourge of the supernatural, Buffy Summers. Friends told Amanda she lacked pop culture knowledge, so the two chose Buffy as a place to begin her education.

“While it’s fun to look back at where technology and fashion were in the late ’90s, it’s also amazing to see how forward-looking the writing was. It ages very well,” Westaway says. They often talk about the show’s fashion, music, slang, and technology—and Amanda’s weekly predictions almost always turn out hilariously wrong.

3) Best of FriendsFriends

Krista Doyle, Erin Mallory Long, and Jamie Woodham, all Los Angeles-based writers, barely knew each other when Doyle tweeted about wanting to start a podcast about Friends. “It’s also been really cool re-watching the show and watching our opinions on characters and storylines grow and change from what they were when we first watched the show as kids,” Doyle says. For example, Joey and Phoebe were their least favorite characters because they seemed so silly. Today, though, they see them as loyal and open-minded.

Since the ’90s sitcom is so often about the relationships among a group of New York City 20-somethings, the hosts often end up sharing their own stories about sex and love. In fact, they open each show with “The Lightning Round,” where listeners often ask them for advice.

4) Gilmore GuysGilmore Girls

The Gilmore Guys are Demi Adejuyigbe (the newb) and Kevin T. Porter (the veteran). When Porter heard Gilmore Girls was headed to Netflix, he figured it was the perfect time to start a podcast. “Above all, I hope listeners rekindle their love for Gilmore Girls, but I also hope they’re just entertained by our discussions,” Adejuyigbe says. “We’re not always 100 percent on accuracy or story focus, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to find our very specific view of a beloved TV show and try to entertain people by sharing it.”

He also says that nostalgia plays a big part in the podcast’s appeal, but that he and Porter don’t lean on it too heavily; the show’s rich and original enough that they don’t need to.

5) Wingin ItThe West Wing

Andrea Howat and Sallie Gregory are cranking through the seven seasons of the iconic drama about life in the White House. Inspired in part by the Gilmore Guys, they’ve adopted a similar format, albeit with a completely different tone.

“It’s just fun to get to geek out over the wonder that is The West Wing,” Howat says. “It’s cool to be a small lightning rod for such a beloved piece of pop culture.” Good art is timeless, Howat says, and even though the show’s been off the air for years, new fans are still discovering it.

Photos by Joe Haupt/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0) and Wolfgang Lonien/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed