What makes a good rewatch podcast?

Move over, true crime. One of the biggest trends in recent years is the rewatch podcast. Revisit your favourite television shows — from The Office to The Sopranos — episode by episode with a few cast members (sometimes leads, sometimes supporting actors) and a host of guest interviews.

They’re a fun way to feel nostalgia about some old faves that are no longer airing (or early seasons of an extremely long-running show, as is the case with the It’s Always Sunny Podcast), but of course, not all are created equal. As someone who listens to probably way too many of these rewatch pods, I’ve noticed some things that make for a good show.

Choosing the right hosts (that actually like each other)

I’m sure that these rewatch podcasts are lucrative business, especially for actors who might be mainly known for one, long-gone television show, and therefore there are probably many actors who would jump at the chance to host their own rewatch pod, no matter who their co-star is.

But the best pods are the ones where it’s obvious that the hosts liked each other off the set as well as on, and where they’re still friends to this day. I don’t listen to Drama Queens (One Tree Hill), every week, but when I do it’s obvious that the hosts (Bethany Joy Lenz, Sophia Bush, and Hilarie Burton Morgan) are as close in real life as their characters Haley, Brooke, and Peyton were on the show.

At the same time, a good rewatch pod is a rewatch pod, it’s not a friendship chatter pod. Part of a rewatch podcast’s appeal is actually revisiting each episode of the show — from the behind-the-scenes making-of details to the episode itself as aired. Some rewatch pods stray too far away from the central concept, while others are much better at mixing episode discussion with fun conversation.

Talking to non-lead (and non-actor) guests

This is probably the number one thing I enjoy most about rewatch podcasts. Yes, it’s exciting when you get to hear an interview with your favourite actor from your favourite show, but chances are if you’re a die-hard fan you’ll already know the answer to everything they’re being asked. Instead, good rewatch pods delve deeper into interviewing minor characters, guest stars, and especially crew.

One of my fave moments in a rewatch pod was when the Office Ladies (The Office) podcast interviewed props master Phil Shea about choosing the perfect cardboard box for Dwight to hide in the episode “The Alliance.” It’s not something you’d encounter in any other interview or press tour, and it’s just the sort of trivia that is both super interesting to a super fan and also fascinating to a listener who enjoys hearing about the background work that goes in to creating entertainment.

Similarly, Supernatural Then and Now (Supernatural) is at its best when the hosts interview the VFX supervisors, composers, set designers, etc. Even though the show has been over for a couple years now, Supernatural still has a thriving fanbase and an ongoing convention scene, so episode after episode where lead actors Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles are asked about pranks on set (ugh) wouldn’t be half as interesting as hearing from the crew members who gave the show its distinctive look and feel.

Being negative when the episode isn’t good

Look, even the best television shows of all time have had a dud here and there. And a good rewatch podcast acknowledges that. As much as I enjoy the aforementioned Office Ladies, they’re well in to covering season 7 and I don’t think they’ve disliked an episode yet (and if you’ve watched The Office, you know that by season 7 there have definitely been some duds). It’s nice that the actors have love for their show, but endless positivity isn’t as interesting as a more realistic look at the show.

On the other hand, I love how Talkville (Smallville) hosts Michael Rosenbaum and Tom Welling (Lex Luthor and Clark Kent are not afraid to shit on an episode that really deserves it. They’ve got nothing but praise for their castmates (with one obvious exception), the show’s writing team, or the crew, but they don’t pretend that a 10-season, 22-episode-a-season CW show was nothing but gems, or that there weren’t some silly decisions over the course of the series (I laugh every time Welling disdainfully mentions high schooler Lana being the proprietor of a coffee shop).

Pod Meets World (Boy Meets World) takes its critique in a different, also interesting direction. Because the hosts (Danielle Fishel, Rider Strong, and Will Friedel aka Topanga, Shawn, and Eric) are former child actors who now work mainly behind the camera and because the show’s premiere is now three decades in the past, they’re not afraid to call out jokes that haven’t aged well, moments that were problematic for young actors, and their own missteps (notably Friedel and Fishel’s racism toward costar Trina McGee, which they addressed in an interview with McGee). There’s still plenty of love and nostalgia, but it’s a much more nuanced look back.


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