Talking about TV podcasts
How Podcasts are giving us a behind-the-scenes look at our favourite TV shows.
by James Woods, Senior Content Manager, Innovate By Day
Connecting fans with the things they’re most interested in has been our passion at Innovate By Day since the very beginning. Back in 2011, when I joined the company, Deb was working with Canadian television shows to reach fans on social media, which at that time really only meant Facebook and Twitter. Something we talked about a lot was the idea of the superfan—the fan that couldn’t get enough of that show, that wanted to know everything about how it was made, who wrote it, what did the actors think about their characters, and what was coming next. We knew about fandom because we were fans ourselves. Our role has been to act as proxies, channelling conversations between the fans and the creators and networks.
At the time, our favourite example of great behind-the-scenes content for fans was Grey Matter, an episode-by-episode blog where the writers of Grey’s Anatomy gave insights into their choices and some behind-the-scenes stories. The comments section on the blog was busy every week, with the fans talking back to the writers and talking among themselves. This also meant that the writers were becoming known to the fans in their own right.
The 2021 version of this fan connection is the behind-the-scenes podcast. And there are some great ones out there. But let’s quickly look at the history of podcasts and how we got here.
A really brief history of the podcast
In 2004, before Grey’s Anatomy was even a thing, content creators were starting to share audio content via RSS feeds. This was a new revolution in homegrown audio content, a form of internet radio. Writing in The Guardian, Ben Hammersley brainstormed ways to describe this new phenomenon, and one of them stuck: podcasting, a portmanteau of Apple’s iPod and broadcasting.
Podcasting is a pretty egalitarian activity. You don’t have to be a broadcasting professional to make one; anyone with a computer, a microphone, and an internet connection can record a simple podcast.
But this doesn’t get us to the growth of TV podcasts just yet. To create the perfect environment for the TV rewatch podcast, you need a way for people to enjoy rewatching, maybe even binge-watching, beloved TV shows. In 2007, Netflix stepped up to the plate, adding a video streaming service to its already-successful DVD subscription service.
We’re in a golden age of TV podcasts
So now we have an environment where fans and producers can re-watch and podcast about their favourite TV series. Notable current TV rewatch podcasts include The West Wing Weekly with Josh Malina and Hrishikesh Hirway (2016-2020); Talking Sopranos with Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa (2020-present); and The Office Ladies with Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey (2019-present).
One that a few of us at Innovate have been listening to is iHeartRadio's Fake Doctors, Real Friends, the Scrubs rewatch podcast with stars Zach Braff and Donald Faison. The podcast showcases the friendship dynamic between the actors who played medical residents and roommates J.D. and Turk, their long-suffering producers Danl and Joelle, and their many guests, including costars Sarah Chalke and John C. McGinley, and showrunner (and Ted Lasso Executive Producer) Bill Lawrence.
But we also have current TV watch-along podcasts, meant to be listened to immediately following (or the day following) the release of a new episode of a current TV show. This is the audio equivalent of Grey Matters: a weekly peek behind the scenes at your favourite new show, or of TV after-shows like The Talking Dead or Talking Bad. At Innovate By Day, we have had opportunities to produce aftershows and fan experiences with series like The Bachelorette Canada, The Bachelor Canada, and Between. They are highly rewarding projects for us as a team.
As a social media and marketing strategist often working in television, I personally found The Good Place-The Podcast to be one of the most insightful and on-brand behind-the-scenes experiences I've ever had. Hosted by featured guest star Marc Evan Jackson (“I play Shawn”), this NBC podcast talked with the actors, writers, and producers weekly and gave us new perspectives on what Jackson calls ‘the smartest, dumbest show on television.”
More recently, I’ve been drawn in by the after-show podcast for AppleTV+’s video game publisher workplace comedy Mythic Quest. Questie Besties takes the concept one step further, hosted by four extremely effusive women (Ashly Burch, Jessie Ennis, Imani Hakim, Charlotte Nicdao) and one somewhat-more-reticent man (David Hornsby), Questie Besties is a high-energy love-fest among the hosts, with interesting “guesties” and lots of great anecdotes from casting through filming.
Actors Burch and Ennis are also in the show’s writers room, along with perpetual odd-man-out and (Executive Producer) David Hornsby, giving the show multiple levels of behind-the-scenes cred. The energy of the hosts and their genuine love for each other, their coworkers, and their show, is delightfully infectious and engaging.
Anatomy of a good TV podcast
A host (or hosts) who are really good on the microphone, have a genuine interest in the subject matter, and an inside track on the behind-the-scenes aspect of the show. They should be someone who knows and is comfortable with all the key players and potential guests. And they should have enough personality that the audience wants to come back and spend an hour with them week after week.
A structure. Like your TV news shows and talk shows, professional podcasts establish a set order of segments within the show, so you always know what you’re getting:
- a cold open that sets up this week’s show
- An introduction of the hosts and key players and the premise of the show.
- a catchy theme song (Fake Doctors, Real Friends and Questie Besties both have this down) to get the ball rolling.
- The bulk of the show might be taken up by discussing the events on screen, mixed in with anecdotes about writing and filming, preferably speaking with the guest (if applicable) about something from the episode that is specific to their expertise (e.g., writer, director, guest star, costume designer, visual effects supervisor).
- A weekly wrap-up. At the end of every episode of The Good Place-The Podcast, Marc asks his guests “What’s Good?” On Questie Besties, “Guesties” are put through recurring bits like “Who’s your Bestie?” and of course, the “Testie.”
- And finally, the end credits, a little bit of housekeeping and a reminder to come back next week.
So what does it take to make a podcast?
While it’s possible for a podcast to be a one-person operation where the host is also the writer, talent booker, recording technician, editor, and social media manager, you might want to pull together a team of people to share the load. And just because you have a great podcast does not mean people will discover it. It still needs to be marketed, so that your audience discovers it and knows when to expect the episodes.
More than anything, it takes patience and consistency (read more of our thoughts about the value of consistency here).
If you’re thinking about launching a podcast (it doesn’t have to be about television) and you want someone to bounce your ideas off, reach out to us and we’ll be happy to help you figure out what to do first.
James Woods is Innovate By Day's Senior Content Manager and has been hanging out in fan communities since Usenet Newsgroups were a thing.