What I heard: Shine On You Crazy Goldman — Reply All Episode 44

Or… What the heck was that?

Once upon a time, I started listening to Reply All, “a show about the Internet.” Gimlet Media’s Reply All was a fun way to keep up with cool memes, a light and easy way to fill missing pieces in key parts internet history. And of course, I felt like by listening I was doing my part to root for Gimlet themselves, whose birth I had been a part of, “live,” thanks to the StartUp podcast. From that very first sloppy pitch to Chris Sacca, I wanted Alex Blumberg and his company to succeed. I never missed an episode of the original season of StartUp. It was only natural that I would follow Gimlet’s shows.

Fast forward a year later, and though I gave up StartUp somewhere in the middle of its second season, and never connected with Mystery Show, I still keep Reply All in my feed. It’s not normally the highlight of my podcasting experience every week, but it is interesting and informative and has just the right bit of a raw edge to keep it from becoming too vanilla.

Until yesterday.

Episode 44 begins with a profile of an interesting website — one for people who are high and delusional, and need help. Okay, I say. Then a conversation about LSD and expanding consciousness. Fine, I think. I think of the Sixties and the Beatles. Harmless.

But then it becomes personal — too personal. And it feels less like the PSA-type episode on Depressiongrams, and more, I hate to say this, a pure publicity stunt.

What were they thinking? I really don’t know.

Why, even I am confused about how I feel about the show.

  • Did I find it fake? Yes. For a company that has been relatively forthcoming about their mistakes and about their dilemmas in keeping journalistic integrity with advertisers, I find it odd that the crux of the episode was kept secret from Alex and Alex and Matt. And it’s hard to believe that such a large show could take a mind of its own. Even if, in the end, they decided to include the Phia and PJ’s experiment. Seems like people want to raise ratings.
  • Did I find it irresponsible? I hate to sound like a granny here, but part of me does. Disclaimer at the top of the podcast notwithstanding — or maybe because of this long disclaimer that points to the rest of the podcast with one big neon sign — the show seems desperate to make a statement.
  • Did I find it new and refreshing? Yes and no. The novelty of PJ’s half-drunk descriptions of the city and his relationships wore off pretty quickly, before the episode was over. Plus, I had gotten my intellectual fix with the TripSit coverage, so it could have stopped then.
  • And yet, was I interested? Of course. It’s taboo. Therefore, Alex and PJ, I’m sure it will get high ratings.

This is short term.

Longer term, I need to better understand where Reply All is going. Maybe they do to. I’m probably still going to be rooting for them, in my heart… but who knows, not necessarily via my feed.

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