I love the idea of a "Reality Podcast Challenge", and it really fits in with Earwolf's desire to infuse the medium with new and interesting things. I know that this is the first season, but some of these episodes are infuriating as a listener. Here are some thoughts that might help make it better. (Apologies if some of these have been discussed. I haven't read all the episode forums.)
- The guest judges should be told AHEAD OF THE EPISODE what each podcast is about. This could be done off-air so as not to disrupt the flow of the episode but should probably be done briefly before the segment for any new Challenge listeners. Ideally, the judges should listen to at least 5 minutes of each podcast still in the running before the Challenge judging episode, as this would give them a better feel for what they are getting into. It is frustrating when I hear what I feel is a good bit, and the judges are completely confused because they weren't told what the show was about. I cheered when Howard Kremer actually stopped Matt to get an explanation before listening to one submission because that should have been a no-brainer. I understand that having permanent judges is hard due to scheduling conflicts. At this stage of the game, the contestants should not have to re-introduce what they do every time. That is not the point of the challenges, and is not fair to anyone.
That is not saying that podcasts shouldn't find their voices. However, some of the sketch shows, F+ and TV Zombies need a little explaining before a listener jumps into them cold. Caroline made a good point that a listener makes a snap decision when they first listen to a podcast, but people listen to new podcasts from the beginning and not a random segment in the middle of it. The beginning usually tells you what you're getting into. These challenges are as if you've skipped ahead without hearing even the intro.
- I agree with others that the challenges are trying to fit each podcast into a mold. Everyone talks about how they don't want just another talking head podcast with guests, but each challenge seems to be tailored to those types of shows. I understand that this is probably a first season hurdle, but it needs to be said again. It makes it very unfair to those podcasts that are not in that format. Why not make the talking heads write a sketch for example. However, I have been enjoying what some of the contestants have chosen to do with these challenges. It shows flexibility.
Two pet peeves about this contest:
- Little Dum Dum Club and Totally Laime are already pretty professional and have a large following. It is obvious that almost every judge has heard of (or been a guest on) Totally Laime, and apparently the Little Dum Dum Club is a famous radio podcast in Australia. This leads me to ask why are they competing? Since they already have a set-up and would cost Earwolf little in the long run to have them in the family, it makes sense to have given them a contract. I like them both and am glad for the contest exposing me to their shows. I just feel that it's a little unfair to the rest of the contestants. These two shows should have been brought into the fold since they obviously already fit and would probably bring in revenue to Earwolf with their respective fan bases. Now, some would say that this just drives the other podcasts to do better, but right now I feel like PFT watching American Idol, knowing that the country dude is going to win it all. It makes for very boring listening.
- Matt Besser, I love you so much but please - PLEASE - stop playing dumb on certain things when discussing the segments with the judges. I'm not talking about the "What is a recurring segment" thing. The meta discussions are fine. I am talking about you knowing something and then pretending that you don't when the judges are on. This happens a lot because the judges aren't told what the podcast is about. Then, you act like you've also never heard the podcast before. I think you're trying to see if the segment is good enough for the judges to figure it out, but it's infuriating to the listener to listen to 2 minutes of stumbling every time. It can adversely affect the judging as Howard Kremer stated.
It also happens when a podcast tells you what they are going to do in the coaching session and then you act like the submission took you by surprise when they do EXACTLY what they said they would do. It's baffling why you're acting like this. As a seasoned professional, you know that your role is host AND permanent judge. You should be the one facilitating things, not confusing them. Again, I love you, but this is starting to seem like a bit.
I am really enjoying the judges and their input. I think that even if a contestant is eliminated, they are getting thoughtful and useful feedback from professionals not just in podcasting but in the industry. I hope that each group internalizes what they are told because it is really good advice. PFT and Jesse Thorn were great, but everyone has had useful and relevant feedback. I hope this makes each group a better podcast because it's obvious that everyone loves what they do. Don't take the criticisms to mean STOP. Take it to mean "this is a great idea that could be greater".
I know that you are ahead a few episodes in taping but hopefully these suggestions could be discussed for the next season. Thanks for all the hard work, (both Earwolf and the contestants)!