TV is Dead, Long Live TV. While television is rapidly decaying on the business end of things, simultaneously it is consistently evolving, more artistically challenging and even auteur-friendly, and that is partially thanks to the infiltration of comedy podcasts. Some shows try to incorporate some of the DNA of their pods to the small screen, like Comedy Bang Bang and The Nerdist, while standups like Nikki Glaser, Sara Schaefer, and Pete Holmes have parlayed their numerous hours behind podcast mics into late night hosting gigs. Maron, premiering tomorrow, would never have become a reality if it weren’t for his years hosting WTF with Marc Maron, the popular interview podcast that has been well documented to have saved both Maron’s career and his life.
Of course, it’s dismissive and myopic, albeit technically accurate, to simply think of podcasts as the minor leagues of television. Podcasts will always have an intimacy and earnestness that can never fully translate in any other medium, and the free reign enjoyed by comedians could never be duplicated by even the most “Louie deal” of Louie deals. But despite the state that it’s in, the appeal to being on television will never go away, kind of like a song will always sound better on the radio than on an iPod. It is more than understandable: there’s the prestige, the literally million or more people who know your name, the money to afford full meals, etc.
That is to say that all that is being said is: in honor of Marc Maron’s TV show, here are ten podcasts that would be great on television.
Best Show Gems
The podcast premise: Every other week, a classic bit from the long time WFMU radio show/podcast Best Show on WFMU starring straight man Tom Scharpling and resident lunatic/Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster extracted from previous episodes is featured.
The TV pitch: It would be impossible to capture the je nais se quoi of some of the more strange and kind of disturbing phone calls that Scharpling openly despises to television, as well as all of the other intangibles live radio shows bring to the table. The Scharpling/Wurster skits however, all of which are based or have some connection with the made-up and incredibly weird and hilarious town of Newbridge, can be made into a half hour series. After over ten years of careful and brilliant construction, Newbridge is just as vibrant and rich in comedy as Springfield, Portlandia’s Portland, and Pawnee.
Doug Loves Movies
The podcast premise: Doug Benson invites three comedians to chat about movies before making them play The Leonard Maltin Game in front of a live audience, the rules of which make it sound more complicated than it really is: contestants take turns claiming to be able to guess the title of the film after hearing fewer names of the cast than the others. Eventually, a contestant will dare an other to name the movie with only the number of cast members that he or she just said. The fact that Benson reads from the bottom of the cast list when revealing the names makes it all the more challenging, but not impossible.
The TV pitch: A game show, obviously. Maltin has approved the game, even playing it a couple of times, so one would assume clearance would not be an issue. Comedians already play for members of the audience, but if Benson and his theoretical staff decide to have a “regular” human to play contestant flanked by comedians to go a more traditional route, that would more than work too.
The Fogelnest Files
The podcast premise: Jake Fogelnest shows a bunch of clips off of YouTube of various historical significance, with a predilection towards anything reeking of dubious decision making, to his comedian guests. Or just good, obscure music videos, or both. Clips are usually prepared with the guest in mind, sometimes including video of the guests themselves, providing insight into their process, and what influenced them.
The TV pitch: Clearance to show anything on YouTube can potentially be difficult, but Fogelnest shouldn’t have to change a thing. The Fogelnest Files would work both as a more fun and Ramones-referencing Inside the Actors Studio and a version of The Soup if it didn’t restrict itself to mocking just the previous week in pop culture, and a constant reminder of how far television has come. And there is nothing television likes more than television.
Judge John Hodgman
The podcast premise: America’s favorite Former Literary Agent/PC/Fibber of History/Resident Expert/Internet Personality/Deranged Millionaire acts as judge, jury, but thankfully not executioner in a dispute between two listeners. Jesse Thorn is usually the bailiff, but occasionally a guest from the comedy world will fill in, e.g. Scott Asdit. Hodgman doesn’t go for big laughs, instead sincerely attempting to use reason before conjuring up an adequate, fair, but strange verdict.
The TV pitch: Hodgman is about as qualified as any daytime television judge out there. I take that back: he is more qualified. The budget would be miniscule, there will never be a lack of contentious people that wouldn’t want to be put in front of a camera, and with all apologies to Jesse Thorn, the occasional guest bailiff can provide further comedic material, as well as guest lawyer representations.
The podcast premise: Brian Posehn and friends play Dungeons & Dragons. It is not poker played by self-identifying nerds.
The TV pitch: Game of Thrones, but funny. The budget would be outlandish, so it would most likely have to be animated. The actual dice rolling and some of the bantering between the players in the real world wont make it to the final version, but a story within the story involving the IRL participants as they play the game wouldn’t be out of the question, and could possibly augment the game’s characters in an inherently plot heavy show.
New Year’s Eve with Neil Hamburger
The podcast premise: It is always New Year’s Eve with Neil Hamburger and co-host Mike H, who celebrate the end of the year in what we could only assume is an alternate universe (or some form of Hell), where occasionally an apocalypse will attempt but fail to stop the festivities. The majority of episodes involve musical acts playing entire songs that sound like actual songs, but are in fact not. You don’t quite understand why it’s so funny, and it’s possible that it is one subtle and masterful joke on the banality of all of pop music. Also, Hamburger’s humorous warped logic shines in his put-downs towards his co-host.
The TV pitch: This has Adult Swim, with The Eric Andre Show production value (in particular the purposely dim lighting) written all over it.
This Feels Terrible
The podcast premise: Comedian Erin McGathy interviews someone from the comedy world about their past relationships and current sexual hangups. McGathy will occasionally host live shows, and in an ongoing six-part series attempt to get Feral Audio creator Dustin Marshall a girlfriend. McGathy isn’t afraid to open up about her personal life herself (McGathy is currently dating Dan Harmon, who is arguably too honest), providing a safe, no-judgment environment.
The TV pitch: Kind of like Loveline, but with comedians that know that women are funny (zing!). The failed romances and embarrassing sex stories from comedians are usually the meatiest parts of any interview, and if that doesn’t fill up 22 minutes of interesting television, McGathy isn’t afraid to experiment and expand in dealing with all things relationship related, like a recurring Love Connection-y segment trying to get her producer/engineer/podcast boss laid.
The Todd Glass Show
The podcast premise: Over the span of 90-120 minutes, Todd Glass throws out thousands of improvised scenes, then gleefully runs them to the ground, abandons them without giving them a fair chance to try something slightly different, or helps them become comedic gold. Someway, somehow, he manages to do all three at once, with the help of some sound effects, and a lot of comedic talent.
The TV pitch: The Ricky Gervais Show kind of thing: a half hour show that animates the most memorable bits.
The podcast premise: Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack run through the top five songs, albums, and movies of the week, ultimately leading to the discovery that their comedic guest isn’t familiar with some or very little of pop culture, which is for whatever reason always surprising and a little depressing to those that knew more.
The TV pitch: The podcast’s concept almost seems like it was originally intended for television. That might even be the case for all I know. Any network with even the slightest sense of humor that wants their version of The Soup would welcome Kremer and Vilaysack every week.
The podcast premise: John Moe hosts live shows that have the format and feel of a vintage celebrity kitchen sink TV variety special, except they are actually very funny. This is significantly due to Moe writing bits that showcase his unique, literal sense of humor, performed by himself and comedic celebrities and game musicians, and due to it not being hosted by Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson.
The TV pitch: Moe is heroically maintaining the high quality of the live shows while increasing its quantity to supply the demand, but to play it safe a 13 episode order of hour-long episodes would work just fine.