This week: a search in Montana, a table read in space, and men born in the USA.
Dead Pilots Society: “Space Bound”
Maximum Fun’s Dead Pilots Society has been around for a bit now, at this point nearing 60 episodes with an appealing premise: producing fun table reads around scripts of television pilots that were purchased by networks but never ended up being made. But last month, the podcast kicked off a soft relaunch with a slightly new format: Instead of rolling the table read and an interview with the writer into the same episode, they’re split into two separate episodes.
It’s a small structural change, but the occasion also comes with an interesting episode: a table read of a pilot called “Space Bound” written by Emerald Fennell, the Killing Eve showrunner whose recent directorial debut, Promising Young Woman, picked up tons of buzz and critical praise. The voice cast of the “Space Bound” table read includes Carey Mulligan, who played the lead in Promising Young Woman, and Sam Richardson (also of Promising Young Woman, but most well-known for Detroiters, Veep and I Think You Should Leave.) Other actors in the episode include Richard E. Grant, Max Greenfield, Lolly Adefope, Ellen Wong, and Rainn Wilson.
The performances are fun and the script itself is fine, zany in a way that kinda reminds me of early 2000s British comedies, particularly Spaced, albeit squeezed through a contemporary American comedy filter.
Dead Pilots Society, along with other similarly structured shows like The Black List Table Read (now defunct), also brings to mind the increasingly lucrative podcast-Hollywood relationship, where the audio space has become a place to market test potential film and TV projects. But as a pure listening experience, it’s an alluring peek at a process that mostly happens behind the scenes. It’s pure play and performance, without the portent of trying to make something more than what it is.
Stolen: “The Search for Jermain”
Stolen: The Search for Jermain, which makes its debut this week, also marks a relaunch of a sort.
The eight-part series is led and hosted by Connie Walker, who will be familiar to true-crime and investigative podcast listeners as the journalist behind the CBC’s popular and critically acclaimed Missing & Murdered series. Walker, who is Cree from the Okanese First Nation, has built a strong podcasting presence off her overarching mission of focusing on cases about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), drawing attention to the disproportionate violence on those communities and unearthing some measure of closure for the families involved.
That CBC project spanned two seasons and saw Walker dig deep into two cases: the death of Alberta Williams, whose body was found along the Highway of Tears near British Columbia in 1989, and the life and death of Cleopatra Nicotine Semaganis, who was separated from her family as part of the so-called “Sixties Scoop,” a government program in Canada that broke up indigenous families and relocated their children into foster programs.
With Stolen, Walker undergoes a slight shift in her context. She’s making the show for Spotify’s Gimlet Media now, and it’s her first project launch since leaving the Canadian public broadcaster, where she had spent the bulk of her career. And in this first season, she attends to a case situated south of the Canadian border: the disappearance of Jermain Charlo, a young indigneous woman who went missing in Missoula, Montana, in 2018. The search of Charlo remains ongoing.
I’ve listened to the first two episodes, and the transition is pretty smooth: It has the same high level of dogged reporting, the same compelling rhythms of chasing down leads in a case, and the same determined perspective of a reporter staring down a long history of violence. As it turns out, the change in locale doesn’t end up meaning much, as colonialism affects indigenous people on both sides of the border in much the same way.
• The Barack Obama x Bruce Springsteen collab, Renegades: Born in the USA, needs no further plugging, given the stature of its headliners and the might of Spotify’s marketing muscle. But I thought I should bring it up just to say that, my critical feelings about the project as an artistic endeavor aside, it is such a fascinating (and bizarre) political artifact.
• Last week, Slate launched a new tentpole production: A Word… with Jason Johnson, featuring the veteran political commentator in the anchor seat.
And that’s a wrap for 1.5x Speed! Hope you enjoyed it. We’re back next week, but in the meantime: Send podcast recommendations, feedback, or just say hello at email@example.com.
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