Think of the children, they said.
Available on all platforms. Listen here.
There is something called the “troubled teen industry.” It’s a business in which teenagers who are considered maladjusted are more or less taken against their will to a center where they are meant to receive “treatment” for their behavior. What constitutes a troubled teen can range widely, as does how they end up in the system: Sometimes parents pay for the service; other times kids are placed in a facility by local authorities. In any case, the entire enterprise is suspect. The nature of what they’re put through is often questionable, and in all too many cases, teenagers leave the system traumatized by the experience. Unsurprisingly, abuse is commonplace, and in the past, instances of death rarely brought regulatory change or scrutiny to the operation of these treatment centers.
Sent Away offers a look into this shady business: its many problems, controversies, and seeming coziness with state regulators. The podcast focuses its investigation on the state of Utah, which happens to be a focal point of the industry. It is estimated that 120,000 teenagers are in such treatment centers across the country at any given time, and around 20,000 are said to have been sent to treatment centers in Utah alone since 2015. It is also in Utah where the greatest pushback against the industry has played out. Last year, activists — among them Paris Hilton, who was once sent to such a facility — mounted a successful campaign for increased regulation, and they have since further mobilized to push for more reforms at the federal level. Sent Away begins with the story of an accidental death at one of these centers, before steadily pulling back the frame to roll the whole context into place.
Sent Away comes out of a collaboration between the Salt Lake Tribune, KUER, and APM Report, which you might remember as the organization that publishes In the Dark. Three episodes are out as of this writing. New installments drop every Tuesday.
Dead Eyes: “Tom”
Tom Hanks, finally held to account.
Available on all platforms. Listen here.
Rare is the podcast mystery that gets a true and tangible resolution, and last week, Dead Eyes got exactly that.
For the unfamiliar, the podcast follows actor and comedian Connor Ratliff — who, by the way, you can spot more recently in such TV shows as Search Party and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel — as he endeavors to figure out why he was fired from a tiny role in the critically acclaimed HBO miniseries Band of Brothers two decades ago. At one point during the casting, Ratliff was told that it was because Tom Hanks, an executive producer on the series who was directing the relevant episode, apparently felt he had “dead eyes.” What is having dead eyes supposed to mean? And more important, what is losing that role supposed to mean within the context of his entire life?
Sure, it’s a gag premise, a kind of overthinker’s odyssey. (As an overthinker myself, I say this as a compliment.) The show’s description regards Ratliff’s quest as a “very stupid mystery.” Yet there are pleasures to blowing up a low-stakes adventure like this into cartoonish proportions. Since Dead Eyes made its debut two years and 30 episodes ago, the podcast has ended up being a remarkably soulful meditation on how to deal with the setbacks and disappointments in your life, aided and elevated in no small part by Ratliff’s gifts of good conversation and dry, razor-sharp writing.
So when Hanks finally joined Ratliff in the episode that dropped last week to talk about the Band of Brothers situation — and to pay off the gag of the whole podcast — I took it in with both a sense of excitement and apprehension. Excitement because I was pretty sure Ratliff was going to deliver something genuinely interesting (he did); apprehension because this fun journey has probably come to an end.
Anyway, I wrote a longer review of the episode, which you can find here.
➽ Anna Delvey is making the podcast rounds. The fake heiress made an appearance, via crackly call-in phone line, on an episode of Julia Fox and Niki Takesh’s Forbidden Fruits on Friday, and yesterday it was announced that Delvey — who is apparently scheduled to be deported back to Germany this week — will soon be a guest on Call Her Daddy. That appearance will presumably drop sometime in the next few days. On a separate but related note, I continue to find it somewhat bizarre that Fox has an active podcast that seems to generate far less actual interest than the time she went on Call Her Daddy back in February. (You know, when she said, “I mean, I was Josh Safdie’s muse when he wrote Uncaht Jahms.”) Anyway, there’s probably some grand media theory to be extracted here about the modern nature of manufacturing celebrity, the celebrity-platform relationship, and the relation of those two things to podcasts, but to quote Fox, “Omggggg I’m stoned, leave me alone!!!! Hahahahaha.”
➽ Listen, I like to keep up with the business of show business. I follow the trades. I read fellow Vulture newsletter slinger Joe Adalian and Buffering. (Subscribe here, folks.) So of course I’m interested in The Town, a new industry-speak podcast from Matthew Belloni, who covers Hollywood for Puck and has long been good with the gossipy side of entertainment-empire building. As a close listener of KCRW’s The Business With Kim Masters, I’m not entirely unfamiliar with Belloni behind the mic; he often pops up on that show during industry-analysis segments. The Town seems like an expanded version of those appearances. I’m interested to see how his new pod develops over time. The first episode was a good start.
➽ This is more of a business note than a recommendation note (for now anyway): I’m keeping an eye on Friday Beers Podcast, on offshoot of a comedy Instagram page formerly known as Friday Beers that has since rebranded into something called Almost Friday Media. Natalie Jarvey over at Insider, whose coverage I follow closely, had a piece up on them recently.
➽ *eyeballs emoji* Looks like PJ Vogt is working on his first post–Reply All project.
➽ One quick, cool thing: The latest episode of post-Abumrad Radiolab, about a rediscovered history of Hellen Keller, comes with a Braille-ready translation.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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