Podcast Roundup–The LOST Collection

I have been very excited for the past few weeks about the return of Lost (and the magnificence that is Benjamin Linus) this month. This is crazy to say, but I am almost as excited about the return of the Lost podcasts, too! One watches an episode of Lost and ends up with ideas–ideas that can’t always be expressed with family members (not watching it, or watching it sleepy) or online (too slow! and my paragraphs are too long). There’s a real pleasure, too, in grocery shopping at 11:00 PM not just by yourself (a wonderful pleasure) but with a podcast to rehash the show for you. Makes you feel smart. Also, it’s like you are watching TV but you are also getting something else done. I haven’t noticed that it affects my grocery selections in a negative way, either.

It was a while after I got the iPod before I thought to look up podcasts for Lost. I did a Google search for the best one, I cruised the iTunes reviews, and I listened to a couple. People love the Jack and Jay podcast, or whatever it’s called, and I really wanted to like it because they analyze music, which would be amazing. Unfortunately, the first episode I listened to spent at least five minutes talking and talking about some inside joke involving an orange comforter. It showed no signs of stopping. As an outsider, I didn’t think it was very funny, and so–alas!–it didn’t make the cut. I am probably missing out on all kinds of spectacularness. Such is life.

So I ended up at two different ones, both of which I kept (for very different reasons): “LOSTCasts” and “The Transmission.”

“LOSTCasts” describes itself as an analysis of “the mysteries, theories and speculation surrounding the show.” As they say on the  website, they read the forums so you don’t have to. Long story short: Thank god someone is! I’d never be able to find them all.

If you listen to the “That’s What She SaidOffice podcast, this one would remind you of it. It’s a panel of guys going pretty in-depth on the program, running about an hour and twenty minutes each time. It’s been so long that I’ve listened that I forget everyone’s names, but there is a leader, and then one or two reliable back-ups. Once I heard a woman join in. It’s not a podcast I listened to from the beginning; I only picked it up Season 4. I did try to go back and listen to the old episodes that were recorded as the show was airing in earlier seasons, but it wasn’t that interesting. So much of the podcast is speculation that’s really, really cool to participate in, but once an answer has been revealed on the show, it’s too frustrating to listen to a five-minute exploration of an idea that you retroactively know goes nowhere. But that is beside the point.

I prefer podcasts recorded by panels to solo performers, and these guys do a good give and take that keeps me interested. The change of voices helps me focus on the podcast, which is very good because I am usually listening to the iPod when I am doing something else. I can fall into a trance pretty quickly, and I hate getting lost and rewinding.

The biggest complaint I read about this podcast on iTunes is what I find most appealing: They go through all the Wikipedia pages and all the Lostpedia pages and look up every book and song and name that appears in the show and explain the background information and speculate on its relevance. Yes. They will read aloud from a Wikipedia page that I could access and read myself. But who are these people complaining about it? Are people really taking notes as they watch the show, looking everything up, and thinking it over in the four or five days before the podcast airs and then getting bored with conclusions that the LOSTCast panel draws? Dude. Maybe they all have office jobs. It’s a task I certainly don’t mind outsourcing, to Americans even. Maybe this is a key behavior that separates true fans from the hacks. Or maybe I can spin this in my favor by saying I am just too busy and too highly paid to do the grunt work myself, and rely on such a staff to provide me with the basics so I can get the real thinking done. Whatever the case may be, I am grateful to have a consolidated source of all this information. And even though you can definitely tell when the host stops talking and starts reading, he does a very good job of reading. The time always passes too quickly.

The one episode I’ve heard that I didn’t like was towards the end of season 4, when the main host wasn’t there. He’s definitely the leader, so far as pacing the show goes. They also seemed to rush through the last three episodes, but that I cannot blame anyone for. I was disappointed, but stuff comes up.

The show has a basic website, with a discussion board. The discussion board is pretty slow, but on the main page there is a listing for each episode of the show that airs, with comments enabled. I’ve read a lot of really smart comments; for season four you’d rarely see fewer than thirty per episode, and they stay somewhat active even as new episodes air. I left one or two messages in both places, but I am afraid I can’t participate in Advanced Level Lost. All my theories are always wrong, and I never remember all the small details from past episodes that everyone else does, which shoots gaping holes in any theory I come up with. I have made my peace with that. I still love reading the comments.

The Transmission
“The Transmission” is described as a “friendly conversation among friends and fellow fans.” Long story short: That is exactly why I like it.

“The Transmission” is to “LOSTCast” as “The Office Alliance” podcast is to “That’s What She Said.” “The Transmission” is no longer than forty-five minutes usually, and it sticks to its schedule. Tangents might be interesting to follow, but they won’t drag a conversation out if it starts to back up the other segments. For reasons I can’t remember, I had trouble getting into this podcast. I think it was the episode recap that seemed like a waste of time, but now I totally rely on it. Once I actually listened to one, I realized how easy it is to overlook parts of the show.

“The Transmission” is hosted by Ryan and Jen, a married couple who (lucky!) live in Hawaii and watch Lost together (lucky!). Like “LOSTCast,” I didn’t tune into this podcast until season 4. Turns out the podcast has a different format than it used to, one that the hosts think has been much improved. They start with fast-paced recap of the episode’s events, move into their personal analysis, identify filming locations, and then read and discuss voicemails, emails, and blog posts. They also have this segment called “The Forward Cabin,” in which they discuss spoilers. I never used to listen to it, but during the very long break between seasons I heard one or two things, and it was much milder than I expected. They live in Hawaii and people visit Hawaii, and you get reports on what people have observed being filmed. They’ll say things like so and so character was seen in this kind of costume in front of a building they called X restaurant. I’ve enjoyed hearing inside comments like that, but it was a long, slow period for reporting. Once the episodes start up again, I’ll probably stop listening to the spoilers. I don’t really like hearing episode summaries or discussions of scenes from next week.

Ryan and Jen really have their rhythm down. What’s nice about this pair is that if one is missing, the podcast doesn’t fall apart. I don’t want to say that this podcast is shallower than the LOSTCast, but they do not get into the same level of background detail. “The Transmission” has been recording new podcasts for old episodes fairly regularly throughout the hiatus, so they are fresher in my mind, but it seems like they do a better job of personally relating to the characters’ dilemmas than the LOSTCast panel does. They touch on all the details, and explain them, but they spend just as much time discussing character motivations. I think their “eight minutes or less” recaps are very valuable… even after only a few days, I do forget some of the secondary plot points.

I am undecided if I like hearing the voicemails in their entirety. “The Office Alliance” plays them in full, too, and although it’s nice to hear new voices, and those new voices often have something interesting to talk about, they are just too long. You’ve left voicemails for people–it’s too hard to get to the point. Some of them go for two minutes. Two minutes of answering machine is boring. Of course, if I were the one to leave a message and hear it on the air, I’d be thrilled! I think that playing voicemails probably strengthens the sense of community between the podcast and all the listeners. That’s probably the primary characteristic of this podcast–Ryan and Jen aren’t dispensing information. They are facilitating a big conversation. Their experience of watching the show seems to be very much like my experience, and I enjoy hearing how they come to their opinions about characters and plot turns and what the writers are doing. It’s not particularly intellectual, and it’s something I have the time to do by myself, but it just wouldn’t be as much fun.

This podcast has an enhanced version, which I’ve never seen. I don’t really read their website, but they refer to particular comments by name as if there are definite regulars. I’m sure it would be an easy group to fall in with, because everyone seems to be so nice. I imagine that’s some kind of Hawaii effect. A nice feature of the website is the filming locations page, which identifies and describes the buildings and beaches that the episodes use. If I were planning a trip to Hawaii, I’d totally plan an afternoon around checking out some of the locations. My friend Dennis went and saw the Others compound, or else the huts that Kate, Jack, and Michael were taken to before Michael went off with Walt.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I get lots of good information out of LOSTCast but I have lots of fun listening to “The Transmission.” I think they are very good companion pieces.

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  • Ryan  On January 18, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Thanks for the great, thoughtful review! We’re glad you’re keeping us around as Season 5 begins.

    We like “Jay and Jack,” and consider them friends, but definitely agree that they have a distinct style and energy. Sometimes, my wife and I wish we could be as chatty and conversational as they are, but we’re too geeky to be anything but focused to the nth degree.

    “LOSTCasts” is definitely on my short list, though we haven’t heard from them in a while. A great show you should try that falls somewhere between focused and fun is the “LOST Community Podcast.” If you think you might want to have a sampler platter of “LOST” podcasts, try the LOST Podcasting Network, which includes shows of all shapes, sizes, and styles.

  • Karen  On January 18, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    Your comment is almost more thoughtful than my review!

    Yeah, I’ve thought for a while I should give Jay and Jack another chance. I just was having a mood that day, I guess. And I’ve heard you guys plug the Lost Podcasting Network a lot but now I am newly motivated to investigate. But I am definitely keeping you around. Your revisit podcasts for season 2 are so fun to listen to. It’s such a different conversation when you reflect on past events, and a nice change from always guessing what will happen next. It’s made my day every time I’ve logged onto iTunes and seen a new Transmission!

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