Read, Watched, Podcapped: ‘Overdue,’ ‘The Rewatchables’ entertain despite falters in female inclusion

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Podcasts are everywhere right now. Name a topic, there’s a podcast about it (actually, there are likely at least four or five about it). If you’re a bookworm looking for a podcast, you have quite a few options, one of which is “Overdue,” a podcast all about “the books you’ve been meaning to read.” If you’re more of a film buff, then you have even more choices, one of which is “The Rewatchables,” in which the hosts rewatch a film and discuss what makes it something that can be revisited. And if you’re both of these things, then this weekly recap series is definitely for you.

“Overdue”

Each week, hosts Andrew Cunningham and Craig Getting pick a book to cover, ranging from classic to contemporary and spanning all genres. One of them reads the book, while the other focuses on contextual research and prompts questions. Together, they present an engrossing discussion of themes, characters and plot for listeners to become absorbed in each week.

This week, the pair covers “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss, the first book of fantasy trilogy “The Kingkiller Chronicle.” The novel follows magical prodigy Kvothe on his journey toward becoming a powerful wizard. Alluding to the many fantasy novels they’ve spoken about over the 300-plus episodes of “Overdue,” Andrew, who read the book this week, jokes about how to “make die-hard fans of it the maddest.” Then, he references the surface-level connections of “The Name of the Wind” to the very famous “Harry Potter” series: “A guy goes to magic school, and he has a lot of adventures… so basically, ‘Harry Potter.’ ” This leads to the broader topic of the fantasy genre and how “The Name of the Wind” fits in it.

Later, Andrew and Craig discuss the other characters in the novel, briefly addressing Kvothe’s love interest Denna and her lack of characterization in comparison to Kvothe and some of the other characters. Craig brings up that Rothfuss has spoken on the matter, with the author saying he felt he didn’t know how to flesh out female characters. His solution, as Andrew explains, is for the character of Kvothe to admit to not having sufficient words for how he feels about her. Rothfuss deals with his inability to write female characters by working it into the plot, which Craig deems effective.

Craig and Andrew then move on to other characters, missing an opportunity to further discuss what it means for an author to get away with dismissing the characterization of the women of his novel merely because he struggles to do so.

When Craig asks what fans like about this book, Andrew remarks that there are many fun characters to spend time with, leading the pair to dub this a “party book.” Kvothe, especially, is deemed very likable in a way that is believable. Yet what the hosts don’t dive into is that this presents Denna’s lack of characterization as even more of an issue, considering the time and care Rothfuss put into forming his protagonist — time and care that wasn’t given to Kvothe’s female love interest.

In “Overdue,” Andrew and Craig are typically quite conscious of delving into these nuances; maybe they were distracted by the overwhelming world of the fantasy genre.

“The Rewatchables”

Every episode of “The Rewatchables” features a different combination of hosts who are drawn from a handful of staff members from sports and pop culture site The Ringer. They circulate depending on which film is being discussed. This week, frequenters Bill Simmons and Chris Ryan host, discussing the 2000 action thriller “Proof of Life.” Directed by Taylor Hackford, the movie follows Alice (Meg Ryan),  a woman who hires British Special Air Service vet Terry (Russell Crowe) to save her kidnapped husband (David Morse) from his captors. Alice and Terry then fall in love.

Bill and Chris begin by admitting that some listeners may not be as interested in the podcast this week as the two of them personally are. Regardless, they assert that, whether or not a listener has seen “Proof of Life,” their goal is to make the episode a fun one.

The hosts spend a significant amount of time discussing the real-life romantic relationship between Ryan and Crowe. It was major news at the time because Ryan was still married to actor Dennis Quaid. Bill and Chris discuss how this off-screen drama affected the film, bringing up how Hackford spoke publicly about the affair having a negative impact on the film’s success. Here, Bill and Chris disagree with Hackford, with Bill citing how the off-screen relationship “bleeds into the movie in all the right ways.”

Each “Rewatchables” episode spends time putting the lead actors in context — where they are in their careers and if the movie of focus is their “apex” or not. In this episode, Bill and Chris spend a lengthy amount of time talking about Crowe and his career, while devoting noticeably less time to Ryan’s. The same goes for the lead actors’ performances; Bill and Chris even acknowledge this at the end of the episode.

This gender imbalance in characters on whom the podcast focuses may be the result of a lack of a female host for this episode. Some episodes feature Ringer staff members Juliet Litman or Amanda Dobbins, resulting in a noticeable difference. In cases such as these — in which the female actor is focused on significantly less — having a woman in the mix would be beneficial to keeping a balance and offering a perspective that isn’t a male’s. It would also likely prevent the inappropriate moment of discussing Ryan’s appearance in a derogatory way that happens at one point in this episode.

All in all, though, Bill and Chris keep the episode entertaining, as promised. Much of each episode is dedicated to giving out “awards” they have come up with, which are specific to the movie being discussed. For example, “what’s aged best” leads to Bill and Chris joking about their mutual love for David Caruso (who, like Crowe, garners significant episode time in their discourse) in a supporting part, before returning to the key chemistry between Crowe and Ryan.

The concept of “The Rewatchables” makes for an exciting world in which film lovers can revisit some of their favorite movies. When done well, “The Rewatchables” delivers exactly that. The staff just needs to keep in mind that they are at their best when that exciting world remains inclusive of a range of perspectives.

Nikki Munoz covers podcasts. Contact her at [email protected].