Amusing as a segment, belabored as a show
5 years ago
I really, really wanted to like this show. I adore TAL and have enjoyed Starlee Kine's contributions there, and have liked everything else done by Gimlet so far. I can see how the concept of this show would come off very well in a pitch meeting. Unfortunately, the subjects and items they choose to pursue are so pointlessly obscure they make me question why so much money and talent are being invested.
I'll try to specify my objections without giving any revelations away.
Case #1 of the disappearance of a neighborhood video store was vaguely amusing, but I never understood why I should care that someone obviously mis-remembered the closing of a store.
Case #2 regarding the appearance of an obscure book in a paparazzi photo, held by Britney Spears, really upped the why-should-I-care factor. This was especially so when you hear about the travel and expenses incurred in order to satisfy the curiosity of one of Starlee's friends who wrote a book. It might have made sense if the book then went from obscurity to bestseller, but it didn't.
Case #3 finally got me on board with the reason for doing these investigations, returning something important from a person's past to them. This episode alone keeps it from a one star rating.
However, case #4 turned me back off. Another "isn't that strange?" item relevant to Starlee and a friend, but were the lengths gone to for the information really necessary? It was still better than #s 1 and 2, being an actual object, but since I was on the fence, it tipped me into "unsubscribe."
I know, you can't predict the outcome before you invest all the leg work, and they can't all necessarily be about something important from someone's past as case #3 was. But I simply didn't really care about the other things being investigated, so when there wasn't anything particularly interesting revealed at the end I felt like I'd wasted my listening time. I don't know exactly what the answer is, other than making the objects of mystery more relevant or interesting to the listener. Maybe they have to be actual objects, something unusual but concrete, that you can touch or hold in your hand that obviously has an unusual history, rather than the fleeting appearance (or disappearance) of something rarely relevant to anyone other than the person Starlee knows. And as I say in my title, this might be interesting as a partial segment of another show, or a shorter, 15 to 20 minute show alone, but after about 45 minutes it just feels belabored and desperately quirky. I hope from the length and detail of this review it comes across that I really do see how the concept could work, and I have faith in the creative team involved. I so much want it to be better after hearing the direction episode #3 took. I enjoy the unusual and nerdy things featured on TAL, Reply All, and other podcasts, but Mystery Show is quirky for its own sake. That will undoubtedly appeal to some listeners, just like some people enjoy art for art's sake. However, with so many great podcasts out there and more coming out every day, I need more reason to spend my listening time.