Apr 18, 2015

Podcast Portal: The Black List Table Reads

Welcome to Podcast Portal: a spontaneous column that will highlight podcasts of all genres that are lesser known or new shows that are worth giving a listen. With the medium continuing to grow, it is hard to acknowledge all of them. However, I am going to try and find as many noteworthy titles as possible to share and hopefully expand your mind to the greatest growing medium out there. If you have any podcast that you feel is worth adding to the Podcast Portal, please make sure to inform me whether through the comments or through an e-mail (information in sidebar). 

SHOW: The Black List Table Reads
HOSTS: Franklin Leonard
NETWORK: Wolfpop
EPISODE BEING DISCUSSED: "1. BALLS OUT Pt. 1"

If you're really into movies, there's a good chance that you're already familiar with The Black List or their annual recognition of the best unpublished scripts. For many, it is only a matter of time until those words are brought to the screen while for others it will be stuck on the shelf and we'll never hear from them. That is, until now with founder Franklin Leonard using his powers for good by helping to give the unpublished scripts their due in the podcast medium. With a slew of performers and a narrator, the script is brought to life and creates, as the description suggests, theater of the mind. 
While the podcast medium has a lot of impressive possibilities, it doesn't seem to be embracing them all. While there are shows dedicated to ongoing narratives, they're usually free form or at very least reduced to momentary skits as evident in Welcome to Night Vale or Midnight Marinara. There hasn't been a full embrace of the theater of the mind in the long, cinematic form. That is why this particular series seems ingenious and serves as a nice counterpart to Wolfpop's goal of making shows dedicated to the arts. It joins fellow literary show Reading Aloud by creating a unique experience in which the listener doesn't just hear people talk about great work, but reenacts it with top notch production values.
Of course, that isn't the only thing that The Black List Table Reads provides in its first episode. It is going for so much more with a brief rundown by Leonard of The Black List's history and its influence. The numbers don't lie as hundreds of the scripts have become Oscar nominated, even winning a few, and have earned their place in the pop culture zeitgeist. There's a reason that this list is one of the most revered despite the world not hearing everything. It also includes a reading as well as an interview to cap the episode with the screenwriters in which things are fleshed and the content is given substance.
As the title suggests, Balls Out is an outgoing story. With a cast that includes Jason Mantzoukas, Paul Scheer, Laura Lapkus and Craig Mazin, it is brought to life. For those opposed to vulgar language, it might be best to skip this one, as even the stage directions have an aggressive tone to them. However, the script's bawdy nature is both what makes it lively and a little confusing because while it works, it doesn't make sense why this story is on such a prestigious list. It is funny, but the casual swearing can become a little off-putting at times and leaves very little interest in the actual characters. It could just be my experience with it, but I was more interested in the production of the episode than the story.
This is going to hopefully become an exceptional show. Script reading is given a great platform here as everything sounds great and the show moves quickly. While the segmented nature may cause the reading to feel a little disjointed, it still is one of the finest produced shows of its kind. With sound effects to emphasize the actions, this really is theater of the mind. I don't know if I care to hear the final chapters of Balls Out when they become available, but I will be curious to return when they choose another story that is more interesting to myself. For now, Wolfpop has yet another compelling show that makes their young brand all the more interesting.


OVERALL RATING: 3.5 out of 5
WORTH A SECOND GO?: Yes, though I likely will only be checking in when the general stories appeal to me. Otherwise, it is one of the more impressive debuts of 2015 and takes podcast's theatricality to a new level.

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