Podcast Review: An Oral History of The Office

An Oral History of The Office (Podcast, 2020)

I don’t often review podcasts, partly as I only listen to a select few, I’m not someone who adds a lot of new shows to my podcasting repertoire. However, when I read about this one a few weeks ago it caught my attention and on listening to the podcast trailer I immediately loved listening to Brian Baumgartner (Kevin in ‘The Office’) whose voice and presenting style really enjoyable and surprisingly soothing. 

There have only been five episodes released so far, the latest of which I have yet to listen to as I’m finishing writing this early afternoon. I am loving this podcast so much, it’s now something I’m finding myself anticipating the next episode of, a little highlight in my week. Now, on a Tuesday afternoon, I’m finding myself co-ordinating my day so I can enjoy listening to it while cooking and tidying the house. The tone and style remind me quite a bit of the excellent ‘Drawn’ podcast that my brother got me into, which was a particularly good show that tells the story of animation and which is desperately in need of a second season.

This doesn’t take the episodic format like other podcasts about beloved-but-finished TV series, especially as that’s already happening with ‘The Office Ladies’ hosted by Jenna Fischer and Anglea Kinsey. My problem with that format is it makes me feel like I have to re-watch the show at as it goes, I want to refresh my memory of the episodes they’re talking about and so the podcast is a little harder to enjoy on its own merits or at the same pace as I watch the show.

This podcast takes the more easy-listening format of discussing, not the episodes themselves, but the making of the show in general. Episode one tells of the conception, gaining the rights to the British show, and the effort to get it going. Then there are episodes that go in-depth on starting production, the struggling first season, and last week I just listened to the fourth episode which deals with the period in which the show went from nearly being cancelled, to gaining huge popularity, with a perfect storm of events, many of which I didn’t know about.

Some stories and things discussed I was already familiar with, but there has been so much new information revealed too. There have been interesting and entertaining firsthand accounts from the key players, practically all of them, from almost the entire cast including Steve Carrell, producers, writers, casting directors, and even Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. One of the silver linings to lockdown is that we’re seeing these usually busy actors finding themselves more available to participate in interviews, table-reads, and podcasts, making something like this feel like a more rounded-out and ‘definitive’ account instead of just one perspective. 

I’m off now to ‘clean the kitchen’, a.k.a. listen to the next episode, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who’s interested in the production of television or films, and especially fans of ‘The Office’ as it’ll build your appreciation for the show.

‘An Oral History of The Office’ is available to listen to on Spotify and is essentially unmissable for anyone who loves the show, as well as full of great insights for those interested in television. 

Is Covid-19 Saving ‘The New Mutants’ from the Jaws of Failure?

Filmed in the summer of 2017, the first trailer for this Marvel comics movie in the universe of the X-Men came out in October 2017 with a theatrical release date set for April 2018. This was then pushed back, not once, not twice, not even thrice, but at least four times! 

The Fox/Disney merger caused huge uncertainty with a number of projects that were in early stages of production but as this was essentially finished already and undergoing some reshoots it seemed to be shelved for a while, surprising many when it did get a new cinematic release scheduled under the Disney ownership. All seemed positive for it to come out in April until the COVID-19 pandemic pushed all movie releases back, making this a punchline and declared ‘cursed’ by critics and pundits. 

Disney announced this week that they’re pushing everything else on their schedule back again, most imminent of these was ‘Mulan’. It wouldn’t have been surprising then for this to be included in the list of films getting new release dates, though as it’s already been pushed so many times it seemed like it would be taken off the release schedule altogether and instead just go to streaming, but, as it’s not a good fit for Disney+, Hulu isn’t international, and pre-existing agreements seem to suggest it would have to go to initially HBO Max (also not international) as an exclusive streaming platform.

With the ComicCon panel online sparking rumours it was about to have a new date (the same day Disney moved a bunch of other titles to new dates) or be dropped on streaming, which would’ve been a great way to do it if that was what they were going to do, in the end, the panel brought neither. So, when the perfect opportunity to move or release the movie passes with nothing changing, ‘New Mutants’ now stands as one of the very first new wide releases on the schedule and by far the best known.

That leaves us with two possibilities. One, it’s about to be moved back yet again but Disney didn’t take the prime opportunity to announce that. Or two, something that could be sheer brilliance, ‘The New Mutants’ is going to get released as scheduled on August 28th, becoming one of the first new movies in cinemas in months.

Recently there have been other films proudly announcing that they were going to be deliberately releasing as one of the first new wide-releases, some suggesting they were doing it altruistically to benefit cinemas, others admitting they hoped to boost their box office chances. ‘The New Mutants’ wasn’t seen as one of those, it was caught up as a victim of the international cinema closures, yet now, by apparently holding to the once merely optimistic August date, it may give Disney an opportunity to turn a long-shelved, almost scrapped, troubled production, into at least a modest box-office success.

Marketing the movie with a stronger emphasis on its X-Men ties, a young cast popular from ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Game of Thrones’, even highlighting the director’s huge success with ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, could tempt people, especially those who are not in the older, vulnerable groups, back out to cinemas. 

When it looked like the film was being shelved and reworked, this seemed unlikely to get people into even a quarter of the seats in cinema screens, now, after there have been next to no new films released for nearly half a year, this has a really good chance of filling every available seat in many cinemas. Being as it was a film that might have originally been put into just one or two of the smaller screens with a few slots per day, it’ll now get a far bigger release than even the last X-Men film, potentially taking half, or more if popular, of the empty screens. What a potential turnaround. 

I’m hoping this actually is Disney’s plan, if so it’s a brilliant one, though I’ve got to resign myself to the more likely scenario that it’s either about to be rescheduled or reshelved yet again. I hope not, because I’m not the only one who has gone from originally only going to see this at the cinema if I heard really excellent reviews and found myself with some spare time and money, to planning to see it at my earliest possible convenience because I’m desperate to get back to seeing things at the cinema and a weird psychedelic super-powered horror could be just the ticket!