Photo illustration: Vulture
Hello all! It’s winter, and the device I’ve designed to cope — strapping three SAD lights together in a triptych-like arrangement, folded slightly inward, positioned from behind my laptop toward my face — seems to have accomplished very little. except my eyes burn out. On the other hand, I have a tan.
But enough about me. We’re here to talk about big white cats and tennis.
As always, tell me what you’re listening to. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Twitter.
Back to the masters of the impossible.
Available on all platforms. Listen.
There’s a steady drumbeat of teasing scattered throughout the opening episode of Wild Things: Siegfried and Roy, a new podcast series about the (in)famous magicians. “People don’t really know, and never really knew who they were,” said Steven Leckart, the journalist and filmmaker who hosts the series. Later: “I have discovered what is the truth and what is only an illusion.”
It’s frankly a showy tactic, made even more so by the fact that the series doesn’t seem particularly interested in sharing its findings quickly. Based on the first two episodes that premiered last week (out of eight in total, with new chapters added every Wednesday), wild things seems content to amble through exposition. If this is meant to be the first calming act of a larger magic trick – the ‘promise’, if we were to use the parlance – then fine. But they better have something good up their sleeve.
wild things comes from Apple TV+ and At Will Media, marking the third original podcast release from the first to follow addicted, a bank robbery epic produced with Campside Media, and The line, the Dan Taberski-led investigation into a possible war crime in Afghanistan. This one starts with a strong advantage, because the subjects, Siegfried and Roy – that is, Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn – are inherently fascinating figures. The magicians were so outspoken in their fame that they were synonymous with the lavish extravagance of Las Vegas itself, their personas shaped by a performance of exoticism: big white cats on stage and a carefully cultivated mystique around their own German heritage. They built up a very lucrative entertainment empire over the decades – until their careers ended tragically in 2003, after an incident where one of their white tigers, Mantacore, viciously mauled Horn on stage. The duo never performed again and in recent years withdrew from the public until their deaths: Horn in 2020, after contracting COVID-19 early in the pandemic, and Fischbacher in 2021, due to pancreatic cancer.
Questions galore: Who? goods Siegfried and Roy? What precisely happened that night in 2003? And how could it have happened, given the decades of experience of the duo and their team? These seem to be the basic questions leading to: wild things forward, but production itself should be subject to its own questioning. What is the justification for? wild things to continue this story now? And will they have enough real material to warrant an eight-episode structure, or will it be mostly filler?
Come for the controversy, stay for the smashes.
Both available on all platforms. Listen here and here.
Completely avoidable and chaotically bureaucratic, the so-called “Djokovic affair” has come to an end, leaving absolutely no one looking good.
ICYMI: The Australian Open — the tennis circuit’s first major competition — kicked off earlier this week, but the build-up to the tournament was overshadowed by a major controversy when Novak Djokovic, one of the sport’s biggest stars, was fired earlier this month. held up on the Australian border over a dispute over the status of his (misfiled?) exemption from the country’s strict vaccination requirements. That’s how things started, and the situation eventually turned into an elaborate mix of courtroom drama, international incident (Djokovic is Serbian), morality play, Australian electoral intrigue (the country’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, is up for re-election this summer), and a hyper-focused window on the current state of tension between vaccine skeptics and everyone else (Djokovic is not vaccinated, among other things). I’m leaving a lot of narrative threads on the table here, but to quickly summarize the resolution: After a brief detention, an Australian court allowed Djokovic to enter the country on his medical exemption, only for the Australian government to revoke his visa again. less than a day before the start of the tournament. The tennis star has since returned to Serbia, but his unvaccinated troubles may not be over. At this writing, his participation in the French Open now also appears to be in question.
Now, you may not care about tennis, but you have to admit, this is a great yarn. I’m just a superficial consumer of the sport, and so when the whole Djokovic situation kicked in, I did what I always do when an intriguing controversy crops up in a corner of culture I’m not that good at: poking around for podcasts that are specialized in said cultural corner. In the past few weeks, two podcasts in particular fell in the right place: No more challenges and The tennis podcast.
Hosted by New York Tennis Contributor Ben Rothenberg Time and senior editor of racket magazine, and Courtney Nguyen, senior writer at WTA Insider, No more challenges is a long-running operation, and Rothenberg’s two-part interview with Australian political reporter Paul Sakkal – the first was published on January 7, when Djokovic was initially detained; the second came out on Monday, after he was evicted – offering by far the most comprehensive look at not only the specific beats of Djokovic’s immigration saga, but the broader context of how the controversy fits into the state of the country. If you’ve read the story and find yourself yearning for more details, these exceptionally shaky interviews will satisfy you.
The tennis podcast offers a perhaps more establishment stance, after generally treating the Djokovic affair with bemused annoyance and vague regret at how this legal matter has distracted from the actual tennis of it all. But now that we’re back to the actual tennis of it all, I’ve layered this show into my listening diet. Amid the chaos in the courtroom, it was fun to see the storylines surrounding the many players who shall participate in the tournament. It is hosted by veteran British tennis presenters Catherine Whitaker and David Law, along with the younger Matt Roberts, who is listed on the podcast website as ‘podcaster and social media editor’.
➽ If the phrase “the Pepperwood Chronicles” means anything to you, rejoice: there’s a… new girl rewatch podcast on the go called Welcome to our show, starring Zooey Deschanel, Hannah Simone and Lamorne Morris as presenters. This is the latest addition to the growing (and presumably lucrative) trend of state-sanctioned nostalgia casts, with the more popular entries including: Talking sopranos, Office Ladies, and fake doctors, Real friends. Here’s what’s a little different about it Welcome to our show: new girl concluded its final season relatively recently, in 2018. That’s a quick turnaround for nostalgic locks, but hey, can’t fault the game.
➽ Julia Fox-Kanye/Ye West’s situation is pure extravagant content, and you can bet there’s a podcast corner here. Probably unsurprisingly, Fox has published a podcast, Forbidden Fruits, which she presents with actress Niki Takesh, and briefly discusses it in a recent entry. Yeah, sort of. The episode isn’t really an *event* in the form of its first-person piece before Interview magazine, but it’s… something.
And that’s a wrap for 1.5x speed! I hope you enjoyed it. We’ll be back next week, but in the meantime: Send podcast recommendations, feedback or just say hello to email@example.com.