Podcasters Are Now Characters On TV Shows

Murders in The Buildings, Truth Be Told, and Alex Inc are all TV shows with podcasters as characters. Will there be more?


Frank Racioppi

10 months ago | 5 min read

In episode six of the CBS dramedy, So Help Me Todd, Todd and his lawyer mother, Margaret, work with a true-crime podcaster, investigating a murder where Margaret’s client was found guilty years ago.

This episode is simply another example of how podcasters now play a role in TV shows and even movies.

Probably, the best example of podcasting and podcasters as the central characters and plot point is Murders In The Building, streaming via Hulu. The show stars Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez as occupants of an upscale Manhattan co-op who become entangled in a murder in their building and start a podcast to chronicle their investigation.

The show was critically acclaimed and audience friendly in its first season, with applause for the stellar performances, the plot intricacies, and the meta-view of podcasting and its culture. The show was successful to warrant a second season that was completed earlier this year, with a third season on tap for 2023.

My one complaint about Murders in The Building is admittedly sniggly and nerdy, but necessary for realism. In the Hulu show, Short, Martin and Gomez make it appear that recording, editing, and producing a podcast takes minutes instead of hours. The stars walk around with their phones recording audio and then somehow magically a podcast episode is released.

At least, the Tina Fey character (maybe Ashley Flowers with her ongoing issues) has a technical assistant and recording studio.

More realistic and grittier is the Apple TV plus show, Truth Be Told starring Octavia Spencer. In the two seasons of the show, Spencer is, wait for it, a true-crime podcaster. Truth Be Told offers viewers another case of a seemingly innocent man in prison for a crime committed by another. In Spencer’s case, guilt over her podcast at the time drives her to re-open an investigation that everyone, of course, even her family, wants to stay shut.

Spencer, of course, has the acting chops to bring dimension and depth to the character and to the tentacles of the plot — a former boyfriend now working with her on the investigation, a lawyer husband struggling to be supportive, a complicated and sordid history with her father, and sisters, who have remarkably different lifestyles than Spencer’s upper middle class life.

The acting is superb, the writing solid and sturdy, and the podcasting portrayal is more sensible. Spencer has a podcasting partner in their business and podcast equipment is shown.

Yet, these portrayals — and more — reveal an already forming stereotype about podcasters. That true crime is the apex of podcasting genre aspiration. As podcasters and podcast listeners, we know that to be untrue.

Although the TV series was unsuccessful, it’s refreshing to point out another example that is not about true crime. Alex Inc. was an ABC broadcast TV sitcom starring Zach Braff of Scrubs fame. Braff’s character in Alex, Inc. is based on Alex Blumberg, who founded the podcast company Gimlet Media, and chronicled it in the podcast Start Up.

StartUp was journalist Blumberg’s excruciatingly transparent account of quitting his job at NPR and struggling to create his own podcast company, Gimlet, with very little money and even less business experience. Blumberg recorded his raw conversations with his wife, his awkward haggling over equity with his new partner and his employees’ complaints of burnout. It was while listening to a particularly uncomfortable scene, one in which Blumberg audibly flails while pitching his business to the tech industry angel investor Chris Sacca, that Braff recalled thinking: “Oh, my god. I wish I was watching this.”

The show lasted ten episodes but premiered in March 2018, a month in which the broadcast network’s prime-time shows are wrapping up and the second-team shows are put on the schedule with little hope and much prayer.

On the other end of the podcasting spectrum, there are numerous examples of streaming shows that have been adapted from podcasts. From The Dropout, Homecoming, Limetown, The Shrink Next Door, and WeCrashed, podcasts have become fertile ground for TV, broadcast and streaming.

Bringing a podcast to the screen comes with its own challenges. Since podcasts are an audio medium, it’s up to the television creators to figure out how to best visualize the source material.

Back to the podcaster as a character on a TV show. Is this a trend? Remember the 60s, 70s, and 80s when private detectives carved a large piece of the network’s prime-time schedule pie. We had Barnaby Jones, Cannon, Hart To Hart, Mannix, Moonlighting, The Rockford Files, Remington Steele, and Simon & Simon.

IMDB recently classified podcasting as an official job category in its database. So could we see more TV shows and characters playing podcasters on broadcast and streaming TV in the next few years?

I believe the answer is an unqualified yes. But if podcasters are depicted on TV shows, I pray that they are all not true-crime zealots, simply because podcasting is more than that one genre. Much more.

My recommendations to Apple TV Plus, Amazon Prime, Netflix or even CBS are shows about podcasters such as:

All The Wiser — this TV show would be based on the podcast of the same name developed, produced and hosted by Kimi Culp. The podcast has talked with people who have experienced life’s most challenging events and come out stronger for it. The podcast’s episodes unleash that existential question we all ask ourselves when hearing or reading about someone’s misfortune. How would I handle that? During the podcast’s three seasons, host Kimi Culp has talked to people about addiction, mental illness, transphobia, sex trafficking, school shootings, and suicide. She even talked about her own battle with mental illness. You’d think these episodes would be downers. But the opposite is true. These episodes are life-affirming, inspirational, motivational, and uplifting.

Moreover, Culp and her podcast give away $2,000 to the guest’s charity on every episode. I envision Rachel McAdams playing Culp, who is a true hero at a time when they are in short supply.

How about a TV show about Amy Westervelt? A crusading investigative journalist and podcaster who has started her own podcast network called Critical Frequency and hosts a podcast — Drilled, about climate change and protecting the environment. I see Jessica Chastain playing Westervelt, who is another true hero, battling misogyny and deep-pocketed fossil fuel corporations.

Vanishing Postcards is a podcast in its second season where Texas native Evan Stern invites listeners to ride shotgun on a road trip exploring the traditions, hidden dives, and offbeat attractions that can only be found by exiting the interstate. This season, Stern is taking his listeners along on a trip along the famous Route 66. I envision Charlie Hunnam as playing Stern, traveling the back roads and re-discovering a hidden America that is more than social media trolls, hotbeds of hate, and ugly consumerism.

Finally, a meta-show about three women who promote podcasts and podcasting for a living and are also podcasters. Tink Media is a podcast marketing and consulting company that is well known in the podcasting universe. The show, called Podcast Queens, would be about Arielle Nissenblatt, Lauren Passell, and Shreya Sharma, who, along with others, run Tink Media. I envision Naomi Scott playing Sharma, Saorise Ronan playing Passell, and Elizabeth Olsen playing Nissenblatt. The show would be part female empowerment, part HBO’s Succession, and part Paramount Plus’s The Good Fight.

So those are some of my ideas for TV shows about podcasters. What, dear readers, have you to contribute? Let me know. I’m sure they’re delightful.


Created by

Frank Racioppi

I am a South Jersey-based author who published a nonfiction book on Amazon called The COVID Hotel about the pandemic. After nearly 40 years in the Corporate world, I manage a publication --Make A Connection -- about how to manage more effectively through improved communication. I am also the lead writer for the Ear Worthy podcast blog on Substack and Podcast Reports on blogger.







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