Here’s why celebrity TV rewatch podcasts are so popular right now

Move over to the true crime podcasters – there’s a popular new genre saturating the space: Celebrity TV’s re-watch podcasts.

Last week, iHeartRadio announced, “Welcome to our show“, a new podcast where “New Girl” features Zooey Deschanel, Hannah Simone and Lamorne Morris revisit the fan-favorite sitcom. This month, the company also announced the launch of “XOXO“, a podcast where actress Jessica Szohr embarks on a “walk in the past” with the series “Gossip Girl”, in which she played Vanessa.

The two new podcasts join an ever-growing list of those that have captivated listeners craving nostalgia and familiarity, especially in the midst of a pandemic.

In 2016, the release of “The West Wing Weekly,” a podcast featuring actor Joshua Malina (who played Will Bailey in Aaron Sorkin’s popular political drama series), first put the category on the people’s radars.

Since then, the celebrity TV rewatch podcast genre has grown steadily, with audio shows like “Fake Doctors, Real Friends with Zach and Donald” on “Scrubs,” “Drama Queens” on “One Tree Hill” and “Welcome to the OC, bitches!” about “The OC”

According to Will Pearson, COO of iHeart Radio Podcast Network, the translation of a bygone TV show into an audio series was meant to fill a gap in the podcast space.

“While true crime remains a popular category in podcasting, one of the things we started to see in listeners at all levels was this desire to find solace, escape and a reason to smile every time. whenever possible,” Pearson said.

While true crime remains a popular category in podcasting, one of the things we started to see from listeners at all levels was this desire to find solace, escape, and a reason to smile. whenever possible.

-Will Pearson, COO of the iHeart Radio podcast network

And for many people, that desire was even more pronounced in times of crisis like a global pandemic, he added.

“People were looking back to better times, looking for comfort, and looking for something to hold on to – and that’s something we wanted to tap into with these podcasts.”

The chart numbers seem to support these claims.

A week before its release, “Welcome to Our Show” went to no. 1 position on the 100 podcasts in the United States on Apple Podcasts.

“This podcast is already in my top five just by listening to the trailer!” a person wrote in their review of the podcast, which officially debuts on January 24.

“The Always Sunny Podcast” – hosted by “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” cast members Charlie Day, Glenn Howerton and Rob McElhenney – remains one of the top 25 podcasts in the country, according to Apple Podcasts.

And last year, iHeartRadio named the “Office Ladies” rewatch series, hosted by “The Office” stars Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, as Podcast of the Year.

Pearson attributed the popularity of this new genre of podcast to the intimacy the format itself offers.

“It’s an intimate space, where you listen to a conversation between two hosts,” Pearson said. “There’s no better form than a podcast when you’re thinking about reuniting old stars, and all the bells and whistles are gone.”

He continued, “It’s not about every prop or detail. It’s more about what goes on behind the scenes, what these actors were thinking and how they interacted with each other. the others in the scene – that’s the kind of stuff that people get really excited about.”

For the actors, these podcasts are also an opportunity to reunite with their former partners.

“We decided that doing a rewatch would be a great way to do something that ‘New Girl’ fans would enjoy,” Deschanel, who played lead character Jess, told NBC News in a statement.

Simone, who played Jess’s best friend, Cece, agreed.

“It made so much sense to reunite and review the show with our fans,” she said in a statement. “This podcast is just an opportunity for all of us to get together and tell stories.”

Susan Mackey-Kallis, a communications professor at Villanova University who studies pop culture and film analysis, said the rise of the celebrity rewatch podcast genre “wasn’t surprising” as viewers develop often “parasocial relationships” – a psychological relationship that describes when a viewer becomes attached to and invested in a fictional character.

“These fictional characters that we grew up with are almost like our friends who walk into the living room, through our laptop, through our phones, and we feel like we know them as people,” she said. .

As such, hearing from actors about their experiences on these beloved shows almost works “like an extension” of that relationship.

No matter how much time has passed, Mackey-Kallis said, it makes sense for fans to return to their favorite shows from the past, especially at a time defined by Covid-19 and untold loss.

“It’s comforting to listen to familiar voices that evoke feelings of comfort during stressful times like the pandemic,” she said. “It’s like listening to a long-time friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.”

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