PS Picks: A Podcast Heavyweight - Pacific Standard

PS Picks: A Podcast Heavyweight

PS Picks is a selection of the best things that the magazine's staff and contributors are reading, watching, or otherwise paying attention to in the worlds of art, politics, and culture.
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This PS Pick originally appeared in The Lede, the weekly Pacific Standard email newsletter for premium members. The Lede gives premium members greater access to Pacific Standard stories, staff, and contributors in their inbox every week. While helping to support journalism in the public interest, members also receive a print magazine subscription, early access to feature stories, and access to an ad-free version of PSmag.com.

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A Podcast Heavyweight: The Heavyweight podcast destroys lives. At least, that's what one disgruntled listener, who happens to be the best friend of a man whose son was featured on the series, alleges in season two. In that episode, host and all-purpose life-coach Jonathan Goldstein helps his friend Gregor end a very one-sided feud with the musician Moby. Gregor's 85-year-old father, Milt, later recommended the episode to his friend Sidney. Sidney hated the podcast so much that he sent Milt a letter, formally ending their lifelong relationship. His review spares none: "jejune, middle-brow, and nothing but a load of chit-chat."

From Gimlet Media, Heavyweight returns to moments of deep regret—times where lives diverged or relationships ruptured—and attempts to remedy them through humor, counseling, and a splash of investigative journalism. It is indeed a load of chit-chat. But it's some of the best chit-chat out there—so thoughtful and bitingly funny that, within 30 minutes, Goldstein has solved Milt and Sidney's rift too. The podcast feels alternatively like your most self-deprecating inner monologue and a Maury-inspired therapy session: probing deeper, Goldstein finds that some problems can't be fixed, but at least they can entertain. In Milt's episode, the introduction to the second season, Goldstein identifies a few more pressing problems in the men's relationship than their taste in podcasts, all by forcing them to talk. It feels like a disservice to attribute Heavyweight's success to mere conversation; the writing weaves cinematic narratives out of tasks as simple as hiring a golf instructor ("Stephen, a smile with more dimples than the golf balls he lovingly cradles, a tall drink of aqua velvet eau de toilet if ever there was"), or as complicated as navigating the inner workings of national college sorority organization.

In season two, Goldstein takes on listener dilemmas, addressing such unresolved issues as why a cancer survivor's sorority sisters kicked her out, or the trauma wrought by a car accident on both driver and victim. But in the end, Heavyweight reveals, it is chit-chat that heals us: Putting two people in a room, or on a call—and interspersing it with Goldstein's wry commentary—captures love or heartbreak at its most raw. Rather than relying on voyeuristic pleasure, it's the kind of listen that makes you reflect on your own life, and perhaps even make an apology of your own; after listening I made up with a roommate, mending, not destroying, a life for at least an afternoon.

This PS Pick originally appeared in The Lede, the weekly Pacific Standard email newsletter for premium members. The Lede gives premium members greater access to Pacific Standard stories, staff, and contributors in their inbox every week. While helping to support journalism in the public interest, members also receive a print magazine subscription, early access to feature stories, and access to an ad-free version of PSmag.com.

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