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Deep Diving With Binge Mode: The deep dive podcast is a tricky beast. It must straddle the delicate line of thorough discussion and over-indulgent pontification. For me, it's a line that, once crossed, I find hard to forget. Podcasts that I have loved have gone by the wayside as they go from digestible enjoyment to meandering sojourns that are seemingly a tool primarily for the hosts to listen to themselves speak—and laugh at their own jokes.
Over the past year, I've found myself making one particular podcast appointment listening. A podcast that neatly dovetails weird humor, deep research, and excellent voice work into an entertaining and informative package—even as the episodes have increased in length.
The podcast is Binge Mode—part of The Ringer's wide cannon of podcast offerings—and it hosted by Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion. Before listening to the show I was familiar with both Rubin and Concepion's writing for Grantland, and subsequently The Ringer, but prior to being welcomed to Binge Mode, I had not heard much of them on podcasts.
Each episode is basically the platonic ideal of a deep-dive. It is broken into a digestible structure basically: plot summary, chapter/episode theme, explanation of one key story element, seven favorite parts of the episode/chapter in discussion, and, finally, that episode/chapter's champion—plus a little extra voicework from Concepion after the end credits.
But more importantly, the show appeals to the expert and the neophyte alike. I'll use my own experience as an example, season one's look at Game of Thrones was right up my ally. I've watched every episode and read all the books. Yet, each show forced me to fundamentally reconsider how I processed the works of A Song of Ice and Fire series author George R.R. Martin, as well as GoT show-runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
Conversely, I am not a Harry Potter Stan, or perhaps was not. I stopped reading the books in the fifth installment. And, at times, I may have made fun of those who held the series up as unimpeachable examples of fantasy literature. However, my trust in Rubin and Concepcion, a vital and rare thing for any podcast to create in a listener, brought me onto the scarlet steam engine of Harry Potter discussion this season, and I have not been disappointed.
What's the clearest example of this influence? This year while on vacation with my family, I found myself splayed out in the sunshine trundling through Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth installment in the series. I finished it in three days. Binge Mode turned me from a skeptic to an acolyte, and that's what a deep dive can do.