If you’re a movie fan at all, you’ve undoubtedly been subjected to some awful films in your quest for superior celluloid-based entertainment. While most people try to forget these experiences or offer generalized dismissals of these cinematic abortions to their friends, there is a certain type of creature that revels in the terribleness that is the bad movie; one that takes it all in and tries to make sense of the nonsensical, penetrate the impenetrable, cliché the unclicheable. And by creature, of course, I mean podcast. And that podcast is How Did This Get Made?
The hosts that comprise the three-headed monster responsible for How Did This Get Made? all have the kind of notoriety that makes you say, “I know you from somewhere, but I don’t know where. Were you naked on True Blood in season 2?” Thankfully, none of them were, but still boast solid credentials. Paul Scheer, probably the best known of the three, is one of the creators of MTV’s Human Giant. He also plays Andre on The League and has been showing up in the best comedies of the last half decade (in addition to Piranha 3D). Jason Mantzoukas plays Rafi on the aforementioned The League, and has been in The Dictator, among other films and TV programs. June Diane Raphael is the screenwriter responsible for Bridewars (she makes up for it on this show, I swear!), and has appeared on such shows as Flight of the Conchords and Party Down.
Each week, the trio invites in a guest, and they all watch (or re-watch) a movie that has been generally panned and come to the table to speak of the horrors they have witnessed. The opinions offered differ from mainstream film criticism in two major respects. First, the hosts have a deep appreciation and understanding of the art of film and how movies should work, and talk casually about technical story-telling and cinematic ideas in a way that most critics don’t. Secondly, while they are having these technical discussions about movie making, they laugh uncontrollably about the nonsensical results this poor filmmaking produces. So not only will they point out exact continuity flaws, but they do so by offering hilarious alternate-reality situations that could account for the non-causal nature of the narrative.
This show works because the hosts are super intelligent in addition to being genuinely funny, which allows the conversation to flow between humorous criticism and tangential humor without losing focus. All three hosts have backgrounds in sketch, and that experience seems to help them both in planning bits throughout the show as well as taking chances and improvising together. Especially awesome are the previously mentioned ‘alternate reality’ stories, as the hosts will ‘yes, and’ each other to unbelievably hilarious results with regularity.
The only criticism I can make of the hosts is that at times it doesn’t feel like the show is being commanded. Scheer is clearly the driving force of the show, and he is always successful at navigating the ship. However, there are times when Mantzoukas seems the bigger voice, and as his role is clearly second in command, it can make it feel like there’s a battle going on for control, one which Scheer always wins, though he sometimes doesn’t deserve to.
The guests vary from well-known movie freaks like Doug Benson to lesser-known connoisseurs such as Chris Gore, and the hosts do an excellent job tailoring their style to fit the guest’s personality. Talkier guests get more room to make jokes and go on tangents, while more reserved guests will be actively questioned and given opportunities to get a big laugh or tackle a large question. Occasionally a guest will get a little lost in the shuffle of the hosts’ exuberance, but it is never without an effort to keep them engaged and, in fairness, sometimes the hosts can stifle each other for an episode if one is particularly excited about a film. The best episodes are those that feature guests with strong personalities, like Benson or Scott Aukerman, as they demand space in the conversation, which actually serves not only to give them plenty of air time, but ensures that all three hosts are allowed to get their distinctive perspectives in to the conversation.
Each episode concludes with ‘Second Opinions’, other reviews of the featured film culled from 4- and 5-star reviews on Amazon.com, which invariably lead to some of the biggest laughs in any episode. Implicit in this section, even though the hosts often use it as a platform to continue to poke holes in movies, is the concession that it’s possible (though unlikely) that the hosts are wrong in their criticisms. They finally lay out whether the movie they have just spent 40 minutes lambasting is actually worth watching, clearly delineating ‘movies so bad they are good’ from ‘awful films’. You have to respect movie connoisseurs that will admit that sometimes even though a movie is so awful it might make literally no sense, it’s actually an enjoyable piece of cinema.
The Above In Fewer Words: If you love movies, have an interest in storytelling, or enjoy laughing at the egregious failures of the over-bloated studio film system, there’s a lot to like about How Did This Get Made? The guests on the show (and to a large extent, the notoriety and failness level of the film being reviewed) can vastly change the tone of the show, but even when the show misses, it’s still crammed with quality laughs. Even if you wouldn’t consider yourself a member of one of the above-mentioned demographics, a listen to this program will remind you how much you love movies, and will send you running to your shelf for your favorite box-office clunker. While the intention of most podcasts is not to send you running to another medium, the hosts of How Did This Get Made? probably wouldn’t mind a bit.
How Did This Get Made? is available on iTunes and at their website.