Issue 179,  published October 2, 2018

Gimlet’s Fall Slate

Did you know it’s been slightly over four years since Alex Blumberg launched the Startup podcast and founded Gimlet Media, which went on to pitch itself as the “HBO of Audio” and serve, more or less, as a crucial poster-company for the podcast industry? Four years; that’s the length of a presidential term, both an eternity and a blink of an eye.

As the company heads into its fifth year, it’s preparing for a heavy fall season. According to the Hollywood Reporter’s write-up of the announcement, Gimlet is adding three new shows to its lineup: a horror fiction project called The Horror of Dolores Roach; a collaboration with New York Magazine’s The Cut called The Cut on Tuesdays; and Without Fail: Conversations With Alex Blumberg.

Let’s break those out a little bit:

  • The Horror of Dolores Roach is Gimlet’s third fiction podcast, after Homecoming and Sandra. It stars Daphne Rubin-Vega and Bobby Cannavale (who will also star in the upcoming TV adaptation of Homecoming), and one imagines the project fits well within the company’s strategy of developing intellectual property to be sold off for adaptations via Gimlet Pictures. Dolores Roach comes out on October 17.
  • The Cut on Tuesdays appears to be Gimlet’s first swing at a programming style once heavily pursued by Panoply’s now-defunct editorial division: building out podcast extensions of existing media companies, often in the form of conversations with or between that publication’s writers and editors. The podcast will be hosted by The Cut senior editor Molly Fischer, and it drops on October 16.  (Disclaimer: I’m a contributor to The Cut’s sister site, Vulture.)
  • Without Fail marks Blumberg’s first formal return to the mic as host in quite some time, if you don’t count his spots on Reply All’s “Yes, Yes, No” segments. Startup has morphed tremendously over the years — it’s now near unrecognizable from its breakthrough original concept — and the last Gimlet-centric season was way back in late 2015/early 2016. Anyway, Without Fail also has the distinction of being the company’s very first interview podcast. The show will feature Blumberg sitting down with a string of big names, including Girlboss founder Sophia Amoruso, Groupon founder (and Gimlet investor) Andrew Mason, and the Golden State Warriors’ Andre Iguodala. (That explains this tweet from September 7 which, like, felt super random at the time.) The first episode dropped yesterday.
Two things I’m looking at:
  • One of the bigger questions that has always surrounded Gimlet has been the viability of its venture-backed programming strategy, often perceived to be resource-intensive, stacked towards limited-run series or tight seasons, and therefore generally adherent towards high-risk to hit-or-miss scenarios. I’d be curious to see how The Cut on Tuesdays and Without Fail balances out that perception (and reality).
  • Is it just me, or has it been a while since Gimlet has produced something particularly buzzy? By which I mean, something that matched the intensity of hype around Mystery Show, or even the original run of Crimetown. Now, “buzziness” is in many ways a totally subjective experience that falls along the lines of one’s own specific media consumption universes,. Sure, totally. But still: other than Reply All, Crimetown, and Mystery Show, I haven’t heard a non-podcast obsessive talk about a Gimlet show in a while. (Again, totally subjective and specific framework.) Given that the highly-visible company endeavors to be the prestigious “HBO of Audio,” it probably needs a new unambiguous banger. Like, soon.

As a side note, a few Gimlet shows are also returning: the aforementioned Crimetown kicked off its second season yesterday, and Heavyweight is back on October 4.

I run this thing.