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I'm planning for my next podcast to do an episode-by-episode tv show analysis. (Actually two are in development, but they'll be about different shows.)

I'll be the main researcher/outline-assembler for these, and I'll have a co-host to bring in their background info.

One show is mega-popular and perennial -- but often people think they remember more about the show than they do -- they have a bit of a "Flanderized" image of some characters, especially. The other show has a smaller but more devoted fanbase, and is extremely serialized.

I can get lost in research, especially since the internet as a whole has a ton about Popular Show, and I personally have a ton on Devoted Fanbase show (including scripts).

Obviously the synopsis should be done mostly to jog the audience's memory and to pull out points for discussion, but how much is enough or too much?

Also, besides beat-by-beat (or scene-by-scene -- basically the order everything appears in the show) - are there other strong ways to organize the synopsis?

TLDR: How much episode recap is necessary in a tv-focused podcast? And what other organizing strategies work?


I was inspired by this question: How do I record information when planning to write a recap of events?

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You said in a comment that this is for an existing, old show, presumably one with a fanbase. While your listeners have presumably seen it (they're listening to your podcast about it, after all), they might not have done so recently and even hardcore fans might not always remember episode sequencing (when things happened relative to other things). Therefore, you probably want a brief summary of points that are important for what you're going to talk about.

For example, suppose you were going to talk about the Babylon 5 season-2 opener, Points of Departure, which aired about 20 years ago. And suppose you're specifically going to be talking about Minbari politics and not much about the fact that there's a new commander on the station. You might open with something like:

When last we saw Ambassador Delenn she was disappearing into a cocoon. Apparently this was a possibility her government foresaw, as they've sent an emissary to the station, and apparently they're not happy -- look at that guy's face! But wait, didn't a Gray Council member give her the device she needed to build it? In today's episode of "As the Station Turns", we'll delve into the secrets and internal struggles of the race that nearly destroyed Earth not long ago.

During this episode a hostile Minbari warship arrives. I didn't mention that in my synopsis because (in this hypothetical podcast I'm planning for you :-) ) either you're going to talk quite a bit about it -- and can bring it up then -- or it's not going to be central to what you talk about.

To summarize, then:

  • Include key points that are important to the timeline (someone remembering this episode years later might think Delenn has already emerged).

  • Include smaller points, things that would be more easily forgotten, if they're important context for your cast. (The presence of that Gray Council member could be easily forgotten.)

  • It's ok to provide context in an "oh by the way" manner. (Fans of the show already know that the Minbari almost destroyed Earth; you're dropping in a casual reminder that it was recent.)

  • If it's important to the episode but not to your podcast, skip it. (This podcast episode isn't about Earth politics and the sudden change in station commander. Well, not directly; to the extent it intersects with what you're going to talk about, you can cover it then.)

  • Yep, B5 is one of my planned ones, Trek TOS is the other. :) Since I have the scripts, and JMS likes to focus on teaching others how to write, would it be ok to try to use the synopsis to explore structure -- X happened with Zack and Garibaldi, and let's stick with these 2 characters to see how the B-plot doesn't follow the same act structure as the main plot... ? I don't know if I'm asking clearly -- I'm not caffeinated yet. But instead of as-it-appears synopsis, focusing on characters, or A/B plot specifically, or an item/metaphor? – April --Un-Slander Monica-- Apr 17 at 13:03
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    @April sure, use whatever aspects of the show or its structure tie into what you're going to talk about! I didn't mean to imply that there's only one kind of context-setting or synopsis. And B5 in particular has so many details hiding in the background, and so much complexity, that you can't just tell an end-to-end linear story there. – Monica Cellio Apr 17 at 15:16
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I think you see this all the time in "Previously on XYZ" segments of shows that have long plotlines (i.e. episodes are not self-contained).

The only thing they recap is what you need to know for THIS episode, and then not the whole subplot, just the last thing that happened in that subplot. e.g. The Breakup, not the romance before it. Or the woman seeing her ex with a new woman; and not the The Breakup before it.

As for organizing the elements; I'd go with explaining first what they will see first; i.e. if the first "new thing" or "reveal" in the current episode is we find out Mary is doing some serious spying on Cindy, recap first *why Mary is spying on Cindy.

I think you can presume your listeners watch the show; so all you need to do is remind them of what was the LAST thing that happened in each subplot, you don't have to recap the whole subplot.

As for NEW subplots, I wouldn't recap anything for them, unless some decision is critical to how the new subplot develops, you might want to tease that.

Remember how proud Josh was to get his promotion? I'm just saying, remember that.

  • You're writing as if the podcast will be an Audio Drama itself...it's just people talking about an already existing, decades old, show. – April --Un-Slander Monica-- Apr 16 at 17:39
  • @April The same principle applies; if you want time to talk about the episode, you can't spend most of the time talking about the series to set it up. You just need to remind people of what they need to know (or may have forgotten) to discuss the episode in question, not the entire arc up to that episode. – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Apr 16 at 19:24

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