Mystery Show: Case #2 Britney
May 30, 2015 8:45 AM - Subscribe

The Case:  Andrea's a writer no one reads. Then she makes a shocking discovery.
posted by Tevin (25 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Much better than episode one! Though I think that the quirky-Starlee-Kine-solves-random-problems still needs better thematic integration with the overarching mysteries. But yeah, good stuff. Not being super-familiar with the Britney Spears catalogue, I briefly thought the outro was a more recent piece of hers.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:33 AM on May 30, 2015


I liked it better than the first one, but parts of it still rubbed me the wrong way. For example, the whole thing about calling random bookstores and asking the clerks about the book. I get that it makes for better radio, but it annoys me that its positioned as "this was the only way to find out." Well, no. For one thing, I'm sure the author knows how many were sold. You could look at amazon sales ranks and reviews. You could just google the book and see what coverage is out there. I know the concept is supposed to be "stuff you can't find out from the Internet" but a lot of this is stuff you clearly CAN learn from the Internet, or at least do more effective research on. I'd probably be happier if they just dropped that part of the shtick and either use the best resources, or admit that they're intentionally making it harder than it has to be for entertainment value.
posted by primethyme at 4:15 PM on May 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Right - this is tied back to the lack of clarity about the theme. Why should we be getting a whimsical investigation instead of an actual investigation. (Also, saying that the odds of finding the book at a bookstore were lower than finding a bookstore employee whose parents had won the lottery is not what Kine demonstrated. I'm sure she liked the turn of phrase, but that turn of phrase could have been switched a bit to be both scientifically correct while making the point she wanted to make.

I realize this sounds pedantic but it quite vexed me.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:12 PM on May 30, 2015


I totally loved this episode. I agree that I was a little confused by the first episode, but I'm digging the "it's not where you're going but how you get there" vibe. I didn't really "get" Starlee before but I am now completely charmed.
posted by radioamy at 6:55 PM on May 30, 2015


I'm all in favor of bringing new voices and new audiences to US public radio, or at least US public radio spinoff podcasts produced by for-profit startup production companies. This is so whimsical and non-traditional that it seems worth trying as an experiment.

But. . . at a deep, animal level, I find it hard not to scream, "get to the point" and "who the fuck cares!" If there's anything less interesting than first hand celebrity gossip, it's second-hand amateur celebrity speculation. I wish Mystery Show well, but this episode makes me skeptical that this will turn into a thing I want to spend time listening to. To be fair, the first episode was a whole lot more engaging than the second, and I'm on board for the rest of the season no matter what. And, if I were to judge my favorite shows by their second episode, they wouldn't do terribly well either.

Now, a show where you just talk about the lives of telephone sales reps without the tiresome fawning over celebrity and the amateur PI schtick, on the other hand, would be pretty awesome. I fear it's also unsellable. But, here's hoping we get more of that going forward.

I also found the probability discussion wince-worthy, but less so than roughly everything quantitative that has ever been said by a professional radio host.
posted by eotvos at 9:22 AM on May 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've been thinking about this show on and off for the last day (do I have an unhealthy obsession with podcasts?). I think my real issue is that I absolutely love true investigative reporting and in-depth research of true mysteries, and that's just not what this is. Serial was right up my alley, and I am really into anything that goes to great lengths to figure out something that truly no one knows. I realize this wasn't exactly pitched like that, but the description is pretty vague, and I perhaps foolishly let myself hope that it would be a real investigation. The video store thing isn't really the kind of story I'd be into anyway. But if they were going to do it, the kind of show I'd want to listen to would do stuff like dig into property and tax records for video stores in the area, try to find further corroboration of the dates, ask why this person supposedly still has the rented video but there's no store label on the box, confirm whether the employee described actually worked at the store they identified, etc.

That's probably not something reasonable to expect from this series, but it's what I went in hoping for, and Mystery Show doesn't really live up to that standard. I'm not going to say I'm completely done with it, but it's been removed from my "must listen" playlist, and now resides on my backup playlist for when I've run out of "must listens."
posted by primethyme at 9:33 PM on May 31, 2015


> But if they were going to do it, the kind of show I'd want to listen to would do stuff like dig into property and tax records for video stores in the area, try to find further corroboration of the dates, ask why this person supposedly still has the rented video but there's no store label on the box, confirm whether the employee described actually worked at the store they identified, etc.

I've seen A LOT of people express similar opinions and frustrations that this wasn't the form the show took. And I get how that would be frustrating if you were expecting that.

However, as just a fun "Let's see where this goes..." kind of adventure featuring interesting conversations in unexpected places you could do a lot worse.

I didn't like this second episode as much (I can't for the life of me figure out why they were padding with the Robert Frost lines [20-30 minutes is def long enough for this show]) but I like Kine's humor and sensibilities enough to still be happy with it.
posted by Tevin at 9:48 PM on May 31, 2015


I think Mystery Show is going to turn into a cult of personality, and that's ultimately going to determine its success or failure. Either you love Starlee Kine's quirky musings, off-topic conversations, serpentine narratives, and chirpy voice....or you find them off-putting.
posted by radioamy at 10:03 AM on June 1, 2015


I like Starlee Kine, but I think I'm going to hate this show. Don't tell me the show is about solving a mystery, then spend so much time not only not solving the mystery, but on random diversions with people you happen to call.

This is so much more, "I happened across this person today, isn't this neat" than a "let's do serious business about solving this mystery." And pretending that it's about solving a mystery is going to drive me crazy every time that it's so obviously not.
posted by garlic at 11:29 AM on June 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


> This is so much more, "I happened across this person today, isn't this neat" than a "let's do serious business about solving this mystery."

That certainly seems to be the biggest difference between people who do/dont' like the show.

I never had the impression it was going to be the second thing. But I think A LOT of people did. So ... how did you come to have that expectation?*

*I'm genuinely curious and not asking that in the "can't you see you're so wrong to think like that?" way
posted by Tevin at 11:55 AM on June 1, 2015


Also, saying that the odds of finding the book at a bookstore were lower than finding a bookstore employee whose parents had won the lottery is not what Kine demonstrated.

That also annoyed me, we are united in our annoyance at that.

Otherwise I enjoyed this episode, I am definitely a fan. Not cult of personality fan quite yet, my giant chest tattoo of the mystery show logo is purely in the conceptual stage.

I think what I get a kick out of, and what I thought was the whole point, was how whimsically incompetent she is, but also not in that she seems to haphazardly stumble upon the answer. It's like she's trying to be a kid detective from the kid mystery shows I watched after school in the 90s, they kind of stumble around falling upon things that seem completely irrelevant and then everything just ties up at the end. I parse this as a kid who wanted to be Nancy Drew or Harriet the Spy is now living that out as a breathtakingly naive adult.

I was that kid who wanted to be a spy or secret agent and so desperately wanted to solve mysteries (I even had a "detective club" with my two best friends, and we built a tree-house for this purpose like some ridiculous cliche). But then I grew up and became boring. This podcast reaches into my brain, finds that dorky kid, and flicks him on the nose while whispering "wake up!".

(I also like the idea that Britney is an introverted bookworm who reads Candide)
posted by selenized at 2:53 PM on June 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


I never had the impression it was going to be the second thing. But I think A LOT of people did. So ... how did you come to have that expectation?*

I can't speak for anyone else, but for me, it just came about by taking the promos at face value, rather than thinking about what made for a good podcast. She said she was going to solve questions whose answers you can't find online, and so I figured she'd be doing that, with the goal of solving the mystery. Versus, her actual goal, is to have an entertaining podcast. I think selenized nailed it on the head: the schtick is very kid detective, rather than following an investigative journalist, which was the tone of Serial, for all its flaws. The kid detective needs to wrap up the case, but the most thorough answer doesn't always make for the most entertaining listening.

That said, I thought this week's episode was much better than last week's. The question of "how would you get in touch with a celebrity" strikes me as one lots of people have thought about. That she did the semi-obvious things of talking to friends of friends and struck out was interesting, as was the story of how she met Britney in person.

Its a tricky balance to strike, since for most of these mysteries, the answer is boring: "The friend didn't notice the signs" or "Britney's assistant gave it to her." And I'm sure she's trying to pick things that she thinks she has high chance of solving, which means the answers are only going to be so compelling. So the show can't really be about the answers, it has to be about the process. And to make the process interesting, she can't just go the straightforward route of looking through property taxes or whatever, since that would be boring to listen to. Hence the detours, that wind up not really being about the mysteries.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 6:10 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


how did you come to have that expectation?*

I can only speak for myself, but the headline on the Gimlet Media page about Mystery Show is "A podcast where Starlee Kine solves mysteries." The blog post announcing it said, "Mystery Show will be hosted by Starlee Kine. Each week she will be solving a different real life mystery." It says she'll be "solving" "mysteries," and doesn't say anything about the "I happened across this person today" aspect of it. I suppose if you know Starlee Kine's work really well, you might infer that, despite the fact that the podcast is called "Mystery Show," and the descriptions of it say it's about "solving mysteries," it actually isn't. Honestly, I'm not sure how you could have any expectation other than it being about solving mysteries unless you have a ton of outside context, unrelated to the publicity and advertising about the show.

Also, they have put this out into the world six months after Serial exploded onto the scene, bringing in legions of new podcast listeners. I've been listening to podcasts for probably ten years, but if I had just gotten on board due to an incredibly popular mystery solving podcast, and I heard about another podcast called "Mystery Show" that is supposed to be about solving mysteries, I might be disappointed by what it actually turned out to be.

I do think this is a quality podcast for what it is, I just think they've done themselves a disservice by doing things that set incorrect expectations.
posted by primethyme at 6:13 PM on June 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Tough crowd. The lottery thing was a joke, I know the setup was a bit forced, but still a funny coincidence. Anyway, I thought the extended discussion with the guy selling the VIP passes was worth listening to the whole episode. It made me wonder how they're getting such long and candid discussions with customer service people.

I'm fine with the show mostly being about Starley Kine's quirky and whimsical take on Nancy Drew, but I hope they have at least a few legitimate mysteries, not just things people were vaguely wondering about and hoping for some sort of resolution.
posted by skewed at 6:07 PM on June 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think this is as close as we'll get to a real-life Dirk Gently.
posted by robcorr at 9:07 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


This episode was very emotional for me, I had to pause it and come back after a day to prepare myself - I hadn't realised it was THAT Britney in the title. It's only mentioned very briefly, but Britney lives under a draconian conservatorship which is all kinds of ethically iffy and makes me really, bone-deep sad (I want Furiosa to storm into Las Vages and War Rig her the hell out of there). So, all the details of Britney At the Mall and Britney Being Shy were, for me, far more resonant than 'celebrity tittle-tattle' or whimsy.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 4:49 AM on June 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think this is as close as we'll get to a real-life Dirk Gently

I really want the show to become this. It's on the road, but has yet to get there.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:18 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


It made me wonder how they're getting such long and candid discussions with customer service people.
It makes me think she must lead off with "I'm recording this for a radio story, is that cool?" because otherwise I'm sure no matter how captivating her questioning someone must ask "wait, why are we talking about this?"

I think this podcast is pretty fun. If your reaction is "who the fuck cares!" it probably means you should listen to a different podcast.
posted by tjgrathwell at 7:30 PM on June 5, 2015


As I was listening to this episode, I was composing an angry screed in my head about how Mystery Show is basically what you'd get if Wes Anderson hired Zooey Deschanel to make a Serial parody. It's light, fluffy, and whimsy to a fault. Even the premise lacks any real substance.

However, it's weirdly delightful to hear Starlee interact with her interviewees, and everything came together really nicely at the end of the episode. I was grinning from ear to ear.

I'm still not sure that I'll become a regular listener. The (actual) premise is a tough sell, and seems to hinge on the week-to-week execution. I won't be recommending this to any friends who aren't avid podcast listeners, but I'll be back next week -- this episode made me smile, and that's enough to keep Mystery Show on my playlist.
posted by schmod at 2:25 PM on June 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I felt uncomfortable listening to this episode - all that musing about the intrusiveness of the public interest in BS, in the middle of a very intrusive nosyness. It just seemed exploitative.
posted by bq at 3:07 PM on June 13, 2015


There's a post about Mystery Show on the front page, and someone mentioned that there's a discussion of the podcast here -- so I'm coming in late. I'm really surprised that the general climate here's so down on the show.

I think this episode, specifically, is one of the best things I've listened to in a long time. It's a project where the discoveries along the way are more interesting than -- more important than -- the solutions to the mysteries themselves. The mysteries are mysteries to the people posing the question, not to the audience generally.

Here, she stumbled onto a writer of literary fiction who resisted everything her MFA program told her about being too cool for Britney Spears, a bookstore clerk who's parents won the lottery, and a guy who works customer service at Ticket Master that got weepy about his childhood.

It's the opposite of hardboiled, and the opposite journalistic, which I'm learning from this thread was many people's expectation for the show. It's better than that, I think.

Also, the music's perfect.
posted by thursdaystoo at 3:39 PM on June 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


The tangents in this episode were delightful.
posted by latkes at 7:23 AM on June 19, 2015


I heard the first episode when it "guested" on StartUp, and was on the fence, not sold enough to subscribe. Today when I heard it plugged on Pop Culture Happy Hour I figured I'd give it another shot, and I was really glad I did. The tangents in this episode delighted me more than they annoyed me (maybe I was more prepared, having heard the first episode? Or they were just better tangents?) and the reveal at the end had me gasping and goofily grinning in the subway.

Totally agree that it feels like a Starlee Kine cult-of-personality show, and though I wouldn't consider myself in the cult, I will definitely listen to a few more episodes.

And agreed, Gin and Broadband, Britney's conservatorship is sort of horrifying. I read into it while doing research for a paper about her, and the whole thing was incredibly murky and worrisome.
posted by Zephyrial at 8:21 PM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd been on the fence, but when they had the money to send someone to the Britney show and meet-and-greet and Starlee went instead of Andrea (who is obviously a bigger fan and is surely capable of having the experience herself and reporting back to Starlee for the show), I checked out of this show forever.
posted by doctornecessiter at 7:37 AM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel like this show is investigating mysteries in the vein of the first 10 minutes of Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia. Not just the insignificant mysteries that are the nominal subject, but the mysteries of what ties us together and how glorious and weird those connections can be. The conversation with the customer-service phone guy was totally worth the price of entry, and it gets even better in episode 3.
posted by rikschell at 1:51 PM on September 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


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