We all listen to too many podcasts; it’s the scourge of the modern media landscape. This is undeniable and in no way a generalization pulled from the very small dataset of me personally. Or, to put it another way: I listen to too many podcasts. I spend a lot of time cleaning, washing dishes, walking dogs, chopping carrots, reconditioning classic cars, restoring antique furniture, making key lime pies, et cetera, et cetera; I have a lot of time where I’m quietly doing something alone that doesn’t require 100% of my focus. Cultivating a healthy number of podcast subscriptions is what keeps me going. They’re like friendly conversations with people who care about you, except that I have them!
I’m joking, of course; they aren’t really like friendly conversations with people who care about you. Usually they’re like friendly conversations with people who can’t hear your side of the conversation but nevertheless talk entertainingly among themselves. And sometimes they’re like friendly conversations with people who are self-consciously wacky and quirky and who clearly want very much to entertain you. To be thought of as funny, and worth knowing, and adorable in an utterly nonsexual way; desperate to inspire you to seek out their company and hope for the best for them. Sometimes they’re Starlee Kine’s Mystery Show.
I make an effort, when I’m writing these awful weekly reviews of things I’ve enjoyed, to avoid things I think you are already familiar with. This can be tricky, but, if it helps, understand that the ‘you’ I imagine myself writing for is interested in all of the kinds of things I’m interested in, keyed in to most of the same pop culture outlets as me, but has less free time than me and is therefore slightly more discriminating. Like my sister would be, if she had slightly less going on in her life, perhaps. You don’t need me to tell you that Rick & Morty or Bojack Horseman exist, but you might appreciate knowing that the second season of Bojack Horseman is a real step up over the first. You don’t need to hear that the second season of Rick & Morty is really good, because so many other more reputable sources already have.
Hence my recommendation of episodes two and three of Starlee Kine’s Mystery Show. If, like the modal reader in my head, you know who Starlee Kine is, and you already knew she had a Mystery Show, and you’ve avoided it because Starlee Kine’s Mystery Show sounds unbearably twee, then allow me to inform you that two of the six episodes I’ve heard are really pretty good.
If you haven’t: Starlee Kine is a radio person, from the artsy-fartsy funny-but-not-so’s-you’d-laugh-out-loud National-Public-Radio/Canadian-Broadcasting-Corporation This-American-Moth-With-Jonathan-Goldstein-Happy-Hour axis of public radio podcasting. She does quirky stories about quirky people like herself doing quirky things. I’ve never met her but her public persona is that of a spunky girl detective from a middle-grade mystery novel. Like a more naive Veronica Mars, although my understanding is that she’s roughly my age. I assume it’s a heightened version of her usual personality.
On each episode of the Mystery Show podcast, spunky girl detective Starlee Kine spends roughly forty-five minutes solving someone’s mystery. The quality of the show and the quality of the mystery are directly proportional; even for a wildly quirky manic pixie dream-podcaster, it’s hard to spin gold from dross. In an episode I did not care for, Starlee solves the Case of Jake Gyllenhaal’s Height by dithering for a half-hour, then contacting Jake Gyllenhaal via his agent and asking him, pretty much.
One of the better episodes is #3, “Belt Buckle.” Decades ago, a friend of hers found an odd belt buckle on the sidewalk. Engraved on it was a frying pan, chef’s hat, toaster with toast, a can opener, and the name HANS JORDI. Her friend has kept this buckle since he was a kid, wondering what it came from and what it means. Starlee eventually figured it out, and it makes for a pretty good story.
But my favorite is Episode #2, “Britney.” In “Britney,” Starlee attempts to resolve the question of why Britney Spears was photographed in 2008 holding a copy of a commercially-disappointing novel a friend of Starlee’s had written, whether Britney read the novel, and if so, whether she’d liked it. This is not something you can just call up Britney and ask; Britney has a dozen people whose job it is specifically to protect her from crazy fans who want to know whether she’d read and liked an obscure 2006 fantasy novel. Aside from being a worthy mystery, the topic at hand is one that jibes closely with the quirky-middle-school-heroine role that Starlee affects.
So if you have a couple of hours to kill, perhaps while sanding your deck or cooking a casserole or mopping your floors, you could do much worse than listening to at least a couple of episodes of Starlee Kine’s Mystery Show.