Every week Starburst editor Mike (Jordan) Royce and co-editor Kris Heys sit down for three hours to talk about sci-fi, horror, and fantasy on Manchester Radio Online. The program is a tie-in with the recently revived printed Starburst Magazine, and though it's available as a podcast, it's produced as a live broadcast Sunday night, complete with music interludes.
So far so good.
The content of the show is a satisfying mix of geek news, Dr. Who discussions, pointless (but awesome) nerdy discussions, comic book talk, movie news, so-called reviews and so-called listener feedback.
But be warned, this is a very nerdy show, and it has MANY problems.
The laid-back discussions are simultaneously the show's strength and its biggest weakness. There is NO structure or sense of order. That might work in a brief show, but THREE HOURS of aimless nerd bickering is a little rough. They'll often announce a segment - news or a review - only to get instantly distracted and talk about something completely different for an hour.
When they do get around to the subject at hand, their discussions are often so unfocused that they simply go around in circles and repeat the same point over and over again, or they just get lost in their own arguments, resulting in some quite preposterous and erroneous statements, or sometimes just plain nonsense.
These folks can spend 30 minutes discussing if Indiana Jones and Star Wars are part of the same universe, because there's an extra in The Phantom Menace who sort of looks like Indy. I don't think it's because they don't know what an inside joke is, it's just that they get SO caught up in details that they completely miss the big picture.
Also, here's a free programming tip for you: One person screaming "no one cares", while the other constantly hammers on a ridiculous point, does not constitute content. Get those things sorted out before the mikes go live.
Another part of the show is feedback. The listeners are encouraged to call in, e-mail or tweet live, but more often than not this part of the show deteriorates into reading random tweets and spam e-mails, and getting all giddy when one of their friends mention them online. Having listened to some 15 shows, I have yet to experience a proper, focused film review, a descent feedback section or anything resembling a structured show.
The biggest problem with the show is the attitude and style of the hosts. In this respect the Starburst Radio podcast is the audio equivalent of internet comments. This goes triple for the lead host Mike Royce.
These guys are just not radio savvy. They talk like you would talk to an old friend, when you know no one is listening, NOT when you're speaking to a whole bloody radio audience. They often display a stunning lack of decency and common sense. They're brash, incredibly rude, and quite petty, especially if they talk about something they don't like, or if anyone disagrees with them.
In fact it's quite unbelievable how nasty and brutally offensive they get when a tweet or mail arrives with a critique. No, I mean NASTY. Vicious derogatory comments, insinuating perverted sexual behavior, and even encouraging murder on at least one occasion. Just to be clear: This vitriol is often directed at similar geeks, who just happen to disagree with the hosts. It's not even uncommon for them to trash friends or acquaintances in that dishonest "we're-joking-but-we-kinda-mean-it-a-little-bit" attitude, revealing alcohol consumption and other private matters. Meanwhile celebrities and movies are frequently labeled as "sh*t" or "rubbish", and don't get Mr. Royce started on any of Starburst Magazine's competitors! Those discussions will reduce him to a 2 year old who has discovered that excrement will stick to the wall if you throw it hard enough - as an example, he refers to Total Film as Scrotal film.
You think I'm joking, right? Well, listen to this clip from the show, a fair representation of what it sounds like when they really lay into someone:
A clip from the show
Even more disturbing is their shockingly cavalier attitude towards illegal downloading. They will simply flat out recommend that people get certain TV shows and films illegally, even bragging about not paying for this or that.
Finally we need to address the audio quality.
Every show sounds like it's the first one they've ever done. They've managed to do an ENTIRE three hour show, where one of the hosts is completely unintelligible, because he's too far away from the microphone, while the other host's sound constantly crackles because he's too loud.
When you're doing an AUDIO podcast, the very least you can do is make sure the audio actually works! Don't they know any better, or don't they take any pride in their work? I can't tell. I've had to give up on one or two shows, simply because of audio issues.
Wait - that's it? Only "bad and ugly", no "good"?
It's hard to point to something in the show that just plain works. Yet, in spite of these issues, I find myself tuning in every week. For all their MANY flaws, these guys are still my peeps, and they do get some nice coherent conversations going every now and then, and I want to support an endeavor like this.
Still, I'm not sure what Starburst Magazine hopes to accomplish with this show. If the aim is to support the content of the magazine and extend its reach, the guys need to rethink their approach. This will do nothing more than alienate the fan boys who constitute their bread and butter.
There's great potential in the show, but in order to achieve greatness, the Starburst Podcast will have to solve a few key issues:
- They need make a proper plan for each show.
- Their attitude needs to improve.
- And they need a tech guy.