Thursday, February 16, 2017

Podcast Deep Dive: The New Generation Project Podcast

The New Generation Podcast talks about stuff like the above picture, but this post is about something deeper
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This article is not about a particular episode of a podcast. It is about the podcast itself, and that is The New Generation Project Podcast.

Since 2013, Stewart Brookes, Adam Wykes and Paul Scrivens have co-hosted a show whose expressed goal is to cover every WWF PPV between the years of 1993 and 1998 - the "New Generation" era typically regarded as the less-than predecessor of the Attitude Era. Every episode runs between two to three hours, as Brookes does a huge amount of research on the background of each show, and writes extensive notes on each match. Wykes and Scrivens break up the scripted notes with group discussion of what they watched.

It is far and away, in my opinion, the best wrestling podcast out there. If you are able to handle a show not hosted by a wrestler or featuring a wrestler as a guest, you can do no better than the NGP podcast. They have built up a sizeable fanbase due to their work, and they deserve it.

But since early December, there have been no new episodes posted. After a bit of silence, Brookes addressed the issue through social media. His explanation: he is going through a severe depression, and has found himself unable to begin work on another episode.

Let's take a moment to acknowledge the staggering bravery of letting a few thousand people in on your most private of personal issues, let alone an issue that many people meet with indignity and misunderstanding. Brookes put himself at risk of people coming at him for being selfish, or being lazy, or just not holding up his end of the podcast creator/listener bargain (more on that in a bit). However, the vast majority, if not the entirety, of the the response was positive. People responded with well-wishes and words of encouragement. According to a later post from Scrivens, people even wrote in with painful tales of their own bouts with depression.

The response to Brookes demonstrates what we've always known: when you put someone's voice in your ear for hours at a time, you feel like you know them. You hope for the best for them - maybe not as a true friend, but as a kindred soul. When they struggle, you kind of struggle too. I especially struggled with the guilt I felt during the gap between episodes, before I knew what was going on, and being slightly annoyed that a new episode hadn't been released. The truth was more than a satisfactory explanation.

But it's possible that the fanbase of The New Generation Project Podcast is an outlier. Would the fans of an even more popular podcast, like Art of Wrestling or even The Steve Austin Show, be as willing to wait for more content if those hosts had to take an extended hiatus? It's very difficult to say. That creator/listener dynamic is obviously still in place for those audiences, but given that their audiences are much larger, is the relationship as intimate? I know that when Austin is talking to Ted Fowler about alcohol and cars, or to Dave Meltzer about some insider minutiae, I'm not necessarily feeling like I'm a part of that conversation. But the dynamic between Brookes, Wykes, and Scrivens is one of highly relatable friends who love being around each other and love talking about this weird era of pro wrestling. There is no doubt that this dynamic has created such a loyal, friendly fanbase who are taking the temporary loss of one of the best shows out there in stride.

In the meantime, if you are not familiar with the show I can't recommend enough that you take a listen. It doesn't matter what episode you start with; Brookes will explain everything and catch you up on what was happening in WWF at the time. You will learn a lot, you will have a few big laughs, and you will appreciate that pro wrestling is being discussed with the intellect and gravitas it deserves.

And in the meantime, if you know anyone in your life who is having trouble enjoying the things they used to enjoy, be there for them as much as you can. You can't fix people. You can only help them.

And get well, Stewart. You are well-liked and respected. Come back whenever it works for you.