Why rewatch podcasts are the perfect mix of past and future

Two stars from teen drama The OC have released the ultimate nostalgic podcast. We look at why we love looking back at old TV shows, and why it’s like looking at old pictures of your ex-boyfriend. And that’s OK.

In a time where new experiences have been few and far between, and feelings of existential dread have been acute and resounding, seeking comfort throughout the last year has been an utmost priority.

For me, this has meant diving deep into the world of rewatch podcasts. If you’re uninitiated, this generally involves a host (or two, sometimes famous and sometimes not) taking a fresh, analytical look at a much-loved film, TV show or other piece of media.

Enter the queens of noughties teen drama classic, The OC, Rachel Bilson and Melinda Clarke. This week sees the launch of their very own podcast, Welcome to The OC, Bitches!, where the two actors discuss each episode at length. Bilson played Summer Roberts: the fast-talking, loyal best friend, and Clarke was Marissa’s “mom”, Julie Cooper Nichol, aka: 100% that Orange County bitch. 

We’re also due to be treated to exclusive insight on what happened on set, with guest appearances from fellow former cast members, writers and musicians.

News of the podcast’s release struck an indie guitar chord (had to give an extra nod to the show’s incredible soundtrack) with the millennial generation. I personally couldn’t have been happier to add another rewatch podcast to my list, after recently discovering that they allow a perfect nostalgic escape from everyday life. 

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They provide the following two comforts that I have come to find essential – knowing how something ends (because we have had way too many nasty surprises of late) and, in these isolating times, you are also gifted with the company of like-minded friends who feel as passionately about something you do – even if it’s the plotline of a teen drama. It’s chicken soup for the culture-deprived soul.

After finding that I was about to embark on the third rewatch of late 90s/early noughties smash Dawson’s Creek back in January, I knew that the Groundhog Day vibes of lockdown were getting to me. I happened upon Dawson’s Critique, a rewatch podcast hosted by Californian fans Julia Callahan and Erin Hensley.

They reanalyse the show episode by episode, deconstructing the male gaze under which it was written, calling out toxic masculinity, homophobic attitudes and so much more as they unfold. I was soon hooked, closely attached to the familiar voices and storylines but also compelled by the discussion.

“Watching reruns of favourite shows can be a form of emotional regulation,” Sally Brown, BACP-registered therapist, says. “We instinctively turn to them when we’re anxious or facing uncertainty. It’s about a need for calm and relief.”

Sally adds that it’s likely that we want to revisit these things that we loved – even if by way of a podcast – as “a way of viewing a previous version of yourself, and being curious about why it meant so much to you”. It’s just like looking at a picture of an ex boyfriend, she says.

Bethany, 26, loves to listen to rewatch podcasts like So I Got To Thinking – which re-interrogates Sex And The City – because they “feel like company, without spending the emotional energy”, a craving we can all relate to.

There’s no shortage of these rewatch podcasts, either. Whether you love to binge Line Of Duty, The Office or The West Wing – there is at least one accompanying podcast (and sometimes many different ones) for each show. They breaks down the nuances of each episode, some of which are hosted by starring actors themselves – it’s the next best thing from being able to walk onto the film set itself.

I was soon hooked on rewatch podcasts, closely attached to the familiar voices and storylines but compelled by the discussion. It’s chicken soup for the culture-deprived soul

But what it also brings to light is how badly certain storylines, fashion choices and relationships have aged. The internet has not been kind to the toxic behaviour of certain teen heartthrobs – including The OC’s Seth Cohen – not to mention the excessive use of chokers in the wardrobe department.

One of the best things about reliving one of your favourite TV shows through a rewatch podcast is the ability to re-engage with those stories and characters from a more nuanced (and probably adult) point of view. Looking again at the portrayals of sexual consent, sexism and parental pressures and asking yourself what should be – and is – different today.

“Revisiting your past passions or obsessions with a new perspective and detachment can also give us a sense of ‘how far we’ve come’ or just how things have changed,” Sally says. 

It’s all about creating a new perspective, while still appreciating something you loved in the past. “As a teen girl it was everything to watch Pacey and Joey [on Dawson’s Creek] fall in love – and now, as a 37-year old woman, I can see the male writing and perspective throughout the show,” Erin, co-host of Dawson’s Critique, tells me. “And that’s the thing, a show from your past can be both good and flawed.”

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Bethany also tells me that from listening to rewatch podcasts, she has been able to accept the flaws of these TV shows and appreciate them for what they are, even more than before.

So in a time of upheaval, stress or boredom, I can wholeheartedly recommend delving into an old favourite via this medium, whether it’s the shores of The OC or another aged gem. Here, you can bathe in the familiar fashion and melodrama, while engaging with a new political perspective and conversation when needed. It’s pretty damn empowering.

“When we sit between that space – between the nostalgia and the cringe – we remember to be gentler to our past and our past selves,” Erin says. “But above all, we expect more from the future.” 

Images: Welcome to The OC Bitches!, Dawson’s Critique, Getty

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