The TV Talk Machine Launches From Within The Bastard Machine. It's a Podcast. Listen Up.

A new THR podcast that talks about television and the many people who make it happen. Also about failure. And bitterness. But also some good things. First up -- the Emmys. Which is not exactly a good thing.

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be launching (or actually, relaunching – more on that in a moment) my TV Talk Machine podcast on THR starting today. Click that link to hear the inaugural episode. 

Back in February 2007, as I note in the introduction to this podcast, I was the first TV critic at an American newspaper to have a podcast. It was at the San Francisco Chronicle, where I worked for 10 years as the paper’s TV critic before coming to THR for the revamped magazine. The Chronicle, being in the tech empire of Northern California, thought podcasting was a fantastic idea. They put me in a cave and promptly forgot I was even doing it. Which is a good thing, because it started out about television and got very, very random almost immediately.

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Back then, BBC Radio interviewed me about podcasts popping up all over the world. It helped that we were a favorite of Fighting Talk, the brilliant British sports podcast at the time.

That original TV Talk Machine was sort of a split-personality deal. The original idea was that I wanted to interview people I really liked in the business and have something that lingered around on the Internet for posterity (remember, this was before there were a bazillion podcasts of all stripes). I thought of the idea when legendary late-night host Tom Snyder was retired and living in Belvedere, a beautiful bayside spot just north of San Francisco. Tom was always very kind to me. We had some good times. But he had leukemia and was dying. We kept making plans for lunch. My idea was that I would start this podcast, go interview Tom about his amazing career and incredible run-ins (mostly with soon-to-be-legendary musical guests) and favorite moments, then post it on the Internet so that it would live forever.

Unfortunately, Tom and I never got around to having that lunch, never recorded the podcast, and he passed away. I still miss him because he was one of a kind. My idea was still alive, though -- to interview people in the industry whom I thought were doing something great and lasting and were people I genuinely liked and respected. And along the way I did that, with some memorable and fun interviews (click each name to listen!) with Ricky Gervais, Eddie Izzard, Ken Burns for The War, Burns redux for The War, Michael C. Hall, which wasn't all that great, Ken Burns (last one for The War), David Duchovny (who talked to me while watching the TV news of a fire in Malibu that was looking like it was going to burn his house down), Stephen Colbert on the cusp of being famous, Conan O’Brien, Mitch Hurwitz and Will Arnett, Kurt Sutter, Vince Gilligan and my pal Burns yet again (with Lynn Novick for "The Tenth Inning" of the Baseball documentary).

But my lack of a booker, lack of ambition, lack of planning, etc., really cut into the production of those special interview podcasts and the TV Talk Machine became something quite different in the world of cult podcasting. I’ll spare you the details -- or the details of its even more half-hearted resurrection as Vol. 2.0.

They were fun times. And everybody involved said their fond farewells recently.

Which brings me back to what I’m going to pretend, for your sake, is a brand new TV Talk Machine. If nothing else, it’s a “reimagining” -- TV people love that term --  that is going back to its roots. I will mostly be doing long-form interviews with actors, writers, showrunners and executives. They will be people I like and respect. Life’s too short to interview people just because they’re trying to sell or promote something. So, no, the TVTM won’t be heavy on interviews you can find pretty much anywhere. And even if the guest is familiar, I hope to engage them in ways that cut through any prepared answers you might have already heard.

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I remember sitting down with Justified star Walton Goggins as the second season was about to start. We chatted about things, and he committed to being on the podcast. So, Walton, it’s been a while but I’m coming for you soon enough.

As you’ll find out if you listen to the first installment of the TV Talk Machine, I decided that waiting to make everything line up as perfectly as I wanted was just going to lead nowhere. So, with the Emmys just announced, Comic-Con in the books and me heading down to cover the Television Critics Association press tour -- aka The Death March With Cocktails -- I decided to just do it. There will be a lot of TV to talk about. It’s not ideal -- me sitting in front a microphone and chatting about the television industry and the machinations of the business and the culture. But the damn thing is launched, flaws and all.

In fact, this bare-bones soft launch comes replete with me having the microphone on the wrong setting -- so I sound distant -- but I eventually have it fixed before the end. As British folk/punk rocker Billy Bragg once said in soccer terminology after a live song of his found him falling in and out of the right key – “In off the crossbar, that one!”


I’m heading down to cover TCA on Monday. I’ll probably file a number of short, rambling, potentially drunk podcasts about the events of each day. A kind of podcast recap of events. And maybe when I’m down there, I’ll pull aside a few people I like to do a proper interview.

When The Death March With Cocktails ends, you can look for me to resume the original mission of the TVTM: in-depth talks with interesting people who make television. Life isn’t perfect, and I would have preferred to have Goggins or Jason Bateman or Keith Olbermann or Jimmy Kimmel on, but that will happen soon enough.

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I’m also working to redirect old episodes of the TV Talk Machine out of their past iTunes location so that you won’t be utterly confused if you subscribe there and later on Stitcher. (This new podcast should be available in both places soon enough.)

I will, however, be keeping the dedicated TV Talk Machine page on Facebook, where each of these new podcasts will be linked. It will make absolutely no sense at all to listen to past versions, so don’t even bother. No, seriously, just ignore the old ones unless you’ve got a gigantic bong and like random Bill Walton impressions. It will only hurt your brain. But going forward, that FB page will be repopulated with new episodes of TVTM.

Lastly, since I will also be doing podcasts that answer reader e-mails, if you have questions you’d like answered or just want my take on a certain topic, feel free to send questions to me here: and I’ll answer them on the podcast.

Thanks for playing.

Twitter: @BastardMachine