The State of Teen Drama Rewatch Podcasts
In the wake of my recent appearance on the “Welcome to the OC, Bitches” podcast, it felt like the right time to do an assessment of the teen drama rewatch podcasts.
While I tweet my reactions to each installment of “9021OMG,” “OC, Bitches,” “Drama Queens,” and “XOXO” every week, below you’ll find an overview of each podcast, what I find to be their strengths and weaknesses, and how they compare to one another.
The order below is based on my personal preferences, from what I think is the best of the four podcasts to the worst. Please comment below with your own thoughts!
1. Welcome to the OC, Bitches
Show: “The O.C.”
Hosts: Rachel Bilson & Melinda Clarke
Producer: Kast Media
Launch Date: April 27, 2021
Series Regulars Who Have Appeared: Peter Gallagher, Kelly Rowan, Adam Brody, Chris Carmack, Tate Donovan, Alan Dale, Autumn Reeser
Series Regulars Who Haven’t Appeared: Ben McKenzie, Mischa Barton, Willa Holland
Last Installment: Episode 3.08, “The Game Plan”
I wasn’t kidding or sucking up when I told Bilson and Clarke that “Welcome to the OC, Bitches” sets the bar. None of the other podcasts embody the purpose and spirit of a “rewatch podcast” as much as this one. Creator Josh Schwartz was on the very first edition to break down the pilot, and since then, other key producers, writers, directors, and crew members have made appearances to discuss different episodes. For most of the podcast’s run, Bilson and Clarke have gone through each episode scene by scene, only recently switching to a storyline format.
That change hasn’t stopped them from deeply discussing the episodes even though the run time is now shorter. In fact, previously, installments were close to 90 minutes because of Bilson and Clarke’s commitment to both thoroughly interviewing their guest and thoroughly discussing the episode. The podcasts run roughly 60 minutes now, a length I find much more manageable as someone who listens to these on her one-hour lunch breaks.
What also sets “Welcome to the OC, Bitches” apart is its production quality. Not only is the audio usually crystal-clear, but it is the only one of the four podcasts to release full video versions every week. With Bilson and Clarke recording together in a studio (something else that differentiates their podcast), guests are often with them in person, and we fans get to watch the entire thing on YouTube with appealing on-screen visuals added in for further context. In comparison, “9021OMG” and “Drama Queens” only share short clips on Instagram and the audio-only “XOXO” will release an audio snippet on host Jessica Szhor’s Instagram page (the podcast doesn’t even have its own account).
Another great feature of “Welcome to the OC, Bitches” is “fan voicemails.” The podcast has a dedicated webpage through which fans can record comments and questions. A few of these are then played on most installments for the co-hosts and guests to respond to. On other occasions, they’ve had video chats with fans — as evidenced by my own appearance on the podcast a few weeks ago. “OC, Bitches” also recently hosted a charity auction benefiting No Kid Hungry, in which the winning bidder gets to participate in a star-studded table read of one of the show’s iconic episodes. The event is being recorded for a special edition of the podcast.
I have to commend Clarke for the in-depth research she does to prepare for every episode and each guest, as well as the fact that she and Bilson always name the director and writer for each episode. Bilson doesn’t remember much about the show, but Clarke really balances things out in that regard. I’ve been wondering what will happen to the podcast when they finish the show’s fourth and final season, which I believe will be sometime next year, but with Clarke’s research prowess, I could see future editions being built around deep dives into specific show-related topics.
More pressingly, fans desperately want to see Ben McKenzie on the podcast. In years past, he has indicated a desire to move on from his “O.C.” days, though he has also spoken about the show in recent interviews he’s done tied to his anti-cryptocurrency pursuits. The fact that he has not been on the podcast to date, and that the co-hosts have intimated that is his choice, says a lot about him. We also probably shouldn’t expect Mischa Barton to make an appearance, given that she made a lot of controversial claims about the show last year. Bilson and Clarke responded to those comments on the podcast and have said more than once that she’s welcome to come on and discuss it all, but it has seemed unlikely she’d take them up on such an offer. Still, the co-hosts regularly praise her performance and storylines — and Clarke and Barton reunited just yesterday at a fan convention, where Barton reportedly said she’d do the podcast. Perhaps for Marissa’s last episode?
In the meantime, a number of key supporting players have made appearances. Logan Marshall-Green, Navi Rawat, Amanda Righetti, Michael Cassidy (twice!), Shannon Lucio, Billy Campbell, and Marguerite Moreau have all joined Bilson and Clarke in giving great behind-the-scenes insight and episode analysis.
On a final note for “OC, Bitches,” I want to point out that this is the only podcast of the four that has included a trigger warning when discussing a storyline involving sexual assault. That warning, which appeared in both the description and intro to the podcast, was used for multiple installments in which the storyline was covered, and I found it to be such a thoughtful gesture. The other podcasts have covered similar storylines but not taken that super-sensitive approach.
Show: “Gossip Girl”
Host: Jessica Szhor
Producers: iHeartRadio & Propagate Content
Launch Date: January 26, 2022
Series Regulars Who Have Appeared: Chace Crawford, Taylor Momsen, Ed Westwick, Kelly Rutherford
Series Regulars Who Haven’t Appeared: Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Penn Badgley, Matthew Settle, Kaylee DeFer
Last Installment: Episode 2.17, “Carrnal Knowledge”
This is a fairly surprising ranking given that, of the four shows, “Gossip Girl” is my least favorite. But this podcast set itself apart from the start by launching as an interview podcast instead of a rewatch one. Szohr began by interviewing Schwartz and co-creator Stephanie Savage, and then went on to do one-on-one interviews with fellow cast mates and some crew members, like famed costumer designer Eric Daman.
It was refreshing to have interviews get the entire spotlight instead of awkwardly sharing it with episode discussions. But then in March, the podcast switched to the traditional rewatch format — bizarrely starting not with the pilot but the season two premiere. Since then, the quality has been very hit and miss. The delicate balancing act of combining interviews and episode recaps hasn’t been mastered like it has on “OC, Bitches,” and some of the episode discussions have been rather lackluster and gotten off track. It doesn’t often feel like the episode at hand has gotten its due.
A few times, the rewatch has paused to return to interview-only installments, which serve as a reminder of where this podcast’s strengths lie. I would’ve deeply enjoyed it if “XOXO” had stayed with its Q&A focus, even if sometimes the chat became redundant and Szohr seemed to be speeding through guests (other notable names who have appeared include Michelle Trachtenberg, Conor Paolo, Sebastian Stan, Robert John Burke, Sam Robards, Matt Doyle, and Caroline Lagerfelt; the week with Nina Dobrev was an utter waste).
While I haven’t expected Blake Lively to appear, even though she arguably owes the show a lot, it has been eyebrow-raising that Penn Badgley and Leighton Meester haven’t been on. That’s because Badgley recently launched his own podcast (on a completely unrelated subject) and had Meester on as a guest and later had Crawford on as well. It just feels, I don’t know, maybe “impolite” for Badgley and Meester to do a podcast together and not do Szohr’s. I mean, if even her ex Westwick (who has been accused of sexual assault) can stop by for a chat, surely you can put aside whatever’s holding you back, no?
Though Szohr is somewhat of a strange hosting choice since she left the series at the end of season 4, there are a few other things “XOXO” does differently that I appreciate. At the end of each edition, Szohr reads the credits — that is, the names of the people who produce and engineer and otherwise work on the podcast. As a former journalist who firmly believes in giving credit where it’s due, I really like that “XOXO” does this, and it is the only one of the four to do so. Another unique aspect is Szhor records special introductions and conclusions for each installment. These do a good job of encapsulating each podcast. I also like that Szohr not only gives a synopsis for each episode being discussed but also reminds everyone where we left off with a synopsis of the prior episode’s outcomes.
The pluses and minuses of “XOXO” balance out more or less to be a net-neutral experience for me. I don’t enjoy it nearly as much as “OC, Bitches,” but it doesn’t frustrate me as much as “Drama Queens” and “9021OMG” do.
3. Drama Queens
Show: “One Tree Hill”
Hosts: Hilarie Burton, Sophia Bush, Bethany Joy Lenz
Launch Date: June 21, 2021
Series Regulars Who Have Appeared: Paul Johansson, Craig Sheffer, Moira Kelly, Barbara Alyn Woods, Lee Norris, Antwon Tanner, Danneel Harris, Tyler Hilton
Series Regulars Who Haven’t Appeared: Chad Michael Murray, James Lafferty, Barry Corbin, Jackson Brundage, Lisa Goldstein, Austin Nichols, Robert Buckley, Shantel VanSanten, Jana Kramer, Stephen Colletti
Last Installment: Episode 3.11, “Return of the Future”
Before “Drama Queens” debuted, I expressed a number of concerns — primarily, how adequately “One Tree Hill” could be covered in this rewatch format given the fact that disgraced creator Mark Schwahn was the mastermind behind all nine seasons yet had sexually harassed the cast and crew and caused significant trauma. Months prior, I wrote about the difficulty of separating “One Tree Hill” from Schwahn, and that has been one of the most challenging things about this podcast as a fan.
As victims of Schwahn’s disgusting, inexcusable behavior, the co-hosts never mention him by name and often talk about the poor experiences they had behind the scenes. Unfortunately, the abuse they had to deal with has now skewed their perspectives in a lot of ways. Any time something strikes them as too sexual or anti-woman, they blame it on the fact that “creepy 40-year-old men” were dictating the stories. They don’t seem to recognize that much of the content, for better or worse, really wasn’t all that different from what the other teen dramas were doing — and none of those shows were led by sexual harassers, to our knowledge.
Conversely, when the co-hosts do like a storyline or how it was written, credit is never really given to the people who were responsible for it. In fact, they rarely name the writer or director of the episodes, and the only crew member to appear on the podcast to date was one of the show’s hair stylists. Their personal biases, however justified those biases are, have prevented them from objectively evaluating the show, its characters, its plots, its writing, its direction — everything. There is a shadow over it all. It also becomes hypocritical when they then complain about being asked about the situation in interviews, as Bush did last March, yet repeatedly talk about it on the podcast.
Burton, Bush, and Lenz have dumped on a lot of beloved episodes and have made me, as a fan, feel like I’m dumb or something for having loved this plot or that one. You can give constructive criticism of the show without making listeners feel badly for liking it. But even when fans have raised some of these concerns in Instagram comments, such as calling out their persistent bashing of Lucas, they have seemed to double-down and defend it. They also don’t hold their female characters to the same standards that they do some of the male characters, defending the girls for being young, messy teenagers and not giving that same grace to the boys.
Among the things that make matters worse: The women often get sidetracked with tangents about their own personal life experiences at the expense of giving the episodes the attention they deserve. (Two recent examples include stopping the episode discussion for Joy to play songs from her musical version of The Notebook and stopping the episode discussion for Joy to tell a long story about a guy she met.) When a guest is on, the episode hardly gets mentioned at all. The video clips posted are very low-quality. And despite fans literally begging and asking on Instagram every week, there is no sign that Chad Michael Murray or James Lafferty will be coming on the podcast any time soon.
To the podcast’s credit, there have been some short bonus installments called “One Tree Thrill,” in which the co-hosts answer questions submitted by fans. There have also been two online events, in which fans could pay to watch Burton, Bush, and Lenz do a podcast live. Though some of the proceeds went to charity, it feels like something that could be done without fans needing to shell out cash. Also, a few months back, “Drama Queens” announced a trivia contest in which a fan could win a Zoom chat with the women and a trip to Wilmington, North Carolina, where the show was filmed (and where I live). The questions, however, were about the podcast, not the show, and they were ridiculously hard — and I say that as someone who take notes week in and week out. But you had to get every single trivia question right to even be entered into the drawing and, despite fans asking on Instagram, the correct answers were never revealed. However, nearly two months after the contest was unveiled and then not mentioned again, the contest winner was on the podcast last week to talk about her upcoming trip.
As for some upsides, there have been some (very) sporadic times when something was discussed well, and a lot of notable recurring cast members have been on — including Bryan Greenberg, Brett Claywell, Bevin Prince, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Kieren Hutchison, Maria Menounos, Lindsey McKeon, Michael Trucco, and, most recently, Sheryl Lee. I also unabashedly love the podcast’s theme song, written by Lenz and featuring vocals from all three co-hosts.
I also want to note that, even though I am on the same side of the political spectrum as the co-hosts (or at least as Burton and Bush), it’s rather bothersome every time they get on a soapbox and start having politically minded discussions. There’s a time and place for that and this ain’t it. It’s just not the purpose of a rewatch podcast. Frankly, a lot of their conversations are not the point of a rewatch podcast. Burton, Bush, and Lenz probably would’ve been better suited just doing some kind of “girl talk”-themed podcast instead. And that brings us to the last of the four rewatch podcasts…
Show: “Beverly Hills, 90210”
Hosts: Jennie Garth, Tori Spelling, Amy Sugarman (previously Sisanie)
Launch Date: November 9, 2020
Series Regulars Who Have Appeared: Ian Ziering, Gabrielle Carteris, Carol Potter, Douglas Emerson
Series Regulars Who Haven’t Appeared: Jason Priestley, Shannen Doherty, Brian Austin Green, James Eckhouse, Tiffani Thiessen, Mark Damon Espinoza, Kathleen Robertson, Jamie Walters, Hilary Swank, Vincent Young, Lindsay Price, Daniel Cosgrove, Vanessa Marcil, Joe E. Tata
Last Installment: “Mrs. T” (Denise Dowse tribute)
It saddens me that my all-time favorite show is the subject of my least-favorite podcast. From the very start, it was clear Garth and Spelling — then joined by Sisanie — weren’t up to the task of taking a serious look at the show that set the blueprint for the teen drama genre. Week after week, the podcast barely scratched the surface of each episode, with discussions remaining superficial… if they even managed to stay on topic at all.
Significant chunks of time were lost to tangents, but more galling was the level of ignorance. Garth likes to mention how bad her memory is and uses that as an explanation for why she doesn’t remember things from the show, but that doesn’t excuse a lack of research on her and Spelling’s part. So many weeks, it felt like they couldn’t be bothered to show real interest in the episodes. And they certainly couldn’t be bothered to talk to behind-the-scenes people who would be able to answer their many questions.
Apart from a couple musical guests, creator Darren Star is the only non-cast member who has appeared on the podcast, and for months on end, Garth and Spelling would name him as the writer of episodes he didn’t write. In fact, they continued doing this for episodes that were made after Star had left the series. The amount of factual inaccuracies routinely shared on the podcast, mixed with the co-hosts’ utter cluelessness, is mind-boggling and infuriating.
After Sisanie was MIA for a while due to maternity leave, she returned for one week and then disappeared again. To this day, no explanation has been given and fans still ask what happened to her on Instagram. In her place is Sugarman, who has been both a blessing and a curse. She has gotten Garth and Spelling to focus on the episodes a lot more, has asked thought-provoking questions, and her enthusiasm at times is infectious. At other times, though, her enthusiasm is annoying, she dominates the conversation, and she can spark tangents and digress too much into the “gossip” side of things. Notably, both Sisanie and Sugarman are professed “Beverly Hills, 90210” “superfans,” but their lack of knowledge about the show has proved they’re anything but.
Furthermore, the way the podcast has covered, or not covered, certain storylines has been disappointing, and Garth has angered a good portion of her fan base by repeatedly ripping her character and taking Brenda’s side in the infamous Kelly-Dylan-Brenda love triangle. Many haven’t been shy about posting Instagram comments about the podcast’s poor quality, but that’s only led Garth and Spelling to get defensive and Sugarman to initiate pity parties in response to comments about her. The trio have also fed the toxic Brenda vs. Kelly debate, even encouraging fans to come on the podcast to defend which character they like more. It’s been 30 years. Can we stop pitting women against each other and fueling warring fandoms?
It’s quite telling that Jason Priestley and Brian Austin Green haven’t been on the podcast despite working with Garth and Spelling on “BH90210” just three years ago. But given how they’ve mocked Priestley’s height, hands, and kissing style, why would he want to participate? (They have also criticized Ziering’s wardrobe a lot and objectified him in ways that would definitely not be okay if the genders were reversed.) Same goes for Shannen Doherty — the women have said she has an open invitation to come on, but why would she want to when the podcast again and again rehashes her controversial time on the show? And no one should expect Vanessa Marcil to appear, if and when “9021OMG” even gets to season 9, given that Garth and Spelling previously used the podcast to say some unkind things after Marcil spoke out about her time on the series.
Others who have been on the podcast to date include Ann Gillespie, Matthew Laurance, Christine Elise, Josh Taylor, Stephanie Beacham, and Mark Kiely. They’ve also taken to doing some bonus interview editions called “9021 on 1” — even though they’re not actually one-on-one conversations. And, like with “Drama Queens,” there have been two virtual events, one of which had a charity component and one of which didn’t. One of them also included the producers giving Garth and Spelling old “Beverly Hills, 90210” merchandise. Do we really need to be giving them gifts and paying for live streams of the podcast? I don’t think so.
Similar to the “Drama Queens” ladies, Garth and Spelling probably should’ve just done a “girl chat” podcast. Of course, then it would’ve been harder to capitalize on the “Beverly Hills, 90210” name and fame, which is really what this endeavor is about. It’s also odd that Garth and Spelling have someone completely unconnected to the show co-hosting with them, and Spelling recently disappeared for a few weeks with no explanation (similar to Bush going MIA on “Drama Queens” with no acknowledgement for weeks).
At the rate “9021OMG” is going, it’s hard to imagine they’ll get through all 10 seasons, though Garth recently said they “will officially be coming back for another season of the pod!” But as long as they keep not doing the series justice, the podcast will remain a tremendous disappointment.
While “9021OMG” didn’t kick off the rewatch podcast genre, the concept is certainly all the rage right now. Other shows like “New Girl,” “Gilmore Girls,” and “Boy Meets World” have gotten rewatch podcasts of their own, with “Boy Meets Pod” in particular getting strong reviews for its format (guest interviews and episode discussions are separate installments). And how’s this for twisty? “Laguna Beach,” which was inspired by “The O.C.,” now has a rewatch podcast co-hosted by Stephen Colletti, who went on to star on “One Tree Hill” after his time on “Laguna Beach.”
So, are my takes on our four teen drama rewatch podcasts spot-on or off-base? Take a look at the Apple reviews for “9021OMG,” “Welcome to the OC, Bitches,” “Drama Queens,” and “XOXO” — I actually see a lot of commonalities in the comments and my assessments above, but some who feel exactly the opposite as I do. Now I want to hear from you. How would you rank the podcasts from best to worst?
I really hope producers of the podcasts read this, and take some notes. this was SO thoughful, concise and good. great job, Shari! personally, I loved hearing/seeing you on "Welcome to the O.C." (even though I don't care about the show) and I always read your "9021OMG" recaps because they were so insightful - I guess way more insightful than the podcast. I listened to about 30 installments of "Drama Queens" and liked them a lot (I will continue when I have more time) and I enjoy the tone of the three enough that it never bothers me if they are one-sided or on tangents: I just really like them (and, surprisingly, Joy!) and the speed/energy of their conversations.
Which of the four do you think has grown the most since they started? I haven't listened to OC or XOXO, but I think 90210MG has grown a bit, while, for me, Drama Queens has been fairly static.