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TV fans can’t be expected to just sit down on the couch and watch the boob tube ALL day long. One has to take a break every now and then, to get up and take out the trash or raise a kid or whatever. In dire times like those, you need something portable and audio-friendly; like, say, a podcast! While you think you want to find a podcast focused on the shows you’re currently watching, what you actually need to listen to is TV Guidance Counselor, a slice of delicious nostalgia courtesy of Boston stand-up comedian and all-around brainiac Ken Reid. I can’t promise that younger listeners will appreciate it as much as anyone over 25 or so, but it’s an endless treasure trove for anyone with a passion for TV history.
What’s the Premise?Herein lies the genius of TV Guidance Counselor. The early-thirtysomething Reid is an avid collector of all things TV-related, and he happens to own every issue of TV Guide from around 1980-1995. In each episode, Reid and a guest take one issue and dissect each day’s primetime schedule, picking out the shows they would have watched at that time (or currently, when hindsight rears its head). It’d be one thing if their choices were just namechecked and glossed over, but Reid excels in delivering information about even the most mundane or short-lived of series, often coupled with hilarious and insightful childhood memories from Reid and his guests, who are almost all comedians and actors.
You listen to one episode, and you get a really fun and knowledgeable podcast experience. After multiple episodes, you’ll notice that TV Guidance Counselor is more like a social time capsule than a mere podcast. Because of the specific timespan, the show recaptures a time when cable was still in its fringe days and network TV ruled all; when self-awareness was held to a minimum, and repeated concepts and ideologies were as much a sign of the times as they were back in TV’s earliest years. Relive the Night Stalker through Punky Brewster’s fear center, witness the decline of a series through craftily-worded TV Guide episode descriptions from successive years, and remember the days when TV knew how to represent blue-collar families and shows like Kate and Allie could be a hit even though they were based on the lives of divorced 40-year-old women. (Gasp!)
Who are the Guests?Like any podcast worth its weight in laughs, TV Guidance Counselor has drawn in an impressively varied crowd of talent in its first 27 episodes, and most of them are his friends. He starts off with wordsmith Myq Kaplan (who has his own extremely enjoyable podcast), and welcomes other excellent comics like Lamont Price, Bethany Van Delft, Jenny Zigrino, Josh Gondelman and many more. If you haven’t heard of these comedians before, you’ll definitely be looking up some of their non-TV material afterward.
Don’t worry, though, there are certainly guests that everyone is familiar with. The picture above shows Reid standing next to Danny Tamberelli, the younger brother on Nickelodeon’s stellar series The Adventures of Pete & Pete. Just the Ten of Us star JoAnn Willette stops by for a great installment, as well as original Saturday Night Live cast member and voice actress Laraine Newman. I will listen to absolutely anything involving the sadistically sweet comedian/actress Laura Kightlinger and the intelligently silly co-founder of The State Michael Ian Black, so you can bet I was overjoyed that Reid also roped them into it. In the latest episode, released last week, Reid talks Russian porn and Tales from the Darkside with Silicon Valley star Kumail Nanjiani.
What Kind of Shows are Covered?Everything! Seriously. Reid is not the kind of guy who steps gingerly through his premise, and seemingly climbs up every branch of the television spectrum, from local public access to the greatest hits of those years. The ratings war between The Cosby Show and The Simpsons may be followed by a description of the cheesiest B-movie in the world aired as part of USA’s Up All Night. Listen to differing opinions on the longevity of Seinfeld’s worth in the same conversation as why Green Acres is one of the greatest spinoffs in history. Reid has a fondness for Growing Pains and Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, while always shitting on Mama’s Family and Doogie Howser, M.D., and he’s got trivia to go with every opinion.
Just as fun are the episodes that follow a theme, such as the full-day Summer Special, but you’ll definitely want to seek out the two Saturday Morning Specials. Assuming, of course, that you spent years of your life enjoying the thrill of an entire morning devoted to random ass children’s television. (In the days before Saturday morning stopped showing cartoons, and other places started showing them 24 hours a day.) Some of the series discussed set off synapses in my head that hadn’t happened in 20 years or so. Even when it’s just a normal primetime episode, a guest will sometimes pick an issue centered on a certain holiday, like Halloween, or a week when all the new fall shows are premiering. It’s amazing how many canceled series I’ve completely forgotten about, at a time when shows weren’t canceled by the dozens.
Beyond the actual programming, Reid also refers to the actual TV Guide often, usually for episode descriptions, but also for the “Cheers and Jeers” section, which he reads off at the end of most of the podcasts. And if you’re really lucky, he finds a movie that justifies a flip to the back of the Guide where all the movie synopses and ratings are.
Where Can I Find it?TV Guidance Counselor channels up new episodes every week, and you can listen to the first episode with Myq Kaplan below, just because you’re such a cool person and you deserve it.
Find all of Reid’s small screen adventures on the podcast’s Tumblr page, the Facebook page and, of course, on iTunes. It’ll be the best subscription you’ve ever had, other than the one for TV Guide of course.