Adam’s Top 5 TV Shows of 2015

Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to be sharing our top 5s of 2015, from everyone who writes here at The Lost Lighthouse. Adam will kick off with his favourite 5 TV shows of the year.

I’m taking a quick break from the depths of writing my PhD thesis to write about some of the things I actually cared about this year, starting with TV. Yes I still find time for TV. You’ll notice that not only are all five of my picks American shows, all but one of them are comic book based TV shows. Big whup, wanna fight about it?

5. True Detective – Season 2

True Detective s2

My number 5 is the only pick that isn’t a comic book TV show, and is also potentially the most controversial choice. If you believe everything you read on the internet, the torrent of articles online about what a failure True Detective Season 2 was is pretty damning. Yet everyone I actually spoke to in person enjoyed it, maybe not as much as the first season but enjoyed it nonetheless. It seems that Season Two’s main crime was not being Season One. Sure, it was convoluted and confusing, the dialogue was overwrought and the characters hugely broken and brooding… but as for the first point, having a TV show demand your full attention and you still might not get it on the first viewing isn’t the worst problem a series can have. In fact, it can be more rewarding. And if you say that Season One wasn’t confusing and convoluted you’re a liar.

As for the second issue, as I see it overwrought dialogue and larger than life brooding characters was exactly what the show was aiming for. The writing wasn’t bad. It was specific. True Detective Season Two starred a new cast of characters in an entirely separate story from the previous season, setting the format of the show as an anthology series with an internal ethos but not a set style. The style of the second season was a brooding LA noir, and the dialogue bled that style all over.

Season Two starred Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch as Detectives Ray Velcoro, Ani Bezzerides and Officer Paul Woodrugh, brought in to investigate the murder of a man found with his eyes burned out and his body dumped out on a bench. Vince Vaughan played the man’s criminal partner Frank Semyon, now left in the lurch, and Kelly Reilly starred as his wife Jordan Semyon. As the plot developed, conspiracies reared their ugly heads, dirty cops were stabbed in the back by even dirtier cops, and criminals basically did what criminals tend to do. Also there was a guy in a raven mask.

As with the first season, the performances of the main players were really the strongest aspect of the show. I enjoyed Vince Vaughan (regardless of what everyone else seems to think, I thought he was decent) and Kitsch, but it was Farrell and McAdams as Velcoro and Bezzerides that really blew me away. While the latter generated a chaotic stress and snarkiness that constantly felt on the brink of breaking point, Velcoro was just a depressing mess of a man with a hair trigger. The tag line ‘We get the world we deserve’ drew me in, and the end of the first episode with the detectives surrounding the body, having all driven there independently drunk and blearily staring at each other for the first time, hooked me. Did I enjoy True Detective Season Two as much as the first season? Was it as good? Who gives a shit. It was it’s own beast and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Favourite part – The ridiculous shoot out and carnage with everyone at the end of ‘Down Will Come’, the other ridiculous shoot out with Woodrugh at the end of ‘Black Maps and Motel Rooms’, and the slow motion glass smash from Frank in the same episode… but my actual favourite part of every episode was the haunting intro  ‘Nevermind’ by Leonard Cohen.

4. The Flash

The flash

The CW’s Arrow show may have started off shaky, but a few episodes in it found it’s feet after the main character became less of a murdering Batman-clone with a bow and arrow. Despite how well the first season ended, I don’t think anyone predicted how good the sophomore season would be. Good job it was too, because the success of Arrow (which I enjoy a great deal) is the only reason we have the unbridled superhero fun fare that is The Flash. Arrow may be dark and gritty like most of the DC live action output these days (but nowhere near as gritty as the cinematic universe, which is mind bogglingly not connected to the TV universe), but one thing it isn’t afraid to do is embrace the extended DC universe. The Flash takes this and multiplies it by time travel and multiverses.

Grant Gustin was introduced in Arrow as Barry Allen, and I think the original idea was to have an episode of that show be the backdoor pilot for The Flash. Instead, they decided to have the accident that imbued Barry with the speed force powers of The Flash occur at the end of his appearance on Arrow, then repeated the scene in The Flash pilot. Over the first season and the half of the second we have had so far, the glee with which the showrunners have included the wackiest elements of The Flash’s rogues gallery without hesitation has been just brilliant to watch, from Weather Wizard and Mark Hamill reprising his role as The Trickster, to god damn Gorilla Grodd and briefly King Shark. But the willingness to go for broke on some of the more out-there stuff, while the show still maintains it’s audience, really impresses me. The concept of time travel is introduced incredibly early on, until eventually Barry manages to achieve it himself, and in the second season we have Earth-2 and parallel versions of villains and other characters. It’s pretty insane, but it works.

Also the cross-overs with Arrow just make it seem like everyone is having a great time making these shows, which always comes across on screen and sells both Flash and Arrow that much better. This year we had Vandal Savage, Hawkgirl and Hawkman. So happy.

Favourite part: There is a lot to choose from, but I’d probably go with Episode 15 ‘Out of Time’, when after seeing an image of himself running beside him, Barry later accidentally travels back in time, giving him the chance at a do over when things didn’t turn out so well, risking paradoxes at the same time.

Minor complaint: A bit picky of me, but there is a moment in season one where a character mentions a singularity, and Danielle Panabaker’s character Caitin Snow, a scientist, says words to the effect of “A singularity, what’s that?”. Bullshit she doesn’t know. I get that you felt the need to have someone ask the question for the exposition, but there was a  journalist and a cop in the room at the same time. Either of them would have been fine.

3. Agents of SHIELD

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I’ve gone on about how much I like SHIELD on the podcast. Everyone gave it a harder time than it deserved when it started. At worst, it was average. Then it got good. Then Winter Soldier happened and it got great. For me, it’s stayed at that level since and of all the weekly shows I watch this is the one I look forward to the most.

Season two brought in the concept of Inhumans, powered individuals that Marvel are essentially trying to use to replace the mutants (at least on screen, possibly in the comics) due to not having the rights to those characters. While still trying to deal with Hydra, Coulson has to deal with rebuilding SHIELD and these new Inhumans, whether they are threats or potential allies. The season introduced some great new characters, in particular Adrianne Palicki as Mockingbird, but also brings some huge changes to the original cast too, some through emotional depth and some through physical change. The added growth in all the characters that started in the first season was really fleshed out in the second (and more so so far in the third), in particular for Skye, who Coulson spent a lot of the time telling everyone how special she was and important early on in season one, while the show only really started to show us why later. That has led to a really strong father-daughter relationship from Clark Gregg and Chloe Bennet that has been really enjoyable to watch.

Season three so far has brought in Inhumans into a Secret Warriors plotline, as well as other worlds and Powers Boothe. All great stuff.

Favourite part: This scene in Season 2 Episode 19 ‘The Dirty Half Dozen’ where Skye straight up John Wick’s a bunch of Hydra goons in a brilliant single take tracking shot.

 

2. Daredevil

Daredevil

Daredevil marked the first of the announced Marvel and Netflix collaboration shows – 13 episode series dropped onto the streaming service in one go ready to be binge-watched. Putting aside the issues that many have with this model, some of which I agree with (in the rush to avoid spoilers, burning through the series in days compresses the enjoyment), after a shall we say ‘poorly received’ movie, I think there was a certain level of apprehension with how Daredevil would turn out, and what that would mean for the series to come. We really shouldn’t have worried.

Daredevil drastically shifted tone from the rest of the MCU, taking it to a dark, brutal and bloody place that it hasn’t gone to yet and set the stage for what is to come with the rest of the Netflix shows. Charlie Cox played the Man Without Fear brilliantly, with Elden Henson and Deborah Ann Woll as his friends Foggy Nelson and Karen Page effectively playing his drinking buddies and grounding him when he became too dark and driven, Vondie Curtis-Hall as the driven journalist Ben Urich, and Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple, a nurse who fixes up Matt Murdock when he is cut up and beaten within an inch of his life. But as good as they all were, Vincent D’Onofrio really stole the show as Wilson ‘Kingpin’ Fisk, a tortured leviathan of a man who took the whole 13 episodes to realise that his methods for ‘saving’ Hell’s Kitchen actually made him a monster, all while providing a mirror for Cox’s Matt Murdock to ask if he was really any different.

The connecting threads between everything in the MCU are always icing on the cake, and its difficult to know whether it is better to go overt like the crossovers between movies, the show altering changes that SHIELD has in response to the films, or to take a more subtle approach. I think the Daredevil writers made the right call in keeping it subtle, instead using the ‘Battle of New York’ from the first Avengers film as a reason for a now affluent and gentrified Hell’s Kitchen being run down and struggling again, but not having any overt cameos or camera winks.

Due to the critical and fan response to Daredevil, a second season has already gone into production and we’ll be getting that in 2016 along with Luke Cage. This time they’re bringing in Élodie Yung as Electra and Jon Bernthal as The Punisher, one of my favourite Marvel characters. I really couldn’t be more excited about this.

Favourite part: Pretty much the same as everyone’s. Daredevil had some amazing action sequences, but I don’t think they ever topped the hallway fight at the end of episode 2 ‘Cut Man’. Brutal.

 

1. Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones

I’ll admit, Jessica Jones may only be number one because of how recently it came out, in that same whole-season-dump-at-once model as Daredevil, but I’m halfway through revisiting it already and think it is a superb piece of TV. After the first Marvel show from Netflix was such a success, I was very much looking forward to the next one. This second show just came out last month, proving that Daredevil wasn’t just a fluke and pushing the dark, more adult MCU even further than the violence and brutality of Daredevil. Instead of being a dark action show though, thematically and stylistically Jessica Jones is a brooding and intense noir, telling the tale of an alcoholic private investigator with super strength who, after an abortive attempt to become a superhero than ends very badly, is washed-up and struggling to make enough to pay for her cheap whiskey.

The show centers around Jessica, played by Krysten Ritter, clashing with the man who was responsible for her fall from grace. Kilgrave, played chillingly by David Tennant, has the ability to control anyone just by giving them a command. Anything from telling you to throw a drink in your own face to jumping off the top of a building, the victim is compelled to do whatever he says. This terrifying power provides the show with some incredibly dark and weighty subject matter, with consent and compulsion at the forefront. It’s all handled brilliantly, and Ritter and Tennant are just excellent to watch.

The supporting cast is largely great too (I found the upstairs neighbours a little dull), in particular Rachael Taylor as Trish Walker, Jessica’s best friend, Carrie-Ann Moss as Jeri Hogarth, a well respected lawyer who trades favours with Jessica, Eka Darville as Malcolm, the tragic junkie neighbour, and Mike Coulter as Luke Cage, a bartender who she’s been following for a case. Coulter is especially exciting, as Luke Cage is the star of the next Netflix series coming (after Daredevil Season 2) and I thought he was great here.

Favourite part: Jessica not giving a bag of dicks what her neighbour thinks. In fact basically all of Jessica’s dialogue.

What were your favourite TV shows of this year? Let us know!

Adam

Honourable mention goes to: Doctor Who, which I felt was a huge improvement over last year partially due to the inclusion of two parters that have been sorely missing over the last couple of series, but more to do with Peter Capaldi really settling in to the role and delivering some superb performances; Rick and Morty, a show I burned through in about 24 hours after being told about it. Incredibly funny, inventive and very, very bleak; Parks and Recreation, which I only started watching last year but has become one of my favourite shows, and its final season somehow delivered a satisfying ending for an entire cast of brilliant characters while maintaining the heart-warming and sincere yet funny edge the show always had without seeming cheesy or unearned; Archer, which continues to be hilarious even this far in, and I can’t wait for season 7 in the new year; and Agent Carter, which was basically a joy to watch, Hayley Atwell owned the screen (and I’m glad they keep bringing her in as Peggy at different ages in the MCU) in an excellent period piece where the world was even more embarrassingly unequal than it is now. Plus she beat the shit out of a lot of people. Bring on season 2.

London MCM Comic Con – Day 3: ‘Who Run The World? Girls!’ Panel

Adam headed off to the MCM Comic Con Expo in London this weekend. This is what he saw.

For the last day of London Comic Con this year I spent a large amount of the day admiring the great art in the Comics Village (and picked up a couple of indie comics that I’ll be reviewing over the next couple of weeks), saw some more excellent cosplay and headed over to a couple more panels.

Who Run the World? GIRLS!!! Panel

The final panel I went to, and the last thing I did at London Comic Con this year, was the ‘Who Run the World? GIRLS!!!’ panel (named after the Beyoncé song, which is terrible but has a decent sentiment). This was another Q&A with a large panel of female actors from various television shows, including Felicia Day (The Guild, Supernatural), Willa Holland (Arrow), Rila Fukushima (Arrow), Victoria Smurfitt (Once Upon A Time), Merrin Dungey (Once Upon A Time), Renee Felice Smith (NCIS:LA), Emily Wickersham (NCIS), Annie Wersching (The Vampire Diaries, The Last of US, 24) and Jadyn Wong (Scorpion), hosted by Yael Tygiel.

The assembled panel went through their various roles and the opportunities they have had to kick ass on TV, and the influences they’ve had such as Buffy, She-Ra and Anne of Green Gables (bit of an odd one). The main thrust of the panel was really towards the strides that have been made in recent years for more strong female characters in genre television and TV in general, no longer the just the “damsels in distress” any more and according to Day “not just dressed in leather kicking a man in the face” but genuinely strong, well rounded characters that could feasibly carry the show on their own, rather than just being in the background as the romantic interest or relation for the lead actor.

When asked about where they think this sea change has come from, it was attributed to there being more women behind the camera as well as in front, having people of the opposite gender actively participant in this change rather than obstructing it (Werching gave the example of Neil Druckmann and Naughty Dog actually having to fight the higher ups to have Ellie on the front cover of The Last of Us, which seems insane to me), and production companies realising that a huge proportion of their audience hasn’t been adequately represented, so if they want to actually keep making money they needed to start rectifying that or allowing writers and directors to rectify it for them. It was pointed out that the success of Frozen speaks to this, a film where the problem is solved without needing to turn to a man for help (I’m told, I haven’t actually seen it as it looks like there is a lot of singing and joy involved), that has become the most successful Disney film and one of the highest grossing films of all time.

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Next time I’m going to take an actual camera, because the photos off my phone (especially in the panels) have been shocking

 

They spoke about how in panels they often get asked about the men on their show, for example Willa Holland has to constantly tell people that it isn’t actually difficult working with Stephen Amell or playing the part of his sister. I imagine that must get very tedious, and it reminded me of the Avengers press junket stories where they had Mark Ruffalo answering the questions put to Scarlett Johansson, highlighting the ridiculousness of the disparity between the sort of questions asked towards women and men.

When asked about getting into acting by an audience member, Dungey (who plays Ursula in Once Upon A Time) said that you really need to get a thick skin, because “not everyone is going to like you, and it doesn’t matter”, relating some emails she was accidentally copied into where someone she had to keep working with insulted her, and commenting on the recent Sony email leaked emails from Amy Pascal. She and the rest of the panel also talked about how being a role model to female fans, and how showing off strong capable women can only be a good thing, while making sure those portrayals are nuanced and can have flaws rather than being unrealistic.  Her OUAT co-star Victoria Smurfitt (who plays Cruella), when asked about playing female villains and how it works compared with the male villains, stated “You only use your fists when your brain isn’t working love” (which explains why I keep breaking my computer at work) speaking to the more complex nature of her role.

The question about progress for queer and trans characters in television was also brought up, a fair but difficult subject, to which Dungey said that in her opinion it was “all happening, maybe not as fast as we would like” citing a character like a positive character like Laverne in Orange is the New Black as evidence that we are hopefully heading in the right direction. And I certainly agree with the sentiment, we would all like to already be in a situation where the actual make up of our society is accurately and fairly represented in our media, without the need for any extra attention being drawn to it because it is just the reality of things. And we are making progress, with a few speed bumps along the way, but hopefully we’ll get there sooner rather than later.

Finally, the panel was asked about how they deal with their frustrations with the job, be it wine, working out (Holland said punching her male stunt coordinator helped) or making sure they talked through their issues with any member of a production, and they were also asked what motivates them. Holland spoke about the opportunity to play strong roles, Wersching to act in a way that would make her mother proud and to “show up on time and know your shit”, and Dungey said it was for her kids, and to show them how proud she was going out, working hard and making a living at something she loves.

When I got the London Comic Con schedule through this panel jumped out as the part of the weekend I considered unmissable, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. It was great to see the line up of great women, some of whose work I am more familiar with than others, and see it celebrated on this scale with a huge audience, asking interesting questions and getting impassioned, empowered responses. People spoke about the ‘Golden Age of Television’ and maybe that is true. It looks to me like one aspect that could certainly make it that would be this far better representation of women in our media we are starting to see, and a panel like this that celebrates that can only extend that.

 

Adam

London MCM Comic Con – Day 2: Panels – Felicia Day and Arrow

Adam headed off to the MCM Comic Con Expo in London this weekend. This is what he saw.

I was running a little late on Saturday morning (no reason, I was busy eating cereal and watching Person of Interest) but still managed to make it in time for the first of the two panels I wanted to make it to throughout the day.

Felicia Day – Geek Goddess (actual name of the panel, I didn’t come up with that)

Felicia Day

Felicia Day is hands down, one of the most genuinely charming and funny people I have ever seen in person. If you don’t know who she is, Day has acted in a whole host of genre television including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog, in addition to starring in her own web series The Guild and creating a veritable nerd empire with the Geek and Sundry Youtube channel, which we at The Lost Lighthouse are pretty big fans of.

Day came out and spoke pretty quickly, admitting that she had already drunk a lot of coffee that morning. The set up of the panel was largely a Q&A, where fans queued up next to some microphones and shot some questions towards the stage. Before that, she talked briefly about her upcoming book ‘You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost)’ (which you can preorder on her site here), Welsh mouths and being so cramped on the tube at 6 15am that she and another person were basically inside each other (“I don’t even get that close to my friends”).

Then the questions started, There was, admittedly a huge bias towards questions regarding her character on Supernatural. I have yet to get round to watching even a single episode of Supernatural, though I’m sure I would actually like it (especially as it has Mark Sheppard in it), so a lot of this flew over my head but sounded fairly interesting. A recurring theme of the Q&A was how “very killable” she has turned out to be in her television work, and how she likes to try to make herself heavily whenever someone has to carry her in a scene.

Due to her involvement with Tabletop on Geek and Sundry she said her favourite board game at the moment was Lords of Waterdeep, a D&D strategy game, and how she used to freak out about people’s greasy hands all over her game pieces when she invited friends round for board games and pizza. She was asked about the character based on her in Dead of Winter and for tips on how to survive with her character, to which she responded that the character was overpowered and he advice was to just “play better”. With regards to Geek and Sundry, while not revealing much, Day spoke about the content they have coming up revolving around shorter, faster shows in particular.

The rest of the Q&A (aside from even more Supernatural questions) was filled out with fans asking for advice on getting in to acting and following your passions, and also a very nervous girl bringing Day some fan art that she genuinely seemed to appreciate. In fact she spoke about how she gets very attached to gifts from fans, only mentioning one she threw away – a sculpture of her made of hair, which to me is mind-blowingly terrifying but I guess if you really try to see the compliment in it it’s kind of sweet? Maybe? The last question asked about how she got into using YouTube as a medium, and she described the internet as somewhere where we can “be who we are and not be ashamed for it”, which is something I’ve never really thought about. I get so caught up in how genuinely awful people can be and regularly are online, that I tend to overlook what it has actually done not only for our counter cultures, but what a force for good it has the potential to be and often has been.

UPDATE – If you want to watch the panel, MCM have put it up on their YouTube channel here

 

Arrow: Heroes & Assassins (again, what the panel was called)

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I’m a big fan of the CW’s Arrow show, aired over here in the UK by SkyOne. Based on the DC Comics character Green Arrow, the show follows Oliver Queen (played by Stephen Amell) in his quest to fight crime in Starling City, while dealing with an increasingly powerful array of villains. For this panel, Willa Holland (who plays Oliver’s sister Thea), Karl Yune (Maseo Yamashiro from Season 3) and Rila Fukushima (Tatsu Yamashiro, also from Season 3) had all come over to London to discuss the show and field some Q&As from the assembled fans (if anything the room was even more packed than for Felicia Day).

There were questions about the martial arts on the show, which have only increased through the third season with the League of Assassins storyline, and the cast guessed that they probably do around 30% of their own stunts (Yune said almost none, to which Holland objected) but Amell tries to do as much as possible. They were asked what super powers any of them would like to have, with Holland immediately answering The Flash or “Bridget Allen”. She revealed herself to be a pretty big DC comics fan from a young age, to the point that when she got the chance to do some of the more bad-ass stuff Thea gets up to later on in the series she got pretty emotional (I would have too). I always like hearing when an actor playing a character in any sort of adaptation I watch is actually a big fan of the source material. It doesn’t detract from a performance when they’re not, but it does enhance my appreciation of their work when they are!

I was actually, somewhat embarrassingly, taken aback by how friendly and personable Willa Holland was, as aside from her substantial character progression in season 3, I have only ever seen her play fairly bratty characters (which is a ridiculous thing to say, as playing negative characters doesn’t guarantee you are a negative person any more than playing a nice, funny person guarantees that you’re not a a bastard in real life). All three of the Arrow cast members at Expo were genuinely nice and interesting people. Yune got a fair few questions about some of his more emotional scenes near the end of the season, which he preferred out of the flashbacks and current scenes (he went flashback) and what his experiences as a Korean-American were like with finding roles that weren’t typecast or stereotypical. Fukashima started off fairly shy and quiet, and while she did have a interpreter to help her with a couple of time she was struggling to express herself, she came into her own later on and it was interesting to hear about her experiences preparing for Arrow and how they compared to her work in The Wolverine playing Yukio (I totally did not connect that it was her).

Of course someone asked them which they all preferred, DC or Marvel, near the end. Holland, whether it was genuine or just brand loyalty/towing the company line, answered incredibly quickly, while Yune and Fukashima tried to be diplomatic before falling on DC’s side. Finally, someone asked the fairly complex question of whether any of them thought that the comic book/superhero adaptation bubble would be bursting any time soon, to which Yune replied that the fascination would last forever. A nice thought, and I certainly hope it will, but nothing lasts forever. To quote The Vision, “that’s what makes it beautiful”.

Two things that I found slightly odd about the panel were due entirely to the nature of the crowd. Firstly, more than one question was repeated later on by someone that either wasn’t listening, was hoping to catch the cast out or had just joined the queue and heard their question asked, and decided to ask it again anyway. Fukushima was asked more than once, for example, about potential inclusion in the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow series, despite already answering that they are kept largely in the dark about those sorts of plans, and anything they do know they can divulge yet. The second was concerning spoilers, and people’s reactions to when they were said out loud by the fans asking the questions. On the one hand, the Arrow season finale only aired this week in the UK, and last week in the states. On the other, I find it odd that anyone would go to a panel involving the cast of a series that has aired it’s season finale without actually watching it. Some outrage even came when events were mentioned that happened in earlier episodes too. Despite that, the cast dealt with it well and skated round spoiling anything themselves, calling people out for spoiling plot point for others too. This panel was an interesting look at the making of the show, and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next in Season 4.

 

I’m going to be heading to a few more panels on the last day of London Comic Con, along with checking out some more cosplay and spending a few hours looking around the art in the Comic Village. More on all of that tomorrow!

Adam

 

 

 

The Never Weekly, Sometimes Not At all Argument: Which Is The Best Comic Book TV Show This Season?

The Lost Lighthouse: The Weekly Rapture 19 – Native American Burial Ground

Welcome back to The Weekly Rapture, brought to you by The Lost Lighthouse. This week we chat about the best weapon for a zombie apocalypse, new Smash Bros. characters, Bioware looking for fan feedback for ME4 and possible DC/WB missed opportunities, while Gary reveals he is an awful geek and Adam tries and fails to make a salient point about the best way to promote gender and race in comics.

The main talking point this week was the Alien series. We discuss the films and what we love and hate about them, and how excited we are for Alien: Isolation later this year and that original Nostromo crew DLC coming too. We also try really hard not to be too negative about Prometheus again.

Doctor Who trailer

If you have any thoughts. questions or opinions anything this week you can as always get in touch through Facebook or on Twitter @lost_lighthouse, email us at thelostlighthouse@live.co.uk or sound off in the ‘leave a reply’ box at the bottom of the podcast page on the website.

 

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