Who remembers the launch of E4? Cast your mind back to those halcyon days back in January 2001, when Channel 4’s digital little sister announced itself with a fiesta of Friends, Father Ted and Big Brother’s Little Brother.
This period of time coincided with the launch of NBC sitcom Scrubs and E4 became the U.K. home for the show. With this also coinciding with me spending plenty of time at home, I’ll now forever associate the channel with Zach Braff’s hospital hijinks.
Once again finding myself with a lot of time in the house, albeit for entirely different reasons, I recently found myself re-watching Scrubs on All4, Channel 4’s on-demand streaming platform. I was quickly hit with a reminder of how old the show was, with the episodes shot in 3/4 aspect ratio rather than widescreen, dating back to a time when TV was largely watched on squares rather than oblongs.
All of which serves to highlight just how quickly technology moves on. Back in those days there was no such thing as a podcast – as was the case when iconic shows such as Twin Peaks, The Sopranos and The Simpsons were all aired for the first time. Hence why all of these titles now have several accompanying ‘re-watch’ or ‘watch through’ podcasts in which hosts dive back into the televisual past to revisit these series, episode by episode.
Typically these shows are hosted by enthusiastic fans with time on their hands. But this might be starting to change, with the pandemic playing a role: coronavirus may not be a great leveller in socio-economic terms, but when it comes to boredom, a lot of celebrities are finding themselves twiddling their thumbs as much as the rest of us.
And so enter Fake Doctors, Real Friends, launched by Scrubs starts Zach Braff and Donald Faison as lockdown restrictions became a reality in spring of last year. As we approach the one year anniversary of the show, a remarkable 80 episodes – or around seven a month – have been released.
Not only is this podcast prolific, I would also argue it is an absolute triumph of the ‘watch through’ genre. Most obviously, the stars of the show are able to offer incredible behind-the-scenes insights that no fan could hope to replicate. I love hearing about things like the boom mic operator who stood by the casts’ side for nine years but who we’d otherwise never have heard of. It’s fascinating to hear how writers began adapting characters to the actors who play them as they became more familiar with their traits.
More so, the listener is able to benefit from the hosts’ extensive contacts book, as guests involved with the show, from its creator Bill Lawrence to cast members such as John C. McGinley (Dr. Cox), pop onto the podcast. And although Braff and Faison predictably enjoy a wonderfully endearing dynamic with one another, it’s also a delight to hear them riff with their producers, Danl and Joelle, giving the whole thing a community feel.
Perhaps the thing I like most about Fake Doctors, Real Friends is the way in which the show stays true to the evolutionary spirit of podcasting, with new features regularly introduced on the fly and little of the format set in stone. One example is in how Donald Faison found himself having to summarise each episode against a 30 second clock, something that developed organically in the midst of irreverent conversation.
I can’t help but admire the innovation of some of these developments, with the podcast maker in me appreciating the mechanics behind them. Braff and Faison regularly have questions for Bill Lawrence, but he’s a busy man and I recognise all too well the production challenges that would come with trying to get his diary to align with theirs. Their solution is as simple as it is ingenious – simply ask the producer to snip out the questions, send them to Bill, and more often than not a voice note reply arrives in time to be dropped in postproduction. Another regular feature is born.
The reason I love this show is because that flexible approach is all that is great about podcasting. I firmly believe that if you spend too long off-air thinking about what your podcast is going to be, the show will suffer. Instead this is a medium that lends itself to taking your cues from the audience in near-live time, feedback and community interaction appearing on social media feeds almost as soon as an episode drops.
In many ways podcasting is something of a safe space for content creators, a laboratory for experimentation and play. If something works, take it and build upon it. If it doesn’t, quietly move it into the ether of failed podcast experiments. Fake Doctors, Real Friends is a fantastic example of the lab producing outstanding results.
GLProUK is a digital marketing agency based in London and Surrey, helping market-leading brands fulfil their content requirements. We bring a passion for innovation to our podcasts, graphic design, professional video and photography, tailoring our expertise and enthusiasm to the unique aspects of your project. We believe in making the client experience as easy as possible, whether we’re developing a full marketing strategy, fulfilling your production brief, supplying a production crew or offering post-production services.