The podcasting gold rush has arrived. There are podcasting groups, sales houses and branded content providers all rushing to join the ever expanding party.
We have reached a stage now when podcasts are being launched that have one eye on a TV show or film following soon afterwards. Sandra, the latest Gimlet podcast is often reminiscent of listening to the audio from a movie which you can’t see the pictures from yet. But you soon will, as Gimlet are developing shows with a eye on where they go next, they even have their own movie development division.
Sandra follows the highly successful Homecoming, a radio drama that brought David Schwimmer, Catherine Keener and Oscar Isaac behind a microphone. Its easy to see why this appeals to a US audience. While they are used to hearing the likes of Schwimmer voice a Madagascar animation, radio drama is a rare beast in the US marketplace.
Sandra revolves around Helen played by Search Party's Alia Shawkat, a young woman from Oklahoma who begins a new job at Orbital Teledynamics, whose primary product is a smart-speaker-like device with a virtual assistant, Sandra, voiced by Kristen Wiig.
But Sandra isn’t that virtual after all and is actually voiced by Helen. While dealing with a endless stream of users asking about birds, Sandra starts dispensing life advice and ‘helping’ people.
It’s a fascinating idea. What if your virtual assistant was a robot voice but was actually a real person talking to you at the other end. What if your smart speaker device was genuinely listening to you all the time and following your every move.
No spoilers but Helens decision to diverge away from answering questions like who would win in a fight, a sparrow or a hawk, and tackle users issues and problems has very real consequences outside of her virtual remit.
I enjoyed Sandra more than Homecoming, which often felt bogged down by the weight of its subject matter. If you didn’t listen that one, you can just wait for the movie now – with Julia Roberts.
If you liked Black Mirror there is a lot to enjoy in Sandra, and with episodes only about 20 minutes , you can binge listen all seven parts in a few hours.
The sound design, as with Homecoming, is outstanding and while there are hours and hours of first class drama to be found on Radio 4, there’s no denying that shows like Sandra are more than likely to help all drama producers reach that next generation of young drama listener