Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pwnd! (a discussion with the minds behind The Twilight Pwn)

I name-dropped a number of Twilight Zone podcasts in yesterday's entry, including the hilarious and highly entertaining The Twilight Pwn. I've had the honor of being mentioned twice on their podcast ("Twenty Two" on 6/18/13 and "Perchance to Dream" on 8/27/13), so it brings me great pleasure to return the favor, in a sense, and present the following Q and A with John and Fred, the masterminds behind the podcast.

Who the hell are you guys, anyway?

John: I'm John.  Fred and I were roommates in college. At the time, I had some of the Twilight Zone episodes on DVD and we would occasionally watch them together.  Many years later, I acquired the Twilight Zone complete definitive collection on DVD, but never got around to watching them.  Several years after that, Fred posted a picture from the TZ episode "Uncle Simon" on my Facebook wall and the germ of The Twilight Pwn was born.

Fred: I'm Fred.  

For our less-than-slang-savvy readers, explain what “pwn” means.

John: Pwn is internet slang that means to "own" something, which in turn means to "dominate an opponent." It can also be used after making a joke at someone's expense, in the way "Burn!" or "Faced!" might be used.

Fred: I think some kid was playing Halo online, killed his friend, and typoed "You got PWNED" and history was made.  We chose the name because it was the dumbest pun we could think of.  It sets the tone nicely for the show.  

There are so many TV shows that deserve ridicule.  What is it about The Twilight Zone, in your opinion, that makes it ripe for pwning?

John: I don't know if it's ripe for pwning per se. We didn't necessarily start the podcast with the intention of tearing the show down.  Frankly, the biggest allure of the name Twilight Pwn was that it rhymed with Twilight Zone. Generally, we're just interested in talking about the episodes and things we discover while searching around the margins of the episode's creation.  We try to do it with a lighter, more snarky tone I think (a) because that's where we're naturally more comfortable and (b) because Tom Elliott had already filled the space of a more serious, reverent Twilight Zone podcast (which we both agree is the gold standard of TZ podcasts).

Fred: I think, to "pwn" something, it helps if you feel a base level of affection for it.  If you're just ragging on something, it's mean-spirited.  Even the bad episodes of the Twilight Zone I feel a kind of fondness for (except "The Bard").  I also think the fact that it's an anthology show makes it fun each week - it would get old if it was just constantly pointing something funny out about a recurring character. 

Describe your workflow for producing the podcast, start to finish. Do you record several episodes at a time? How far in advance do you record them?  I suspect you’re in different cities when you record them, but I have no proof.

John: We are indeed in separate states - I in Texas and Fred in New York.  Generally, we watch the episodes separately and take notes. I grab sound clips to use during the show.  We also search through imdb and other sources to find out about the bios of the cast & crew and related trivia. Sources usually include Marc Scott Zicree's Twilight Zone Companion, Wikipedia, whatever Google searching will uncover (including one guy's wonderfully angry free market critique of "The Brain Center at Whipple's") and Fred's recently acquired 800 page book on Twilight Zone trivia.  We also write up our Serling intros separately, preferably well in advance, but sometimes minutes before the show records (as is probably obvious).  

At a pre-arranged time we call each other up on Skype and record the conversation. We then take turns editing the hourlong rambling conversation into 35 semi-coherent minutes.  On Thursday, we load it all up and send it out into the world. We have recorded multiple episodes in one sitting once or twice in an effort to keep current on our release schedule despite vacations, travels needs, etc. We don't want to disappoint the legions of fans.

Remember when Ross slept with that drunk girl while he and Rachel were “on a break”?  Was that really cheating?  I mean, really?

Fred: That's an interesting question.  It was not "cheating" in the technical sense of the word, but it was definitely a violation of the trust they had built up.  You can't really apply the rule of law to relationships, because emotional boundaries are much more vague and contextual than legal ones.  More to the point, I think the problem was that Ross' explanation ("We were ON A BREAK!") is so outward-looking.  It's an attempt to appear blameless in the eyes of society by claiming the literal definition of what constitutes cheating.  That works if all you're trying to do is not come across as a cad to your friends.  But if he truly wanted to repair the relationship, he should have acknowledged that he had done something insensitive.  

John: I don't think so, no. But really that is a discussion for our other podcast "The Pwn about Friends."

John has never, to my knowledge, given any episode a 10. Is he impossible to please?

John:  I gave a 10 to "Walking Distance" and took some heat for it. I am difficult to please, but am a sucker for all-things nostalgia.

Fred: Throw some sentimental calliope music, a carousel, and a young Ron Howard at John and he breaks into tears and starts handing out the 10s willy-nilly. 

What’s the hands-down shittiest episode of the series?  Of the ones you’ve seen, I mean.

Fred: The Bard. It's godawful. "The Brain Center At Whipple's" is pretty bad, but something about an hour of failed comedy is so much more painful.  

John: Episodes can be bad in different ways in the same way they can be outstanding in different ways. Some are bad, but funny (Whipple's), some are just mediocre and dull, and some are just irredeemably bad. Luckily, I don't think there's many TZ episodes that fall into the third category. I will say The Bard is easily the worst thing we've watched, but even it had a small, wonderful bit with Burt Reynolds. That said, I hope to never see it again.

Do you get any sort of monetary compensation for the podcast?  If so, I’m totally starting my own competing pwncast.

John: Ha. No, so far the Twilight Pwn is still in the red. We have not looked into ways to monetize the podcast. At our level, I'm not sure how realistic that would be. It'd be nice to one day figure out a way to cover our minor expenses, but I don't think most people think, "You know how I'm gonna make my fortune? By starting a Twilight Zone podcast."

Fred: No, but we do enjoy pretending that the world of Twilight Zone podcasting is a Bloodsportian battle for dominance.  If you want to enter the Kumite, bring it on I say.  You wouldn't be the first 'caster to test our mettle, only to fall away (*cough* Twilight Highlight Zone *cough*). 

Is this y’all’s first podcast? Will it be your last?

Fred: Yes and likely yes.  

Extra credit question: If a train leaves Boston at 1:35 pm due east under severe winter weather conditions, how many hamsters will fit on the roof of your local McDonalds?

John: Is it an African or European swallow?

Fred: The answer to your question can be found only know, that zone.  

Thanks to John and Fred for indulging me. I fully expect every single reader of this blog (all 4.8 of you) to drop what you're doing and seek out The Twilight Pwn. Go, now!


Anonymous said...

Fantastic interview! Thanks for taking us behind the curtain on a highly entertaining podcast.

Mike Poteet (@Bibliomike)
Havertown, PA

Joel "Lord Dalek" Henderson said...

Never heard of this podcast before your article but now I'm following them on twitter!