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Original Content podcast: Just don’t watch Netflix’s ‘Holidate’ with your parents

You might think that a new Netflix film called “Holidate” offers holiday-themed romance that’s perfect for a family watch party. You’d be wrong.
The film stars Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey as a pair of strangers who agree (in classic romantic comedy style) to keep each other company on holidays.
And while the movie can’t be completely pigeonholed as a raunchy comedy — it also includes a dash of metatextual commentary, with a healthy dose of undiluted romantic schmaltz — “Holidate” is certainly filled with sexually frank dialogue, and a couple of its biggest set pieces go all-in on …

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Original Content podcast: ‘The Crown’ introduces its Princess Diana

“The Crown,” Netflix’s lavish historical drama about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, has returned for a fourth season that focuses on Elizabeth’s relationship with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and on Prince Charles’ troubled marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales.

We’ve had conflicting opinions about the show’s past seasons, and the new season hasn’t exactly settled those disagreements, as we explain on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast.

Anthony and (especially) Jordan remain fans of the show, and they found season four to be particularly compelling. Yes, the monarchy is a little ridiculous and “The Crown” does have a tendency to simplify real-world events, but its retelling of the Charles-Diana relationship is heartbreaking, and it also takes the time to show some of the damage wrought by Thatcher’s policies.

Darrell, on the other hand, remains a skeptic, with little patience for all the attention paid to the royal family. He was particularly exasperated by the show’s deviation from historical reality, and by performances (particularly Gillian Anderson as Thatcher) that felt more like cheesy, “Saturday Night Live”-style imitations.

In addition to reviewing the show, we also discuss this week’s announcement that “Wonder Woman 1984” will be premiering in both theaters and on HBO Max on December 25.

You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

If you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:30 “Wonder Woman 1984” discussion
10:45 “The Crown” Season 4 review (mild spoilers)

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Mixtape podcast: Building a structural DEI response to a systemic issue with Y-Vonne Hutchinson

It’s time for another episode of Mixtape, where we take a look at diversity, inclusion, equity and the human labor that powers tech. This week we spoke to Y-Vonne Hutchinson, the CEO of ReadySet, a consulting firm that works with companies to create more inclusive and equitable work environments.

Hutchinson tells us that the work she did for 10 years in international human rights, labor rights law and advocacy helped prepare her for the work she does today.

“My last job was in Nicaragua where I was working with sugarcane workers who were dying of occupational illness,” she says. “And it was generational…that’s the power of structural violence. And work is like an incredible vector for that.”

She tells us she began to research international labor protection and pursue doctorate work, but instead decided to move to Silicon Valley in 2015 and pursue the future of work with ReadySet .

“Diversity, equity and inclusion was the future of work issue — who gets access to high opportunity employment and how people are treated at work and what that means for their own personal outcomes.”

Five years on from the launch of ReadySet, Hutchinson says she sees companies change the way they approach equitable workplaces. And it’s hard to avoid the fact that the pandemic, having locked us all in place to watch the video of police killing George Floyd, has had an impact on the way people navigate society’s structures of racism and policing.

“In terms of how our companies are responding, I definitely do see more of an emphasis on having a structural response, and thinking about their complicity and structurally exclusionary systems. What does that mean for them?” she says. “I think now there are some positive indications that companies are looking at that. They’re looking beyond just ‘let’s do an unconscious bias training,’ which is what they were asking for in 2015. And asking for more structural work — more work exclusively focused on anti-racism and really unpacking harm. But is that sustainable? Is that something that’s going to be continuing to the long term? You know, at this stage? I don’t know.”

More on this as well as an examination of what we can expect under a Biden administration. Click play above and subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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At The Ringer, Staff Writers Say They Are Second-String

The head coach of the Golden State Warriors. A former ace of the New York Yankees. A onetime star of “The Bachelorette.”

Steve Kerr, C. C. Sabathia and Rachel Lindsay were among the roughly 25 outside contributors to host or co-host new podcasts this year at The Ringer, the digital media company founded and run by the former ESPN personality Bill Simmons. The influx of celebrity talent being brought on as contractors has raised concerns among many full-time employees, who say it may close off their opportunities for advancement and weaken the company’s union.

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Credit…Willie J. Allen Jr./Associated Press

The Ringer, an outlet with a website and a podcasting network focused on sports and pop culture, became the property of Spotify this year in a roughly $200 million deal. The addition of The Ringer, with its more than 30 podcasts, has helped accelerate Spotify’s transition from a music-streaming platform into a general audiostreaming company.

Months before the Spotify deal, employees formed The Ringer Union, which is affiliated with the Writers Guild of America, East, and has about 65 members. Ringer management quickly recognized the union, but negotiations toward a collective bargaining agreement have stalled, and the company’s move toward outside contributors has been a sticking point.

Last month two Ringer employees with large followings — Jason Concepcion and Haley O’Shaughnessy — announced they were leaving. Several Ringer employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal matters, said that Mr. Concepcion and Ms. O’Shaughnessy had decided to leave after pay disputes. Mr. Concepcion declined to comment; Ms. O’Shaughnessy did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Concepcion, who had co-hosted a pop culture podcast and served as the main host of an Emmy-winning video program, left for Crooked Media, a podcasting company founded by Obama White House alumni. Ms. O’Shaughnessy, who had written on sports and appeared on The Ringer’s basketball podcasts, has joined Blue Wire, a sports podcasting network, where she plans to have an N.B.A. podcast.

The departure of the two homegrown stars, along with the arrival of high-profile outsiders, underscored concerns among many staff members that Mr. Simmons favored an approach that would allow him to produce a significant amount of content with contractors, who are not eligible for the union.

Mr. Concepcion and Ms. O’Shaughnessy left during a period of change that began in February, after Mr. Simmons announced the Spotify sale and started adding more big names to his booming podcast network, a roster that now includes the former N.B.A. player Raja Bell, the former ESPN personality Jemele Hill and the CNN commentator Bakari Sellers.

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Credit…Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images For Spotify

Ringer employees say Mr. Simmons showed signs of trying to marginalize the union dating back to when it was formed last year. Kate Knibbs, a staff writer who left for Wired in December, said that Mr. Simmons unfollowed her on Twitter after she indicated her support for the union and that he stopped promoting her work on Twitter. Three other Ringer employees at the time, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation, said Mr. Simmons unfollowed them after they expressed support for the union as well.

The employees said the move was damaging to them because Mr. Simmons’s Twitter account, with its millions of followers, was a significant source of web traffic. Mr. Simmons declined to comment.

Around the same time, Mr. Simmons hired Ryen Russillo, a former ESPN colleague, to host a podcast. The union sought to include Mr. Russillo but management resisted, and the union eventually agreed to leave him out. Since that dispute, high-profile podcast hosts have joined The Ringer as contractors, who are ineligible to become union members, rather than as employees.

Four staff writers started at The Ringer this year, and several staff writers have received podcasting opportunities. Still, outside contractors have joined the company at a faster rate than employees, who complain that it is difficult to move up within the organization.

During negotiations, the union has made proposals that would limit the use of contractors and create a transparent system allowing staff writers to earn promotions based on seniority or achievements.

“If Spotify wants to make strides in original content they should do so by respecting the values of creators and recognizing our requests for guaranteed across-the-board annual increases, ownership of our derivative works and IP, and editorial pathways to promotion,” The Ringer Union said in a statement.

Ringer management has consistently rejected the union’s proposal on promotions without making a counteroffer, said two people with knowledge of the negotiations, which are continuing. Management made a counteroffer on the contractor proposal, and the two sides are still negotiating over the issue.

Spotify’s acquisition of The Ringer has brought benefits to staff members, including equity in the company and a monthly food stipend during much of the coronavirus pandemic. The increase in podcast content has also allowed The Ringer to increase the number of employees, such as producers.

“Throughout 2020, The Ringer has continued to hire new employees, increase the compensation of existing staff, prioritize diversity and invest in our business,” a Ringer spokesman said in a statement.

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Equity Shot: Airbnb’s IPO is finally here

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

Today we have an Equity Shot for you about Airbnb’s S-1 filing, as it looks to go public before the year is out.

  • First we get into Airbnb’s macro performance, which shows a stable-picture historical revenue growth. There are a ton of numbers to get to so get ready for a quick dive into net revenue, gross margins and losses.
  • Then we discuss the dramatic drop in bookings, the promising comeback and if short-term travel is Airbnb’s future.
  • There’s a weird quarter of profitability that you should all know about, and a heads-up on what to look for in Q4 numbers.
  • Finally, we talk about the bullish and bearish case on Airbnb, which poetically filed the same day that Moderna announced a promising vaccine trial. 

All that, and our trusty other host Danny Crichton was busy filing a post about the winners and losers of the Airbnb IPO. Ownership, you quiet, billionaire beast. There’s more coming from TechCrunch on the company’s IPO, and from the Equity crew on everything else we ferret out on Thursday. Stay tuned!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT and Thursday afternoon as fast as we can get it out, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

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Original Content podcast: ‘The Vow’ offers a muddled look at the NXIVM cult

“The Vow” is a fascinating documentary, but we can’t quite recommend it whole-heartedly.

As we discuss on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, HBO’s new docuseries tells the story of NXIVM (pronounced nex-ee-um), a self-improvement company that was subsequently revealed as a sex cult, with its leader Keith Raniere sentenced to 120 years in prison.

The core story is both compelling and horrifying. And “The Vow” features an astonishing amount of footage showing Raniere and other high-level NXIVM members at work — for that reason alone, the series is worth watching for anyone interested in the NXIVM story.

However, it’s also hampered by some unfortunate storytelling choices. For one thing, by parceling the story out over nine hour-long episode, the series often feels unnecessarily drawn out and repetitive.

And by focusing on a handful of high-ranking NXIVM members who subsequently became important whistleblowers and critics (including Mark Vicente, the filmmaker responsible for a great deal of that behind-the-scenes footage), “The Vow” has also opened itself up to criticism that it downplays the stories of Raniere’s true victims and obscures the extent of his crimes (unlike the Starz documentary “Seduced”) .

In addition to reviewing the series, we also discuss the latest Disney+ growth numbers and the new season of “The Bachelorette.”

You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

If you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Introduction
0:45 Disney+ discussion
7:40 “The Bachelorette” discussion
30:48 “The Vow” review

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Original Content podcast: ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ is the historical chess drama we need right now

On paper, “The Queen’s Gambit” might not sound like a compelling drama: Based on a novel by Walter Tevis, the Netflix series tells the story of Beth Harmon as she rises through the world of competitive chess, eventually taking on the world champion from the Soviet Union.

But on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, your hosts are unanimous in their love for the series. We talk a bit about some of the flaws (a setup-heavy first episode, the unsatisfying treatment of Beth’s friend Jolene), but for the most part, we’re happy to spend our time praising the show.

Some of that has to do with the period setting — “The Queen’s Gambit” traces Beth’s life through the 1950s and ’60s, with some delightfully retro sets and costumes, along with a clear-eyed approach towards the condescension and sexism that Beth faces in her early matches.

At the same time, it’s Beth (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) who pulls you through all eight episodes as they depict her complex relationship with her foster mother, her struggles with substance abuse and her friendships with other chess players. While Beth has a handful traits you’ll recognize from other difficult geniuses portrayed on-screen, she’s ultimately too complex to boil down to a single idea or logline.

And while you don’t need to know much about chess to enjoy “The Queen’s Gambit,” the show’s focus on character and personality allows it to depict competitive chess in a way that is, in fact, thrilling.

You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

f you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
4:28 “The Queen’s Gambit” review
34:11 “The Queen’s Gambit” spoiler discussion

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Original Content podcast: Bill Murray’s charm can’t hide the sadness of ‘On the Rocks’

“On the Rocks,” a new film on Apple TV+, focuses on a troubled marriage between Laura (a writer played by Rashida Jones) and Dean (a startup executive played by Marlon Wayans). When Laura begins to suspect Dean of cheating on her, she turns to her father Felix (Bill Murray) for help.

The film reunites Murray with his “Lost in Translation” director Sofia Coppola. It can feel feather-light at times, thanks to his seemingly effortless charm — it’s hard to resist Felix when he’s singing to a bar full of strangers or devouring caviar during an impromptu stakeout. But the script and performances also make it painfully clear that he’s let Laura down as a father, and that her disappointment hasn’t gone away.

As we discuss on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, we loved watching beautifully shot footage of Murray and Jones in classic New York City bars and restaurants. We were, however, a bit less satisfied with the ending, which doesn’t really do justice to all the thorny emotional issues that the film raises.

In addition to reviewing “On the Rocks,” we also discuss Netflix’s imminent U.S. price increase and the new trailer for the pandemic thriller “Songbird”.

You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:35 “Emily in Paris” listener response
4:50 “Songbird” trailer discussion
9:14 Netflix price discussion
15:50 “On the Rocks” review
33:00 “On the Rocks” spoiler discussion

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Original Content podcast: ‘Lovecraft Country’ is gloriously bonkers

As we tried to recap the first season of HBO’s “Lovecraft Country,” one thing became clear: The show is pretty nuts.

The story begins by sending Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Majors), his friend Leti Lewis (Jurnee Smolett) and his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) on a road trip across mid-’50s America in search of Tic’s missing father. You might assume that the search will occupy the entire season, or take even longer than that; instead, the initial storyline is wrapped up quickly.

And while there’s a story running through the whole season, most of the episodes are relatively self-contained, offering their own versions on various horror and science fiction tropes. There’s a haunted house episode, an Indiana Jones episode, a time travel episode and more.

The show isn’t perfect — the writing can be clunky, the special effects cheesy and cheap-looking. But at its best, it does an impressive job of mixing increasingly outlandish plots, creepy monsters (with plentiful gore) and a healthy dose of politics.

After all, “Lovecraft Country” (adapted form a book by Matt Ruff) is named after notoriously racist horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, but it focuses almost entirely on Black characters, making the case that old genres can be reinvigorated with diverse casts and a rethinking of political assumptions.

In addition to reviewing the show, the latest episode of the Original Content podcast also includes a discussion of Netflix earnings, the new season of “The Bachelorette” and the end of Quibi.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:36 Netflix discussion
3:18 “The Bachelorette”
6:30 Quibi
14:35 “Lovecraft Country” review
31:32 “Lovecraft Country” spoiler discussion

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Spotify takes on radio with its own daily morning show

Spotify’s streaming music service is starting to resemble terrestrial radio with today’s launch of the company’s first daily morning show, “The Get Up.” Like other morning shows designed for commuters, the new program will be led by hosts and will combine news, pop culture, entertainment and music. But in Spotify’s case, the music is personalized to the listener,

The show is not a live program, however. Unlike radio morning shows where content is broadcast live and often also involves interactions with listeners — like call-ins or contests — Spotify’s show is pre-recorded and made available as a playlist.

That means you can listen at any time after its 7 AM ET release on weekday mornings.

You can also opt to skip portions of the programming — like the music or some of the chatter — if you prefer. (Spotify, to be clear, refers to the show as a podcast, but the format actually splits the hosts’ talk radio-like content from the individual music tracks. In other words, it’s more like a mixed-media playlist than a traditional podcast.)

Another key thing that makes Spotify’s programming different from a radio show is that the music is personalized to the listener. Of course, that’s not always ideal. If you prefer to listen to new music during your commute, but have had been busy streaming oldies on Spotify’s service, your morning show will reflect those trends. There’s currently no way to program the show more directly by genre, either.

The show itself is hosted by three people: journalist Speedy Morman, previously of Complex; YouTuber Kat Lazo, known for her series “The Kat Call;” and Spotify’s own Xavier ‘X’ Jernigan, Head of Cultural Partnerships and In-House Talent.

The new playlist will be made available on weekday mornings in the Made for You and Driving hubs on Spotify for both free and premium subscribers in the U.S. You can also access the show directly from http://www.spotify.com/thegetup.

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