The Cambridge Geek

The Hauntening

[UPDATE - 4th November 2020]: Another series of Neenan's short pieces about the evils of technology, with some brand new, and some a little more old. Firstly, we've got the eternal trap of being on an automated phone system, which actually feels a bit dated, given how I think those have generally improved over time. Then there's a very interesting piece about the ethics of human worth, which is technology-based only in terms of a twist, but has some definite relevance to today's problems. (Spoilery link.) And finally, there's the Peloton, that monstrous indoor bike that is constantly being advertised in my Facebook. Just go outside! Still entertaining, still short. You've got about a week to listen to them.

[ORIGINAL - 19th October 2018]: Back to Tom Neenan's spooky world of technology, nearly exactly a year after his first outing which featured two episodes of this "Hauntening" series. They've given him three this time, so we can assume next year there'll be four (or five if the BBC take the Fibonacci model). The first series covered a possessed phone and a fridge that was decidedly un-chill, in a general "the technology is out to get you" sort of way.

This time it feels a little more pointed, with three episodes that shout at the podcasting world, an Uber parody, and the concept of "going viral". This first episode, covering podcasts, is based around Tom setting up his own true crime podcast in the vein of Serial. (No, still not listened to it.) He's hunted down the tale of Dominic Kevill, the basement bludgeoner, who, perhaps unsurprisingly, tended to finish off his victims with a final blow to the head with a lump hammer.

Assisting him with this is sassy tech expert Heidi, and Desmond, a "paranormal investigator" who has no small interest in the particular case, an obsession which goes as far as owning the murder weapon. The hammer appears to always be hot to the touch, something that only Heidi finds odd. She is positioned very nicely as the sensible voice opposing Tom's general enthusiasm and Desmond's overly theatrical approach to life ("be a dear and take my cape for me"). He also has something of a thing for newsreaders. Don't we all?

The bludgeoner was an enthusiastic student of the human soul, and was conducting experiments in the possibility of it being removed from the body under immense pain. Naturally, torture and bloodshed are the perfect source for a few laughs, and this delivers impressively. There's two main strings of comedy in this, the first of which is the silliness of podcasting.

At this point, very many people have podcasts, and naturally some are terrible. This does an excellent job of hitting some of the more frequent satirical points, including the problems of unsuitable advertising (something that annoys me highly), and the necessary levels of self-esteem needed to believe that the world is interested in anything you have to say. Honestly, it's as narcissistic as having a blog.

The other stream is the sparkling dialogue. There's the fact that the bludgeoner would insist on a relevant pun, such as "let's get cracking". And then there's the punchy Heidi who persistently pricks Tom's bubble of ego with the needle of self-awareness, and the fun way in which they each keep interruping before a double meaning is clarified, inevitably picking the wrong one. It packs a lot into the quarter hour, and you'll almost certainly enjoy it. (For the more engaged readers, you might want to then try something like A Very Fatal Murder, which spreads this idea out into a full series.)

Score 5

Tagged: Radio Comedy Cast Sitcom Spoof