The Talk Show

I’ve listened to The Talk Show for a long time. I don’t remember exactly when I started but I think it was back in the ‘first season’ before it moved to the then fledgling 5by5 network.

The Talk Show is now in its 3rd incarnation and on the Mule Radio Network. The transition to Mule wasn’t perhaps the smoothest but I’ve talked about that before and don’t have anything more to say on that topic. Now that the new season has hit seven episodes I think there is a enough material to support a full review.

The Talk Show describes itself as a kind of “Director’s Commentary” for Daring Fireball. While that is a good concise description for the show I think it misses a lot of what makes The Talk Show great. The Talk Show is fundamentally a conversation. It is an opportunity to eavesdrop as John and his guest talk through topics of mutual interest. These topics typically relate back to Apple and technology news.

It isn’t a news program. It isn’t a Tech News Today or MacBreak Weekly (programs designed to communicate topical news). While John is a journalist in every sense of the word, I don’t see The Talk Show as a journalistic outlet for him. The discussion tends to cover more general issues and when it strays into current events treats them editorially rather than reporting the details.

Perhaps the easiest way to judge if you’d enjoy The Talk Show is to imagine yourself in a bar on a Friday night. Cocktail in hand. Blowing off some steam after a long week. You sit down and discover that at the table next to you is John Gruber and handful of friends. You can tell their conversation is lively but a bit too quiet to easily make out. Would you want to lean back so you could better overhear them?

I know I would.

The Talk Show is an opportunity to listen in as some of the most thoughtful and best informed people in the industry discuss topics of interest to anyone in the software development, design or technology business. Occasionally the conversation may lead into tangents and sidetracks but these are most often into topics that would also be of interest.

It is a running joke that the show is buried with 1-star reviews in iTunes. The most common adjective used in these reviews is unfocused. I think calling The Talk Show unfocused is a bit like calling Jackson Pollock messy. It totally misses what the show is and more importantly what it isn’t. Assuming that because it is hosted by a prominent tech journalist that it should be a formulaic run-down of the week’s news just doesn’t make sense.

The only real complaint I have with the current run of The Talk Show are those instances when John’s guest isn’t as informed about or interested in the topic of discussion as John. When this happens the discussion can fall into a monologue. The strongest episodes are the ones where the guest is more knowledgeable about the topic du jour than John.

I’m a big fan of the show and strongly recommend it.

If you want to give The Talk Show a try I’d recommend starting with the episode with Guy English. This afternoon’s episode with Merlin Mann should also be great, if their past podcast meeting is any indication.

New episodes are released around 5pm Eastern on Fridays. A great way to end your week is to grab a nice refreshing beverage, download, lean back and enjoy.

David Smith