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Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019

A macabre, mad mystery for podcast newbies: Recharge by Rachel Lopez

Wooden Overcoats is like having Enid Blyton in your ear, except she’s talking to a grown-up, and has a wicked sense of humour.

art-and-culture Updated: Jul 06, 2019 12:18 IST
Rachel Lopez
Rachel Lopez
Hindustan Times
The residents of Piffling, an island village in England, have enough little dramas in the fiction podcast show Wooden Overcoats to keep your headphones firmly on for three seasons.
The residents of Piffling, an island village in England, have enough little dramas in the fiction podcast show Wooden Overcoats to keep your headphones firmly on for three seasons.
         

You’ve probably heard about podcasts by now. I think it’s like veganism; those who’ve tried it can’t stop telling everyone about it. Those on the receiving end can’t believe the hype.

Perhaps you’ve listened to a few yourself. Most Indians I know hear business-related material - a Stanford dropout glamourising Slack meetings and zero inbox at his now-funded start-up.

My journalist friends love NPR - long, well-researched features about gay-conversion therapy or the Islamic State. There’s Serial of course, the true-crime show everyone’s heard of, but few have heard. Or my own podcast, Wordy Wordpecker, which has 5-minute episodes about the cool history of ordinary words.

Must everything be so worthy? Must every podcast serve to make you brighter, more efficient, more woke? What about listening for pleasure? For every friend who asks why I like audio-based material, I recommend Wooden Overcoats, a podcast for people who think podcasts are for other people.

Start listening to the free episodes here:

The award-winning work of fiction (rare) is a comedy (rarer) drama (even rarer) set in the island village of Piffling (where?) in the English Channel, and told through the point of view of a house mouse (what?).

It gets odder. The tale revolves around the Funns, undertakers who run Piffling’s only funeral parlour. Trouble (and actual fun) arrive in the form of competition. The sexy new undertaker Eric Chapman has set up shop right opposite, is charming, and actually gets the job done. What will stuffy old Rudard Funn and his professionally frustrated sister Antigone (who’s smitten with Eric) do as locals keep dying and Eric keeps hogging all their business?

It’s macabre but silly, polished but determinedly low-brow. Half-hour episodes deliver, in crisp British accents, the adventure of everyday Piffling life. It’s like having Enid Blyton in your ear, except she’s talking to a grown-up, has a wicked sense of humour, and is not averse to occasionally discussing formaldehyde. There are three seasons on offer, but before the first one is through, you’ll have fallen in love with everyone, the living and the dead.

Like all British podcasts, this one does a lot with very little. David K Barnes’s script is tight, the team and cast are small, and the plot has enough “by golly!” twists and turns to feel like a race to the end.

I’m not going to call it charming or delightful, two words so often attributed to the English countryside that they now remind me of BnBs with outdated plumbing. Wooden Overcoats is perfectly nuts, like a sitcom you create in your mind’s eye as your ear adjusts to a new form of entertainment.