We place a tremendous amount of pressure on podcasts to be both informative and concise. It seems most podcast nowadays break off into two distinct groups: assaults of daily news every morning like UP FIRST or THE DAILY, or the languid, narrative-focused approach like that of THIS AMERICAN LIFE and its extended family of products, drip feeds of information with a sprinkling of valuable humanity. Alternatively, podcasts can be about ghosts. But what if a podcast could be casual (but not in a bro-y way) and informative (but not highly edited)? What if a podcast could be naturalistic, relaxing, friendly, and even cozy? The answer is WOODLAND SECRETS.
Hosted by writer/podcaster Merritt Kopas, WOODLAND SECRETS is a talk show and an almost-interview show, in which Merritt calls her friends to talk about work, life, and their unique interests. It’s often prone to tangents, long diatribes on the sexual appetites of Sonic the Hedgehog characters, weird internet videos or the peculiarities of a corporate branded Instagram account, but it works because the stakes are low and the conversations are engaging in the way any dialogue between two friends can be. It doesn’t hurt that the guests on WOODLAND SECRETS are fantastic, an interesting mix of professionals from the world of independent publishing, activism, journalism, filmmaking, sex work, and video games, each with a unique perspective and experience to unpack. These conversations can be circular, lackadaisical, or remarkably unguarded, but they’re aided by that friendship tension; whether close or distant, there’s a coming together that happens when people speak to each other. Part of the experience of the show is feeling Merritt and her guest warm up to each other, fall back into an old rhythm, or never quite sync up.
When it comes down to it, podcasts have become too structured, focused on solving crimes, delivering news, and selling ads. What WOODLAND SECRETS offers is a welcome reprieve. Space to breath, listen, and laugh in an environment which asks just as much of the guests and host as it does the listener: simply to be present. It feels strange to sell something on the premise of its chillness, but with such a diverse set of guests, Merritt and the tone of the show are the only consistent through lines. Well, Merrit, the tone, and the show’s sole segment, “Get Recc’ed”, where Merritt and the guest recommend something to the audience, whether it’s a product, experience, or idea. That aside, like a true talk show, the draw is the host and the energy of the show. You come to THE ELLEN SHOW for the dancing and the gentle ribbing of guests, you come to WOODLAND SECRETS for the chillness, friendship, internet humor, and interesting perspectives. Sometimes things should be that simple.