Usually, when I write podcast reviews, I start with a quick synopsis of what a show is so the readers will know how to gauge their expectations. I say whether the show is an audio drama, give its genre, and then list the description as per the podcast’s website or SoundCloud.
I don’t know how to do this for Fall of the House of Sunshine, because giving the description is likely to make most readers shy away from the show, and they absolutely should not. Fall of the House of Sunshine is one of the strangest pieces of media I’ve ever encountered, and I absolutely love it. It’s unsettling and hilarious. It’s completely novel. The songs are as infectious as the disease at the center of its plot. The characters are the epitome of a “rag-tag bunch.” The show is, hands down, one of the most fun listens in the medium.
With that out of the way, here is a short description of what Fall of the House of Sunshine is as a podcast: Fall of the House of Sunshine is an audio drama comedy musical about an alternate reality where people worship teeth and puppets are the ultimate evil. The episodes are about twenty minutes each, and three cast albums of the songs used in the podcast have been released. Here is the show’s summary as listed on their website:
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF SUNSHINE is a serialized comedy musical podcast told over 12 episodes. It is released weekly with a break every three weeks. It was co-created by Matt Roi Berger and Jonathan A. Goldberg
SUMMARY: Brushee Sunshine is the host of the children’s’ tooth cleanliness show – The Sunshine Smile Hour. But suddenly he’s murdered via bullets fired through a rip in space time. Detective Dankent is called in to help solve the mystery. The suspects: Flosso, Brushee’s older brother who was relegated to second banana; Braceletta, the buxom beauty with the braces on her legs and her teeth and also fiance to Brushee; Elsa, Bracletta’s assistant who acts like a loyal dog. And that’s only the beginning. Join us as we take an audio adventure of musical proportions.
Fall of the House of Sunshine feels a little bit like watching Pee Wee’s Big Adventure as an adult. I can imagine it would feel like stumbling upon “Don’t Hug me I’m Scared” as a child, thinking it was meant for you. The show is one part Repo! The Genetic Opera, one part Firebringer, one part Who Framed Roger Rabbit, two parts Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme (anyone else remember that inexplicable Shelley Duvall vehicle? No? Okay). It’s a trip. The show is as bizarre as the summary would suggest, and somehow, even moreso.
Still, the show feels more rooted in its own world building than most fantasy novels or science fiction films. There’s this feeling in the show that the world makes sense, even though it absolutely should not. With each new detail added, the listener actually gains more clarity instead of things feeling more confusing–even when the details themselves are absolutely confusing. So much of this podcast is ridiculous and hyperbolic, but it never feels cynical. The show just knows what it wants to accomplish and goes for it with wild abandon that feels so refreshing. Fall of the House of Sunshine feels almost revolutionary in its execution. The show looks at what most audio dramas are doing and decides to be something completely new.
What’s most shocking is that the show doesn’t actually require much buy-in from the listener; it’s done so well, understanding and appreciating the podcast feels easy. This is largely due to the songs, which are extremely catchy (if you’re skeptical, listen to “Everybody Gets Fuzz’d Tonight,” which does have some early episode spoilers). The vocal performances are impressive, but mostly in how fun they are. Everything about Fall of the House of Sunshine is broad, especially the performances, and it’s completely welcome with how over-the-top the songs are. Every single actor sounds like they’re having so much fun, making it so easy to just lean into as a listener.
This isn’t to say that Fall of the House of Sunshine is without problems, of course. There’s only one criticism I have for the show, one caveat to my recommendation. One of the central characters, Braceletta, initially seems to be written as a joke about disability. The character is always introduced as “the buxom beauty with the braces on her legs and her teeth,” and her introductory song, “Crooked,” focuses on her disability for humor. The fact that she’s hypersexualized also makes it feel like the joke is about how someone with a disability could be attractive, though the argument could be made that her sexualization is subversive, trying to break the trend of desexualized disabled characters. Braceletta gets some of the best development in the first season, but the discomfort with these jokes is hard to shake.
Still, Fall of the House of Sunshine is a surprisingly welcome addition to the audio drama musical genre. The show was nominated for several of the 2017 Audio Verse Awards, particularly for best original songs, and it’s clear to see why. Fall of the House of Sunshine is strange, fun, bizarre, a little terrifying, and incredibly unique. It’s a show I expect to be returning to often, both because it’s so enjoyable and because I’ll want to make sure the whole podcast wasn’t just one big, terrific fever dream.
You can find Fall of the House of Sunshine on any major podcast streaming platform or on their website. The show is currently releasing their “Brushtown Stories” episodes, “A collection of stories from the corners and cracks of the Fall of the House of Sunshine universe,” in prep for Season 2’s premier.