You Should Be Listening To is a series where I talk up one of my favorite podcasts and explain why you should be listening, too. Each post gives an explanation of the show using the same five questions, including how best to listen and comparisons to other pieces of media. You can find all of my You Should Be Listening To posts here.
All About The Bright Sessions
What is The Bright Sessions?
The Bright Sessions is an independent science fiction/magical realism serialized audio drama. The plot focuses on a therapist, Dr. Bright, talking to her patients, all of whom have superhuman abilities. The patients include Sam, a woman who time travels when she has panic attacks; Chloe, a mind-reading artist; Caleb, a teenage football player and empath; and a mysterious, dangerous fourth patient. The podcast will be four complete seasons when it ends, but it is slated for a TV show, three spinoff novels, and two spinoff audio drama series after the main arc’s conclusion.
Okay, but what is it really?
The Bright Sessions is a beautiful, character-driven story about mental health, relationships, found families, and what the world does to people it sees as “different.” This audio drama pairs the supernatural with the hyper-realistic. It deals in authentic dialogue and intimate plotting, even with the addition of powers one might expect from X-Men. It doesn’t feel like watching a superhero movie; it feels like reading the cream of the crop in young adult fiction.
What makes it different from other podcasts?
The Bright Sessions is usually considered one of the cornerstones of the audio drama community. It works as many peoples’ intro to the world of audio dramas–myself included–and for good reason: The Bright Sessions is known for its professional quality of writing, acting, and production. One of the reasons why The Bright Sessions is a clear choice of adaptation across two different mediums is that it has mass appeal but still feels like it was made for each of its listeners individually. The level of intimacy and emotional accuracy it achieves is borderline unparalleled.
And the emotional accuracy sets it apart in more than one ways: it should be a given for the plot setup, but The Bright Sessions is more successful in its depictions of and discussions about mental health than most TV, films, etc. The work is put in to make sure the lessons learned by the characters could also be learned with the listeners. The Bright Sessions would never presume to take the place of therapy, but instead, encourages listeners to seek it out–something many listeners (and again, myself included) have done after listening. Like Welcome to Night Vale and ars PARADOXICA, The Bright Sessions also helped establish the expectation for audio dramas to have queer representation with their characters.
When does it start to “get good?”
The Bright Sessions may start a little slow or a little precious for some, but it evolves into something intense and often dark while still being rooted in the characters. Most listeners find themselves especially intrigued with the introduction of fan-favorite Caleb, introduced in the second episode, “02 – Patient #11-A-7 (Caleb).” For those who want more plot or thing the introduction a bit too sweet, “10 – Patient #5-E-3 (Damien)” might be more indicative of the rest of the show’s trajectory.
Why should I be listening?
The Bright Sessions is a podcast that gets a decent amount of press–though still less than it deserves–for good reason. It rose to fame by being a standout, and it’s maintained that fame by continually getting better. The first arc will be closing in June 2018, which means now is a good time to get caught up in time for the finale–and then stay excited for the spinoffs and adaptations. If you’ve been wary about audio dramas, coming from a background of nonfiction podcasts, The Bright Sessions is the perfect audio drama to start with. If you’re already an audio drama fan, listening to The Bright Sessions is an almost civic duty, paying respect to one of the shows that paved the way for your favorites. Besides, it’s really, really phenomenal.
Listen to The Bright Sessions if you like:
- Intimate, slow-paced, character-driven narratives like Friday Night Lights or Gilmore Girls
- Superhuman abilities paired with heavy story, like in Young Justice or X-Men: First Class
- Stories with a young adult fiction feel, like It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, or The Perks of Being a Wallflower
- Stories with ominous, mysterious agencies, like Stranger Things or Firefly
- Literary classics like Pride and Prejudice and Emma (or perhaps more appropriately, their modern adaptations The Lizzie Bennet Diaries or Emma Approved)
- Stories with the “fire-forged friend” trope: a focus on a rag-tag found family working together, like in the Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings series