As a bona fide 90’s kid, the appeal of podcasts specifically focusing on media from the 90’s is not lost on me–which is good, because there’s far too many of them. When trying to find a good listen in this genre, I’ve mostly experienced lackluster conversation podcasts that offer nothing I couldn’t get from having a conversation with my friends.
I Never Saw That, though, offers something new and profoundly unexpected: one of the co-hosts has a two-year gap in her 90’s knowledge for some fairly unusual circumstances.
From 1994-1996, Jen was sent to a “therapeutic boarding school” in The Middle of Nowhere, Montana (she had some issues). She remained there for two years. That meant a lot of things, but one is that Jen missed two full years of popular culture when she was 16-18 years old. Join Jen and Micah and revisit your old faves as they travel back to the mid-90s to watch, listen to, and talk about what Jen missed (and Montana).
Hosts Jen and Micah are engaging and bring some hilarious commentary to the pieces of media they experience, usually tying in some commentary about Monatana into the episodes proper or at the end. The discussion is often punctuated by a small clip from the media they’re discussing–especially if the conversation hinges on a specific moment or scene–which not only helps give context but also stir up the wave of nostalgia in the listener that the podcast is, in part, trying to evoke.
This is a podcast that benefits most from the listener focusing on episodes featuring shows or movies they’ve already seen. The episodes discussing Casper, Clueless, and Space Jam, for instance, were especially engaging listens for me, but that list might change depending on which favorite of yours they discuss. (Listen, don’t @ me about Casper. I was a spooky, but ultimately sappy, child. And adult.) Familiarity with the subject matter does make each episode more engaging, but the hosts do make it easy to follow along even if you, to, never saw that. At times, certain episodes can feel close to the Good Conversation, Bad Podcast problem, but that felt truer when I was less familiar with the subject matter–something that should maybe be shouldered more by me, in this case, than the hosts.
When I initially heard the concept, I have to admit that I laughed–it seemed like such an interesting framing device for the story, something that would likely add a new flavor of commentary to the nostalgia. Instead of people reminiscing about what they loved, there would be a mix of that and a specific distance from the media. This is the case for most episodes; however, there is a twinge of frustration and bitterness that often comes through Jen’s commentary, and for good reason.
It was when I listened to the episode discussing Foxfire (in full disclosure, at the recommendation of the podcasters themselves) that the purpose of the show started to tilt for me. The episode eventually leads to a discussion about drug abuse, suicide, and homophobia that took me off guard–but in a way I deeply appreciated. It was an uncomfortable listen. I felt myself siding with Jen when she mentioned they might not want to run the episode, but then siding more with Micah when he tenderly told her it was an important episode. It was an important reminder to the listener of what Jen went through, and what nostalgia means to different people.
I Never Saw That is not a dark podcast by any means, even with its sometimes dark conversations. It’s a fun, lighthearted podcast with moments that sometimes get real. What makes it such an interesting nostalgia podcast is that because of these conversations, it isn’t just a fun conversation about the 90’s between friends, even though it does that well; it’s also a rumination about what makes us nostalgic, how nostalgia defines a generation, and what those gaps in pop culture mean to people.