Dear Sugar Is Now a WBUR Podcast
Now that Serial has completed its 12-episode exploration into the 1999 murder case of a Baltimore teenager, podcast lovers new and old might be asking, “What now?”
Those who were avid podcast listeners prior to Serial will return to their usual favorites. And newbies have plenty to choose from; top shows on iTunes include more This American Life, rowdier fare like WTF with Marc Maron, or even Coffee Break French to pick up a new skill.
One podcast hoping to capture listeners’ attention is WBUR’s Dear Sugar, a new show based on the popular advice column of the same name published on The Rumpus. “Sugar” is the fictional advice-giver in the column, whom author Steve Almond conceived to be “a woman with a troubled past and a slightly reckless tongue.”
The podcast is hosted by “the Sugars,” Almond and Cheryl Strayed, who both penned the original column. Almond is the author of Candyfreak and Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto; Strayed is the author of Wild—a bestseller adapted for film starring Reese Witherspoon—and Tiny Beautiful Things, a collection of essays she wrote as Sugar.
In Dear Sugar, Almond and Strayed answer audience-submitted questions of all kinds, offering “radically empathic advice.” In the pilot episode, they’re asked by one listener whether to forgive his/her father for cheating, and by another what to do about a guy she loves, but who is not her “intellectual equal.”
The appeal of Dear Sugar are the hosts’ candor. Much like you’d expect from a fictional Sugar, they dole out tough love and wisdom based on personal experiences. They share their personal experiences with infidelity for the first question, and call the latter situation the cookie-cutter setup of a Hollywood rom-com.
For another question in the episode, from a woman struggling with motherhood, Almond and Strayed try to call her. When they fail to connect, Strayed dials up her own husband instead, and the two breach the boundaries of TMI. “We went on vacation…and I had this idea to have sex every single day,” she says. He quips: “I love your ideas, honey.”
By the end, the hosts conclude that the first episode, and perhaps the rest of the Dear Sugar podcast, feels like a great therapy session—sans the condescending therapist.
“I hope this show—our partnership—will be able to get across as ‘Hey, we’re all a mess,'” Almond says in the episode. “There’s just some of us who wear it on our sleeve.”
OK, so it’s nothing like Serial, but hey—who doesn’t need an afternoon with Sugar?