Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond are “The Sugars.” Dear Sugar Radio is their call-in advice show that tackles matters of the heart, be it parenting, relationships, friendships, sex, or marriage.
Like many podcast hosts, both have other jobs that have nothing to do with this podcast (Strayed is an author and speaker and Almond is also an author) but their personal lives do enter the podcast show themes from time to time. Honestly, it can be a bit too often for me. Strayed and Almond seem like cool people and obviously have lived a lot and are very successful in certain ways, but they haven’t found the right balance yet in personal stories and giving advice to others.
The show is published weekly and normally runs about 30-45 minutes. There have been some notable episodes I’ve really enjoyed (33, 12) but often the advice seems somewhat insincere. The Sugars are very validating and always uplifting, don’t get me wrong. But as I listen, I am distracted by the guests that they use to help narrate an episode. Usually there is some personal connection to Strayed or Almond – Steve’s dad, a friend who they gush over as if they’re famous but no one has ever heard of, a D-list actor, or a therapist. This is fine, but they make a big deal out of “we are going to call this person right now!” as if the call wasn’t planned. It comes across as juvenile, but their topics aren’t (husband smokes too much pot, should I come out to my mom, when friendships take a nose dive), so there is a mismatch between tone and content. The guests then tell their personal story to illustrate a mirror situation or give their own advice. It feels like conversational narcissism; I don’t want to hear advice only after paying the price of listening to someone else’s story first, it feels disingenuous.
Perhaps this is the typical infancy of a relationship advice podcast; if I went back and asked Dan Savage how he started his column in the 90s he might say there was a lot of trial and error and it took time to get people to care about what he had to say as an “advice giver.” Now Savage Lovecast has almost 500 episodes, on air since 2006, and while I don’t necessarily agree with everything Savage says, the command he has over his show is omnipresent. He owns the advice he gives, never waffles, and doesn’t bring in a lot of guests to give the advice for him.
Maybe Dear Sugar Radio is trying to be a different kind of show than Savage Love–it’s not evident to me what they want to be. I listen occasionally because I like personal, honest stories and I like hearing other people’s feelings validated. I just wish The Sugars would move quicker through the letters and not answer a single letter for 25 minutes – or have someone else answer the letter for them.
Audible Feast Ratings
Educational Value (2 / 5)
Pop Culture Value (2 / 5)
Host Listen-ability (3 / 5)
Flow and Production Value (2 / 5)
Feels low budget to me, with the hosts’ relatives calling in and having a lot of background noise, feels like a microphone is being held up to a cell phone.
Humor (2 / 5)
Investigation (0 / 5)
Storytelling (2 / 5)
Makes Me a Better Person (2 / 5)
Overall Audible Feast Rating: (2 / 5)
What do you think of this podcast? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss!
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