Quick Bite: Ponzi Supernova ★★
This is the first in a new series of shorter reviews I’m calling Audible Feast Quick Bites. A shorter post format will allow me to write more reviews and especially share more indie shows with you. I’ll keep the ratings but will condense the rest of the review into the format below. I’m open to your feedback – e-mail me anytime!
What’s the show about?
Radiolab fans will remember broadcast of the first episode of Audible’s Ponzi Supernova – I was drawn in immediately by the idea of exclusive jailhouse interviews with Bernie Madoff. Journalist Steve Fishman spent three hours talking with Bernie (over several sessions, due to Madoff’s privilege limitations) about the biggest financial scam in history, and then followed the story in several different directions. If you’re unfamiliar with Madoff, he bilked his investors out of roughly $65 billion (yes, that’s with a b) in an enormous Ponzi scheme.
What’s great about it?
Madoff destroyed so many lives, so of course he’s a compelling character and it sounds juicy to say that Madoff made himself available exclusively to Fishman. The listener is bound to wonder if by hearing Madoff tell his own story, they’ll end up feeling sympathetic toward him, so that drew me in. (I didn’t though.)
Constructive feedback time …
There is a lot of (over) produced drama in this series. Tons of music layered with sound effects which is not distracting to me, but not necessary at the level they’re included. Sound design is an art and this show misses the mark big time. In Episode 5, Clawback!, I constantly heard all of these extra sounds that just didn’t add much. I haven’t heard anything from Ear Hustle yet besides the trailer, but its sound quality for recording from inside prison is a thousand times better than the audio of the Madoff calls. The volume levels are all over the place. I really dislike the logo, I find it hard to read. I also just sort of got bored after the second episode.
It was definitely interesting hearing some things directly from the horse’s mouth, but I’m not sure I learned anything new. The total running time of the six episodes is a little longer than a movie would be – and I think it tried to cram too much in. The average person does not understand a lot of the terminology, which would be useful to explain, but not in a limited series. It wasn’t investigative enough for me – not many revelations, just some human interest stories. Madoff was arrested almost a decade ago; this show needed more investigation or to just tackle one piece of the Madoff story instead of trying to tell it all. Watch The Wizard of Lies instead with your two hours of free time.
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Audible Feast Ratings
Educational Value (2 / 5)
Pop Culture Value (5 / 5)
Host Listen-ability (2 / 5)
Too over-dramatized even down to the tone of voice.
Flow & Production Value (2 / 5)
This was a miss for one of Audible’s first podcasts – very overproduced. It seems like there was no focus group or editing team. It sounds professional sometimes, but it had so much room for improvement in production value.
Humor (1 / 5)
Investigation (2 / 5)
Storytelling (2 / 5)
Makes Me a Better Person (0 / 5)
Overall Audible Feast Rating: (2 / 5)
Start with These Episodes:
Must listen in order – start with Episode 1: Getting to Madoff.
You May Also Like …
In the Dark, Crimetown, Ear Hustle, Casefile True Crime, Cosby Unraveled
Ponzi Supernova on Audible