Distinguished Lives

Distinguished Lives

Distinguished Lives

David’s Review:

Shows listened to (at time of review): #1 (Elizabeth Ellet) #4 (Lady Jane Grey) #6 (The Traitor’s Wife)
Creator(s): Various
Where to Find: iTunes Website
Premise: Find someone in history who is either a bit of an unknown, or generally not well known, and find a person who does know the person very well, and interview them about the figure.

Things done right: This is a fairly new series, but has a a really good premise.
I do love the concept. Something about learning a ton about why a subject is important and how he or she failed to make a permanent mark in history is always appealing to me- kind of like the first 4 seasons of Game of Thrones, if you want a modern example. As he says in the introduction, “History is written by the winners, this podcast is about the “losers” and why they were important.

Things done Wrong: The issue with this format is he is at the mercy of his subject, But in picking the right subject (such as with Lady Jane Grey) he can limit that impact, the other issue is he is at the mercy of the person he is interviewing.
In this case, he does have some issues. I have done some long form interviews- and they can be HARD to pull off and be interesting, there can be a LOT of spots when the talk can go sideways, and to be honest, at times he can be hit or miss. In some videos sadly, the subject matter is almost secondary to the matter at hand, and he has a hard time getting them back on track.
The Interviewer never challenges the person on any subject or any statement, he takes everything as fact on face value.

Let me give you an example.
In Episode 1, Ellet is given credit for running a highly successful magazine with a circulation of 150,000 a month, something today’s magazines would kill for.

Lets pick 1860 as our year here, OK?
Lets keep in mind that the Population of the US at this time is 36 Million. 150K per month is pretty good since if all her subscribers all massed on her front lawn, it would be the 9th biggest city in the US, and be bigger than Chicago at this time.
Next, 12×15 is around 1.8M a year- so that would put her yearly circulation right around the massive hit that is “Cooking Light” Magazine- but in all fairness, that would put her around 40th in circulation based on data from the Alliance for Audited Media
By the way, that’s less than half the circulation of Time Magazine, a publication that is dying by the day.

Summary: I’ll be honest.  If you care about the subject, then give it a listen, if you read the title and you known know it? Then skip it.
The First episode is not very good at all.
The Lady Jane one is very good.
The Traitor’s wife is right down the middle.
As is this Podcast. I think there is great potential here, but some serious editing is needed and a good outline of the person going in is also needed, as we have several occasions where the questions are repeated or restated. Lets also keep in mind that this Podcast is all of a half-dozen episodes in, so they have time to find their footing, but as of right now, if you are not interested in the subject, then wait until the next week. I’ve got this podcast subscribed, but its on the bottom rung- as in I’ll check it when everything else is empty, just to see if there is something there I care about.

Snipes’ Score: 4/10


Andrew’s Review:

Shows listened to (at time of review): #1 (Elizabeth Ellet) #2 (Alfred ‘Roy’ Atherton) #3 (Fanny Fern) #4 (Lady Jane Grey) #5 (Milton Humason) #6 (The Traitor’s Wife)

Things done right: A new kid on the block although the concept is that of BBC Radio 4’s Great Lives which has been running since August 2001 (282 episodes to date)
The difference here is that the subjects are unknowns or oft overlooked. The moderator’s enthusiasm is engaging however and room must be given for him to get in to his stride. The expert witnesses are keen to share and well on top of their subject matter

Things done Wrong: The audio quality is, frankly, poor at times and the programme lacks discipline and firm direction. The expert witnesses often seem to have agenda of their own and can disappear off on tangents without any apparent effort to stop them. The moderator’s hipster leanings are a little wearisome too (he seems to need to mention female liberation three or four times an episode to prove his credentials – it’ll be a good and long overdue thing when it finally culminates, notwithstanding). The first half dozen subject choices are a little hit and miss.

Summary: I’m going to give this one a go, it has promise but my patience is limited so it is on probation.
Episodes #2, #3 & #5 are interesting, #4 is well done but also well covered ground, #1 was dire and #6 of absolutely no interest to anybody outside the US.
Given time, it may get there but it needs to be polished, rigour injected and a tighter control of subject imposed. All biography CAN be interesting, let’s hope this podcast lives long enough to prove that

Mence’s Score: 5/10