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The Hosts of ‘Back Issue’ Want to Throw It Back


Remember when watching the sitcoms “Martin,” and “Living Single” or the variety show “In Living Color” meant that it was the end of the day and it was time to have a laugh? Or when Tyra Banks gave her now iconic “We were rooting for you!” rant on “America’s Next Top Model?”

On “Back Issue,” a podcast produced by Pineapple Street Studios, Tracy Clayton, 38, and Josh Gwynn, 32, rewind to some of the pop culture moments they have always wanted to know more about, with an authority on the episode at their side.

During the first episode, which premiered in late August, Ms. Clayton and Mr. Gwynn discussed many of Ms. Banks’s decisions while she was at the helm of the “America’s Next Top Model” production with Jay Manuel, a creative director on the show. The second episode featured Tommy Davidson, a breakout star on “In Living Color.”

The hosts, who consumed the movies, music and television shows they discuss on their podcast separately back in the day, sound like siblings who shared the floor in front of their glowing television set and watched the events together. The pair worked together on “Strong Black Legends,” a Netflix podcast that focuses on famous Black actors, but never before as co-hosts.

Ms. Clayton got her start in audio in 2015, when BuzzFeed premiered “Another Round,” a podcast she hosted with Heben Nigatu. Featuring guests like Hillary Clinton and Issa Rae, it gained popularity quickly and was crowned the best of 2015 by iTunes, Slate and The Atlantic. Still, BuzzFeed pulled the plug on the show in 2017.

“It got really big and the money that we were being given to make the show did not,” Ms. Clayton said, adding that she and Ms. Nigatu are in ongoing talks with BuzzFeed for ownership of the catalog.

“I was severely depressed for a couple of years after,” Ms. Clayton said. “I was kind of left empty and didn’t know what to do or where to turn.”

She took the time to learn how to rest and heal, she said, but soon missed sharing her stories. When she was asked by Jenna Weiss-Berman, a co-founder of Pineapple Street, to host “Strong Black Legends,” Ms. Clayton said she initially didn’t want to do it. But “my wallet was like ‘Girl, you better try,’” she said. “After months, I got used to the water again. I’m so glad and so blessed that I am able to enter in this medium and this space.”

Mr. Gwynn, who started as an intern at the podcast studio before graduating to producer and now host, had worked with Ms. Clayton on other podcasts before. “The best words I would use to describe our connection is easy,” Ms. Clayton said. “You can blurt out what goes through my head.”

The hosts have the same disposition when it comes to pop culture. The labor of having to figure out if a person is well-versed in the same slices of pop culture as you are does not exist between them, they both said. There is no need to figure out if one of them is old enough to remember the moment. or if they both watched a particular television show: it is just known.

“There is less mental work that we have to do to get to square one and that is where you build,” Mr. Gwynn said. “You have so much more mental real estate to be creative.”

The podcast is meant to be a balm for listeners dealing with the country’s current turmoil in the country. The duo is attempting to replicate the pacifying effect they feel when they rewatch an episode of “Living Single,” a sitcom starring Queen Latifah that was a precursor to “Friends.”

“You have your problems with work and life and there’s a lot of distressing things going on but television takes you back to your own youth, which is something that can be appealing,” Tim Brooks, a television and radio historian, said. “It just seems like a more orderly world. A world where you can trust the government and police and public service. It brings back fond memories for yourself and also for the world.”

The hosts of “Back Issue” believe that revisiting content, as it’s now called, from yesteryear can help some assuage the anxieties of today. For many, including Mr. Gwynn, turning on a new film makes him feel like “the stakes are too high,” but watching something from his childhood works.

“There is a reason these moments stuck with us and why they are so fundamental,” he said.



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