What is Blackout about?
In a slightly unprecedented move by the recent Oscar winner, this new audio fiction podcast sees Rami Malek play Simon Itani, a radio DJ in Berlin, New Hampshire who attempts to keep his town calm and protect his family when a huge mysterious power outage threatens to cause chaos.
And good news for action fans: there’s no such thing as easing us into the story. The series opens with an intense, catastrophic plane crash, that leads to the power outage. One thing that’s instantly noticeable is the sound, which is insanely crisp on this podcast – from the roaring of the jet plane as it explodes in the sky to Malek’s voice slicing through dead air, the way the sound is design is incredibly impactful. We have Brandon Jones to thank for that – the podcast’s supervising sound editor has a long and fruitful career in sound engineering, with credentials including the newly released Pet Semetary, Pacific Rim, and 2018’s A Quiet Place, which was lauded for its sound design.
“This is a hyper-realistic story of what would unfold should the grid go down; how we would be totally unprepared to deal with the repercussions,” Malek told Entertainment Weekly. “The themes that we touch on because of that will explore and delve into how we respond as the barest human beings that we are. Themes of community versus tribalism will come up, and then you will think about this loss of our sense of community and the longing that comes with increasing tech taking over our lives, and just reverting back a world that now seems so distant, a world of truly listening to one another.”
How did Rami Malek get involved?
A complete step away from his work in Bohemian Rhapsody, Malek goes back to his darker Mr Robot roots in Blackout. "It's 103 days since the blackout began," his character Simon says in the opening of the podcast, followed by a quick rundown on the background of his town of Berlin, and his family. There’s a certain disconnect between old and young here as, in a world full of intelligent technology the town suddenly becomes reliant on radio once again.
This is part of the reason Malek was keen to jump on board with this project, serving as both star and producer: “The reason I did this goes back to loving radio plays, and a time when a family was communally gathering together to listen to them,” Malek told Fast Company. “With the world as it is now, and technology going in a direction where I don’t know if anybody can quite see its future, it’s nice to see some semblance of technology reverting back to something I think we all enjoy as much as listening and letting our imaginations run free… I think in a way the show is about a backlash against technology. You see that this past year with the Facebook scandals. People are now second-guessing whether the high-tech tools that we have, have made our lives so easy and convenient, but are they actually making them better?”
What can we expect to take away from this podcast?
The podcast plays on the idea that communal panic can quickly tear people apart – as soon as it becomes apparent that the power outage isn’t going to be fixed anytime soon, paranoia takes over the town and people soon start pointing fingers. Malek’s Simon encourages listeners to “look out for each other”, but many of those stuck in the middle of this worsening crisis would rather “take care of our own”. This is something that is key to Blackout’s plot, which is hardly surprising for a podcast based in America, where fearmongering and moral panic are now everyday norms. That’s not to say this is a political podcast – it’s a story that you can get lost in rather that a deep-dive into current affairs.
Will I like it?
With podcast content going from strength to strength – we often talk about how much we love the podcasting landscape right now – this seems like an interesting steer away from the usual true crime favourites. But it’s rare to see podcast fiction so high in the charts (Blackout is currently sitting at number two in the US), and there’s got to be a positive reason for that. It’s likely you won’t have heard anything like this before, but it’s certainly worth a listen – we guarantee you’ll be sucked into the story in no time. And this could be a sign of things to come, particularly if podcasters can continue to get high profile names like Malek in the mix.
You can listen to The Blackout on iTunes now with new episodes released on Tuesdays.
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