Podcast Review: Ending the ‘Dinner Party’


Note: this article was also published on Tea & Fiction.

The Dinner Party Download, produced by American Public Media, and hosted by Rico Gagliano and Brendan Francis Newnam. Was released weekly, with an approximate running time of 60 minutes. Started January 2012.

Back in October of this year, if you were near me at all, you would’ve heard me give out a tropey ‘big no’. You see, I had heard that one of my favorite podcasts, The Dinner Party Download, was ending in December. The last ‘live’ episode is set to be released this week.

I had started listening in 2014. I can’t remember how I heard about it, although it was probably that I listened to other American Public Media shows Wits (which I wanted to write an ‘obituary’ recommendation as well when it ended) and Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me.

The concept of the radio show / podcast is fairly self-explanatory. This culture-based talk show is done in the style of a dinner party, with an icebreaker joke to begin with, playlists offered, etiquette tips provided, main courses of pieces about food, history of booze segments, and interviews. The show had a wide variety of guests in the various segments, from singers to actors to the great-great-grandkids of Emily Post. It was a great way to keep up on some of what was going on in the world of entertainment.

Hosts Brendan Francis Newnam (l) and Rico Gagliano (r). Photo used courtesy The Dinner Party Download Facebook page.

Hosted by Rico Gagliano and Brendan Francis Newnam, I rapidly became a fan of their ability to tread that fine line of being casual yet still get the interview done. They handled their interviews with style, and the production values (as expected) were high. They would end each interview segment with two questions, which I have been very tempted to steal in my own podcast interviews: “What question are you tired of being asked?” and “Tell us something we don’t know.”

My only quibbles were minor. They seemed obsessed with the idea of drinking and booze — and while yes, I get it, it’s supposed to be a dinner party — as someone who’s not much of a drinker myself and who knows a couple of recovering alcoholics, there were too many times when it came across as ‘if you don’t drink, there’s something wrong with you’. Additionally, while they did address vegan / vegetarian lifestyle from time to time, other food issues didn’t seem to cross their mind very often.

Also, while the etiquette segments had questions from the audience, I never quite understood how these people knew who would be doing the segment next. I have a feeling it was announced on Twitter, as while I’m on Twitter, I don’t go there very often. I wish their newsletter that went out had stated who would be the next guest and where to go to send questions.

Image courtesy The Dinner Party Download Facebook page.

I was such a fan of the show that I applied to work for the program twice: one in which the announcement said they were looking for lovers of food puns, and so I filled my cover letter with them (my favorite had to be “I realized it was mint to be for me to cover culture”). I also provided up my own sample ‘dream episode”: the overheard (where they get authors to read excerpts from a book) by Judy Blume, the playlist provided by Jill Sobule, the etiquette segment done by Martin Freeman (with the challenge to see if he could do it without swearing), the history in booze about the Inklings and the drink created at the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford, and the main course about the barbecue joints of my home away from home, Kansas City.

The show is ending (according to them) because the two hosts have released a book, Brunch is Hell. However, the announcement indicates that there may be a different podcast from them, not affiliated with APM. So, while this party may be ending, there is hope that another one will be starting up.

You can listen to all prior episodes of The Dinner Party Download through iTunes and Stitcher, as well as the official DPD website.

Read my other podcast reviews here.

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