Remember the absolute frenzy that surrounded Serial season one when it came out in 2014? We were gripped by Sarah Koenig’s irresistible storytelling, and pretty much everyone – colleagues, friends, even our parents – was speculating over who really did kill Hae Min Lee.
That was a few years ago now and, while countless other podcasts have entertained us in the interim (hello, My Dad Wrote A Porno), nothing has piqued our interest in quite the same way as the story of Lee, Adnan Syed and Jay Wilds – that is, until now.
You might not know much about new podcast Missing Richard Simmons yet, but we guarantee you’re about to discover your morning-commute companion. It’s even been described, by The Guardian and on social media, as “like Serial but better” which, in podcast land, is basically the highest praise you can get.
The series, created by First Look Media, Pineapple Street Media/iTunes and presented by former Daily Show producer and filmmaker Dan Taberski, revolves around the eccentric 1980s fitness guru Richard Simmons, who mysteriously hasn’t appeared in public since 2014. (Don't worry, you don't actually need to know anything about him to become gripped by the podcast.)
Each episode is 30 minutes long and weaves together interviews and narration. Like the first series of Serial (we'll politely brush over season two), it's an intriguing narrative that looks set to continue indefinitely.
Known for his short shorts, tightly curled hair, catchphrases (such as “sweat is just fat crying”), unusual workout style and enigmatic personality, Simmons has been suspiciously missing since he failed to show up for one of his classes in LA and stopped returning his friends’ calls three years ago. (There were rumours that he’s been kidnapped or is living as a woman, but his publicist denied them.)
Taberski, who has described himself as “not really an exercise guy” until he took one of Simmons’ exercise classes himself, became fascinated by the the fitness guru after his own strange experience.
“In less than 30 minutes I [found] myself bare-chested, surrounded by step-clapping middle-aged women, as Richard [wiped] the sweat off my torso with my T-shirt and then [shoved] it down his shorts,” he told The Guardian.
But Taberski's aim isn't to drag Simmons back into the public eye, it's simply to find out what happened to him and why he decided to "ditch the world". “If you’re listening to this and you’re actually Richard Simmons, call me,” he says at the end of the first episode. “People are looking for you.”
Just where is the 68-year-old now? The podcast was only released last month and so far there have been only three episodes, but we're already on the edge of our seats as we speculate what exactly happened. Subscribe to the show, give it a listen and we guarantee you'll be hooked.