Monday, August 31, 2015

Phoenix Foundation Podcast: A Conversation

Friday is a day that is celebrated throughout our society as the end of the traditional work week. And since January 23rd (which happens to be the birthday of one Richard Dean Anderson) of this year, there has been another reason to celebrate, as every Friday morning the latest Phoenix Foundation podcast episode is unveiled.

The podcast is of professional quality, from the well-designed website to the sound quality to the integration with iTunes and other forms of media.  The content is fun and compelling, and the hosts are articulate and have great chemistry as well as an encyclopedic knowledge of the entertainment industry.  And I haven't even mentioned the numerous guest stars that they interview who provide fascinating insights from their time on the show.  

So who is the behind this operation?  By day, they're known as Patrick O'Riley and Richard Wells. By night, they are simply known the Phoenix Foundation.  I thought it would be fun to take a peek behind the curtain and get some background on them and the podcast, and they kindly agreed to answer some questions.

But first, here are links to their website, twitter, and facebook.  Check them out!

NS: Whose idea was it to do a podcast about MacGyver and how did the idea come about?

POR: I think it was somewhere late-October last year. I left Richard a 25-minute voicemail that was as enthusiastic as it was rambling. At the time, I was bingeing on April Richardson's "Go Bayside!" podcast and Kumail Nanjiani's "X-Files Files" and thought we could put something together halfway between the two shows with MacGyver as a focus. He responded with exactly as much enthusiasm and we started planning records almost immediately.

RW: Pat and a small group of our friends had started randomly getting back into watching episodes of MacGyver on Netflix.  Many of us had been familiar with the show and are often interested in revisiting TV and movies from our youth.  My ego says that Pat approached me with the idea because I was very knowledgable about the show and have interesting points of view.  The cynic in me says I'm the only one who is willing and has lots of free time.

NS: How old were you when you started watching MacGyver, and what got you hooked the first time around?

POR: When the show started, I was 2 and I was 8 by the time it finished, so my recollection of the first run is fuzzy at best. My dad watched it pretty regularly so I mostly caught it with him. I caught it mostly in re-runs and later when it showed up on Netflix streaming, and Richard would organize regular "MacGyver Nights" where we and a group of friends would gather and watch 2 or 3 episodes at a time. I fell in love with the ingenuity of an inventor hero and also the complete ridiculousness that occasionally cropped up.

RW: I'd say that around age eight or nine is when I have a clear memory of watching MacGyver on TV.  I can't say for certain that I watched it as it aired, but I definitely watched reruns and episodes later in the life of the series.  I think what drew me to it was this odd mental crossover of Mr. Wizard on Nickelodeon, who was always doing unique science experiments with everyday items, and an Indiana Jones style adventure with action and locations.  I watched a lot of TV growing up.

NS: Your website says that the two of you worked at the same Blockbuster Video.  Is that where you met, and any other fun stories around that?

POR: We did meet at Blockbuster in 2001. Richard was the assistant manager so we would often work the closing shift together and talk about movies and television. I would say that job, and Richard's company, are responsible for at least 90 percent of my film knowledge. Obviously that Blockbuster no longer exists.

RW: Pat and I worked and went to college together, although we only had one or two classes at the same time.  Blockbuster was a time I look back fondly at, even with the ups and downs of customer service and management.  Closing (which almost all of my shifts were) was always better with good company, and Pat was that.  We would just talk all night and he never had to be told what to do.  The key to working the same shift every night is to break up the monotony.  One night we kept Tenacious D's "Tribute" playing on a loop for an entire evening on the Blockbuster trailer DVD that we had to play in the store.  Pat also introduced me to anchovies on pizza, which I don't mind, but have yet to order again.

NS: On one of the pods you mentioned that you have film backgrounds -- what are some projects you've worked on?

POR: My credits are very random. Some can be found on my IMDB page. In college, I interned on an Adult Swim series called Tom Goes to the Mayor created by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. I also worked as a PA on a couple seasons of Spike TV's Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (MXC to the fanbase). For a while, I worked as a rotoscope artist doing stereoscopic conversion (taking a 2D movie and cutting out all the shapes frame by frame to convert it into 3D in post). We did the re-releases of Titanic and Jurassic Park, as well as the original run 3D conversions for almost all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Currently I work processing dailies for various projects at Fotokem, a film lab. 

RW: I worked in TV and film for about ten years now (yikes) out of college, and got offered a job while on an internship.  I worked on a lot of reality home improvement shows for HGTV and a very interesting show called Sunday Morning Shootout on AMC.  My first real film non-credit was as a post PA on Devil, and I currently work for a film and finance company that is producing the film Hologram for the King with Tom Hanks.

NS: What is/are your favorite(s):
  • thing about doing the pod?
    • POR: I have a wife and child (with a second child coming any day now) so it can be hard to maintain any extra-familial activities. I would say what has been most rewarding has been keeping in better touch with Richard than I would get to otherwise. Obviously watching the show regularly is another great bonus, and occasionally striking on a fun bit of trivia during interviews is always a treat.
    • RW: Patrick is the best part of this whole thing.  Don't get me wrong, MacGyver is awesome fun times as well, but watching and recording with Pat is great and always entertaining.
  • interview that you've done so far?
    • POR: It's hard to say really. They have all had very different flavors. I will forever be grateful to Peter Jurasik for his gracious do-over after my phone corrupted our first recording attempt. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversational tone of our chats with Darcy Marta and Cooper Huckabee. It was an amazing opportunity to chat with Rob Paulsen after being raised on animated characters he has voiced. We've recorded an interview with Michael Ensign for our upcoming review of Soft Touch, and as a life-long Ghostbusters fan, that was another great honor.
    • RW: For the purposes of ease of scheduling and editing, Patrick has done all the interviews so far.  I contribute questions and with many guests there is a crossover of knowledge between the two of us.  Rob Paulsen immediately jumps to mind because he's a living legend.  I really enjoyed the Anthony de Longis and Vernon Wells interviews as well.  All three of them are just such characters in real life and we were lucky and honored to have them on our show.
  • episode that you've reviewed so far?
    • POR: I have to say, for my money, Flame's End is tough to beat.
    • RW: Deathlock is one of my top episodes for sure.  Old houses with secret passages, hidden peepholes, and light guided machine gun turrets are an underused plot element in my opinion.  Christopher Neame's character of Quayle is also outstanding as this egomaniacal killer who uses technology to capture and kill his targets and keep himself secure.  Countdown is also a good one just because it is full of danger, twists, and overly elaborate bombs.
  • episode that you haven't yet reviewed and you're looking forward to?
    • POR: Of the episodes I remember well, I am excited to get to Ghost Ship, The Secret of Parker House, Halloween Knights, and Good Knight MacGyver.
    • RW: There are so many!  We recently skimmed through Legend of the Holy Rose (another Christopher Neame appearance) for an interview with Michael Ensign.  This wasn't an official watch, but it got me excited for that Indiana Jones style adventure.  That character that Neame plays in Holy Rose (Von Leer) leads in to another character in Eye of Osiris played by Kai Wulff who plays his sibling with a treasure and traps involving Alexander the Great.  And Gold Rush about a downed WWII plane full of gold that is trying to be recovered which also has a bunch more booby traps!  Then there's the wackier stuff where MacGyver is in King Arthur's court, one where it's the old west, MacGyver has an afterlife experience...  So there are some ups and downs on this road ahead.
  • tv show (other than MacGyver, of course)?
    • POR: Like almost anyone, I am a fan of Breaking Bad. My favorite show that still (though rarely) airs new episodes is probably FX's Louie.
    • RW: My TV watching is equal parts geek/scifi fandom and old retiree type shows.  I was huge into Lost back in those days, and still feel that it changed television in a lot of ways.  But I also watch shows like House and Monk when they were on.  A lot of my friends would say "my parents watch those shows," as a response to my latest House diagnostic rigmarole.  Some other favorites include Firefly, Archer, Rick and Morty, Burn Notice, Modern Family, Game of Thrones.  I'm really all over the map.
  • thing about your co-host?
    • POR: Richard is the perfect co-host. He has an incredible photographic memory in terms of plot, he's knowledgable and enthusiastic on the subject (and a lot of the science and technology behind it), and he is always excited to record.
    • RW: I think what makes Pat and I work so well is our ability to cover/recover from each other's bad jokes.  We make a lot of off the cuff type jokes and while we take a lot of notes and research episodes before we record, there is a lot of stream of consciousness that comes from us during the show.  Pat's wit is quick and he's able to turn something I tried to make funny, into something funny.  He also does this on a daily basis off the podcast.
NS: I realize it's about two years away, but do you hope do keep doing podcasts after you finish with Phoenix Foundation, and any ideas for what the topic might be (if you want to share them)? 

POR: We definitely intend to keep things going when Phoenix Foundation wraps up. Probably something a little more free-form. In keeping with my history of planning things way too far ahead, I have already picked out a podcast name and registered a dotcom, though until an actual site starts coming together, I think we'll keep the idea to ourselves for now.

RW: We have a lot of back and forth on what future projects could/might/should be.  We talk about shows so often and when we research the roles of a guest we come across a lot of things that it might be nice to revisit or even see for the first time.  There are already so many different podcasts for the shows that I care about so it's hard to be different and also find a subject that you're passionate about that maybe people have forgotten or slipped through the cracks.


  1. Great interview and nice to get some personal insights from the guys responsible for the podcasts I listen to religiously every week. Question for Patrick and/or Richard if they're seems like you guys agree on just about all of the episodes to a degree I haven't experienced with other "MacGyver" fans. Have there been any episodes thus far you've disagreed about? Or any episodes yet to come where your opinions deviate?

    1. It's possible this phenomenon can be attributed to our habit of watching the episodes together right before we record. The shared experience of having just watched the episode can sometimes change our perceptions of things. Although, when we ranked the episode from top to bottom for season one, our numbers weren't exactly flush. Our top four were the same, just switched up the order. Same bottom two, just flipped. The biggest differential was where I had Nightmares in 7th and Richard had it down at 18th.

      Richard's memory of most upcoming episodes is a lot better than mine. I don't doubt that before this podcast ends, we will find ourselves at polar ends of a review.