“We want stories that don’t exist in systems”: Mike tells Sarah what happened when Utah set out to solve one of America’s most intractable problems. Digressions include the Paleo diet, the planet Mars and the inadequacy of the term “up the river.” Jimmy Carter makes an extended cameo appearance.
“Why did we make fun of Dan Quayle for misspelling the word ‘potato’ when we should have made fun of him for arguments like this?” Mike tells Sarah how a real vice president blamed a fictional single mom for causing one of the most divisive events of the 1990s. Digressions include “Designing Women,” “Alien” and “The Brady Bunch.” Listeners finally learn that Sarah has a lovely singing voice.
Mike tells Sarah how a 5-year-old kid transformed a city, divided a political party and (maybe) determined a presidential election. Digressions include World War II, Clarence Darrow and something called “Like, News with Skeeter.” Both co-hosts conclude that this episode is somehow an equal-parts mixture of Satanic Panic and Terri Schiavo.
Mike tells Sarah how a simple idea in a single school district became a nationwide racial panic. Digressions include slasher movies, Space Invaders and homeschooling. The taglines are becoming more esoteric.
Mike tells Sarah how the media, the president and the Pope turned a simple medical story into a complicated legal one. Digressions include canine loyalty, unionized space-workers and polyamory logistics. Both co-hosts recorded in tiny rooms, but with very different acoustics.
Sarah tells Mike how a poor Texas girl made herself into an icon and America made her into a punchline. Digressions include massage technique, “Death Becomes Her” and (obviously) “The Godfather.” Mike sounds even sicker than he did last week.
Plus, special thanks to Ian at Marfa Public Radio, who helped Sarah record this episode!
Mike tells Sarah how an environmental problem became a national rallying cry, a sticky diplomatic issue and, eventually, a conspiracy theory. Digressions include “Alien,” Field & Stream and NRA public service announcements. Both hosts are recovering from colds and at least one spends the episode under a blanket.
Sarah tells Mike how a dubious affair distracted from the real scandal of the 1988 election. Digressions include “Good Will Hunting,” People Magazine and Linda Ronstadt. Michael Dukakis is described, for the first time ever, as “the soulmate who was there all along.”
“She only said one thing her whole life”: Sarah tells Mike how two decent women became scapegoats for the actions of one terrible man. Digressions include Larry Flynt, NPR tote bags and Playboy back issues. The co-hosts discover they have wildly different relationships with “Saturday Night Live.”
Mike tells Sarah how a “bad apples” explanation kept us from seeing the real scandal at the heart of America’s largest corporate bankruptcy. Digressions include “Casino,” Thanksgiving economics and corruption catchphrases. Neither co-host truly understands how the stock market works.
It wasn’t an accident. Mike tells Sarah how the infamous space shuttle disaster came to be seen as a white-collar crime. Digressions include the Donner Party, George Lucas and “Jurassic Park.” Both co-hosts are audibly recovering from colds.
Mike tells Sarah how a close election and an even closer Supreme Court decision established the political template we’re still living with today. Digressions include quarks, Ouija Boards and (sorry) moral philosophy. The “lemonade theory” turns out to be less fun than it sounds.
Sarah tells Mike about the sad reality — and the terrible man — behind the infamous Long Island Lolita. Digressions include software terms of service, the rise of beepers and Monica Lewinsky’s LinkedIn profile. Mike, a 36-year-old man, appears not to understand what pimps do.
Special guest Megan Burbank tells us about the history, limitations and loopholes of a landmark court ruling. Digressions include Betty Ford, “Maude” and naming conventions for anonymous defendants. The glories of Washington State politics are examined in depth.
Mike tells Sarah how a false rape allegation became a right-wing rallying cry and a left-wing conspiracy theory. Digressions include JonBenet Ramsay, “24” and “The Vagina Monologues.” Mike regrets not commenting on the metaphorical significance of being trapped in the closet throughout the episode.
Sarah tells Mike how a case of marital rape and spontaneous mutilation became a national punchline. Digressions include Ron Jeremy, Alan Dershowitz, Motörhead and the tortures of self-reflection. Sarah reviews John Wayne Bobbitt’s later works.
How inflated statistics, cultural anxieties and moral crusaders turned a tiny number of missing children into a decade-long political project. Digressions include 1870s parenting, “E.T.” and the lack of parks in Los Angeles. Both co-hosts secretly believe that the popularity of TV movies in the 1980s explains all of America’s social problems.
Razorblades in apples, babysitters on acid, killers in backseats and “rainbow parties”: In this episode, Mike and Sarah investigate the scary stories Americans tell each other and discover the actual anxieties behind them. Turn on your high beams for this one.