First Impressions, nonfiction

Beach Too Sandy, Water Too Wet: reviewing the reviews.

Any time you click away from the page for a product or business on the internet without looking at the reviews you are doing yourself a disservice. While the rest of the world ticks along at its normal breakneck pace a beautiful, unappreciated artform matures with every passing second: the pissed-off reviewer. Beach Too Sandy, Water Too Wet is a new podcast purpose-built to read you some of the choicest examples.

Each week siblings Christine and Alex Schiefer take turns performing dramatic readings of one-star reviews fitting within a topic decided on in the previous episode (Tech stores in Jacksonville, FL, Car washes in Minneapolis, etc.). Each review is an adventure in creativity – both on the part of the author and the given Schiefer as they try to steadily read through broken grammar – accompanied by deliciously cheesy dramatic music.

In addition to the episode theme, a running challenge segment adds a fun flair to the end of each episode as one sibling has to find review(s) matching an incredibly specific theme. I highly recommend paying attention when Alex presents his findings on “find a review of a barbecue place written by a vegan.”

Many podcasts (movie review shows in particular) use the one-star review as easy comedic fodder. A throwaway segment that makes for easy comedy and padding for the run-time. Beach Too Sandy finds a perfect balance of episode length and segment variety to give this project legs to not just be fun for repeat listens (I did just listen to all four available episodes in one sitting…) but also keep providing fun times for ages to come.

The second most-viewed thing I have ever posted to the internet is a bad cell phone picture of friend chicken attached to a scathing one-star review of a local hipster-bait eatery. I’ve reviewed 52 places since Google started the Local Guide program. Most are about 100 words in length but those for particularly egregious establishments run long.

I love reviewing things online. I take great joy in giving five stars to little-known places in my city. I take far too much joy in slaying those who have wronged me and mine. You might find my reviews funny given the context of that day, or if I cherry-picked my favorites, but in the end my negative reviews come with days of pre-planning and stewing. When I put a one star up it comes with receipts. I don’t fuck around. 

Luckily a lot of people online do fuck around. While I reserve my ire for 2,000 word essay on how my first apartment fucked me out of a lot of money using just-legal-enough incompetency to make it prohibitively expensive for me to consider legal action… there are millions of Boomers out there quickly retreating to their Ford Taurus to compose a screed explaining how they’ll never return to a liquor store because one of the cashiers was mocking Duck Dynasty.

The Schiefers avoid the easy trap of just reading poorly-written reviews that might have a nugget of truth. There are plenty of one-star reviews with crap grammar and spelling that have a point, but the ones on Beach Too Sandy are beyond the pale.

In the most recent episode (Tech Stores in Jacksonville, FL) Christine reads one for an Apple store in which the reviewer rants and raves about being asked how they obtained their phone with a problem never described. I was already loving the show but the moment Christine injects “She totally stole this phone” into the conversation. That insight and logic is what will keep me coming back for months to come. It’d be piss easy to just read some dumb reviews, let the co-host laugh and say “Wow isn’t that wacky.” Beach Too Sandy goes the extra mile.

And, most importantly I’d argue, the Shiefers make a point in the pilot episode of encouraging listeners to visit the places they’re reading one-star reviews of and the leave five-star reviews to cancel them out. There’s not a lot of kindness in the world, let alone comedy podcasts dedicated to making fun of strangers online, and that one little extra step is much appreciated.

With fun recurring segments, engaging host conversation, and a manageable bite-sized episode length of 15 to 20 minutes, I heartily recommend Beach Too Sandy, Water Too Wet.

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