Podcast Views the Soapy ‘80s Through 21st-Century Reading Glasses
PRESS RELEASE — December 5, 2019
Los Angeles CA, USA—On the map of obsessive fan communities, somewhere between Hogwarts and Port Charles, hiding in plain sight, lies a sleepy beachside town called Sweet Valley, California.
Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High, the series of soapy teen novellas published throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, spans nearly 200 volumes and was read all over the English-speaking world. There were spinoff series, a TV show, and talks of a movie adaptation have been ongoing for the last decade. But writer Marissa Flaxbart, who has been revisiting Sweet Valley High through a 21st century lens since shortly after said century began, found that only a handful of her friends knew anything about Sweet Valley. Fewer still had ever read the series.
Thus was the Sweet Valley Diaries podcast born. The show, started two years ago, premieres its fourth season this Thursday, December 5th, with the aim to spread the Gospel According to Pascal, both locally and globally.
On each episode, Flaxbart is joined by a guest – past guests have included illustrious podcasters like Lauren Shippen (The Bright Sessions) and Jack Shepherd & Tanner Greenring (The Baby-Sitters Club Club), but the host also pulls from a delightful and diverse roster of clever friends — to discuss the next successive book in the canon. Some guests are Sweet Valley aficionados, but most have never read a word of the series before being recruited.
“I wanted to make the show fun for die-hards, but also for everyone else,” says Flaxbart, who produces the podcast independently. “It’s easy for fans to dissolve into insider gossip and gloss over the simple fact that these books are insane. Friends who’ve never read the series are shocked by the over-the-top drama of it all.”
Drama like in Book #20, Crash Landing, when one high school junior suffers psychosomatic paralysis after a plane crash because she’s afraid her boyfriend – who was piloting the plane –- will leave her once she heals. This wild story makes for entertaining discussion, but also raises about how mental health is portrayed in fiction, how to treat a romantic partner, feminism, and self-confidence.
“The show is about comedy first, soap opera gossip second, and beneath it all, a commentary on what lessons we want our entertainment media to be teaching — or not to be teaching! — particularly to young adult readers.”
Season 4 starts on December 5, 2019, with a discussion of Book #31, Taking Sides, featuring actor Tim Redmond as the special guest. Sweet Valley Diaries is available on all major podcast platforms, or via Flaxbart’s long-running blog, SweetValleyDiaries.net.
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|Sweet Valley Diaries|
By Marissa Flaxbart