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iHeart’s Will Pearson Says Feel-Good Nostalgia Is Behind Crop Of Rewatch Podcasts.

It used to be that reruns on television were how TV shows lived on forever, with entire cable networks dedicated to old series. But now podcasts are offering creators another way to keep their former shows front of mind.

Last week iHeartMedia added another rewatch show to its lineup as actors Zooey Deschanel, Hannah Simone and Lamorne Morris debuted a podcast called Welcome to Our Show that features the trio rewatching their television series “New Girl.” Like other podcasts in the genre, the series features the actors rewatching the series and sharing their memories, never-before-told stories, and moments and scenes left on the cutting room floor.

Other rewatch podcasts are taking a different approach, such The Office Deep Dive. Hosted by actor Brian Baumgartner, the fellow iHeart show features conversations with the stars from “The Office” to share their favorite memories from the set and never-before-told stories. And “Scrubs” stars Zach Braff and Donald Faison host the podcast Fake Doctors, Real Friends for iHeart, in which they relive the hit TV show while also incorporating their current life.

Will Pearson, Chief Operating Officer of iHeart Radio Podcast Network, told NBC News there is good reason for rewatch podcasts to be all the rage -- especially during the pandemic.

"While true crime remains a popular category in podcasting, one of the things that we started seeing from listeners across the board was this desire to find comfort, escapism and a reason to smile whenever possible," said Pearson. "People were looking back at better times, looking for comfort and looking for something to latch onto — and that’s something we have been wanting to tap into with these podcasts."

The actors involved have also seen the podcasts as a new way to reach audiences. Baumgartner said he decided to produce the rewatch podcast The Office Deep Dive after “The Office” became one of the biggest hits on Netflix in 2020 during the pandemic lockdowns.

“It’s really why I was interested in doing this podcast,” said Baumgartner during a presentation to ad buyers last year. “What has happened to the show and how it has exploded with new and younger viewers is insane and really that is why we started this podcast. To ask why and to go back to the beginning of how it was set up creatively – to find out if there are any clues to why it has not just survived this long, but it is thriving.”

In other situations, it is the fans that are clamoring for the show, which Morris says led to their Welcome to Our Show podcast. “The fans have been flooding my inbox and timelines with requests for behind the scenes intel. Well, here we go!” said Morris. “All of their questions will be answered….and we also tell weird stories.”

Villanova University communications professor Susan Mackey-Kallis told NBC that it is not surprising to see fans become attached to characters in a TV series. "There’s comfort in listening to familiar voices that evoke a sense of reassurance during stressful times like the pandemic," she said. "It's like listening to a longtime friend you haven't spoken to in a while."

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