Higher Ground, the media company launched by President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, is releasing its first series without two of its namesakes at the helm. Instead, Alex Pappademas will host the series called The Big Hit Show. It will be a series of audio documentaries that focus on the pieces of popular culture that have defined and changed our culture. The show is the third in Higher Ground’s roster. As part of its exclusive partnership with Spotify it previously produced The Michelle Obama Podcast in 2020 and Renegades: Born in the USA in 2021 featuring conversations between the former President and rocker Bruce Springsteen.
Pappademas is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor who previously hosted the Grantland podcast Do You Like Prince Movies? . From 2015 through 2017 he was the executive editor of MTV News. MGM and Smokehouse Pictures are currently developing a film adaptation of his story, “Saint John,” an account of the rise and fall of car designer John DeLorean, with George Clooney attached to direct and star.
“Alex is a seasoned journalist who thrives at investigating the intersection of pop culture and changing social attitudes,” said Dan Fierman, Higher Ground’s Head of Audio. “While delivering the proper social and historical context, he speaks directly to the creators of these pop culture behemoths to understand the thinking behind their work.”
The Big Hit Show will tackle specific topics in groups of five-episode chapters. The first two will be released in the first two quarters of 2022. The first will explore the “Twilight” teenage vampire romance series. The podcast will explore the unlikely success of a story written by a Mormon stay-at-home mother of three and first-time novelist, as well as the rise of fanfiction and what happens when fans take the narrative into their own hands.
This spring the second season will drop. Titled “To Pimp A Butterfly,” it will look at Kendrick Lamar’s 2016 album of the same name. It won the Grammy for Best Rap Album in 2016 and topped numerous lists as the best album of the year.
Future installments—due later in the year—will delve into video games and movies as The Big Hit Show aims to unpack the genesis and impact of a “new classic” in film, music, TV, internet culture, and videogames through in-depth conversations with the visionaries who created them.
“The shows and films and albums we explore have all been chosen not just because they’re massive pieces of popular culture. We’ve picked them because each has had a profound butterfly effect on our culture,” said Pappademas. “Whether we’re tracing how an author's vivid dream about a sparkly vampire led to an entirely new fan culture or how a megastar reckoning with success, expectation and survivor's guilt crafted a masterpiece that became the soundtrack to the biggest protest movement in a generation, listeners will know from chapter to chapter they’re getting a high stakes narrative that explains how our culture has been influenced and shaped by these creations.”
Higher Ground announced a multiyear alliance with Spotify in June 2019, agreeing to produce podcasts exclusive to the platform. To date each of the series have become available off of Spotify after an exclusive window. The company has not yet said what its distribution plans are for The Big Hit Show.
Julie McNamara, Spotify Head of US Studios and Video, calls the series a “thought provoking exploration” of fandom that analyzes some of cultures' biggest movements that have never been dissected before. "As the podcasting format continues its ascension to the heights of mainstream media, we feel there is no better format to revisit these stories and their lasting cultural impact that have been timeless artifacts of entertainment today,” she said.