Back in his footballing prime, Gary Lineker made scoring goals look so easy that he was often ignorantly accused of “goal hanging”.
Seemingly destined to breeze through any line of work that tickles his fancy, after nonchalantly mastering the art of TV presenting, Lineker is now doing the same with podcast producing. The name of his production company? Goalhanger.
I’m sure it was brainstormed with tongue in cheek but, after commandeering the topics of history, politics, money, football and now entertainment, Goalhanger’s everexpanding The Rest Is… franchise is threatening to consume the entire top 10 on the podcast chart.
And if you’ll allow me to exhaust the analogy, it has succeeded so far by generally adhering to a tactic as simple and effective as goal hanging: sticking two nerds in a room and handing them microphones.
And who better than the vast cultural sponges Marina Hyde and Richard Osman to be their entertainment nerds? The Guardian’s fiercely witty columnist of both politics and showbiz, and the gameshow guru/king of crime fiction, instantly slipped into the snappiest of grooves in their analysis of “all the fun things you escape to”, as Hyde puts it.
If that sounds like an impossibly broad scope, let me reassure you that, bar some extreme One Show-esque gear changes, there are no signs that they’ve spread themselves too thin.
It is the strongest virtue of the show that they can cover anything. The range extends from the near-triumph of our newfound national treasure Luke Littler in the World Darts Championship, to the strange allure that the late US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger held for Hollywood stars. All delivered with the same level of enthusiastic insight.
An endearing quirk of Osman’s is that he seems to view everything through the lens of TV formats. In their discussion of darts’ dominance of the overnight TV ratings, the former Pointless host was busy pitching the sport as if it were his next hit gameshow.
“It’s the single best television sport,” he said, because “it’s the best format there is.” It’s three games in each set and, coupled with the fact that you must finish a game on a double (the hardest shot), “it’s all jeopardy”.
Hyde on Kissinger’s favourite pastime of “star-fucking” led to the kind of hilarious takedown we’ve long been reading in her Guardian columns.
In 2007, Kissinger invited Angelina Jolie to join the Council on Foreign Relations, simply because it was his only chance to meet her. “The blackest of satires,” said Hyde, because “what have they got in common? She’s just adopted a Cambodian orphan and he certainly created a few of them.”
There are so many golden nuggets like these in each circa-40-minute episode that it’s hard to digest them all in one listen. You can hear why they seized the top spot as soon as the podcast launched at the end of 2023. I don’t see them leaving the top 10 any time soon.
Meanwhile, Gary Lineker can’t stop scoring.