Sometimes life makes a promise that it can’t keep. Unfortunately, the same can be true of podcasts. And the same is certainly true of Stay Away From Matthew Magill, a tale that begins with mystery and intrigue, but ends with an awkward, tangentially related group therapy session with the narrator’s parents and siblings.
It needs to be stated upfront that Eric Mennel is an excellent host. But alas, in this instance, we can only assume he just ran out of story when it came to his (mostly fascinating) main subject. And so ensued a clumsy attempt to wrap a story about his moderately dysfunctional family around the story of Matthew Magill, a ravishing model and actor turned objectionable recluse.
To go with this story, you have to buy into the unconvincing and poorly elucidated premise that Mennel is somehow destined to become Magill. That he is on his way to being wholesale alienated from his direct family members. That the touchy-feely final episodes are the necessary medicine to avoid this fate.
In fact, the effect is that this feels like two entirely separate podcasts roughly jammed into one. Like something happened in the editing suite and we lost the end of the real story — the story of Matthew Magill — a character Mennel discovers via a box of his Magill’s possessions. A man once thought to be something of a fantasist, who Mennel discovers lived a life that included the glamor of Broadway and the thrill of international crime.
In all likelihood, Magill’s story is untraceable or uninteresting beyond what we are able learn from this podcast. That there is no electrifying conclusion to report and Mennel sought to save his efforts by constructing hard-to-see parallels between his own family situation and that of Magill (who was shunned by his brothers). But, despite this valiant attempt, Stay Away From Matthew Magill begins with promise and ends with something entirely disconnected.