"Many of the podcast’s tropes — the mystery framing, the crowdsourcing of clues from the audience and a format that focuses on the narrator as much as his subject — are borrowed directly from 'Serial.' By turning a journalist into a friend and casting a man’s personal life as a mystery, 'Missing Richard Simmons' has retooled the stale Hollywood documentary as an addictive media sensation. But it’s also turned it into a morally suspect exercise: An invasion of privacy masquerading as a love letter. Mr. Simmons is a public figure, and that gives journalists a lot of latitude to pry. But a friend who claims to want to help Mr. Simmons should probably just leave him alone."
Writes Amanda Hess in "'Missing Richard Simmons,' the Morally Suspect Podcast" at the NYT.
I've listened to all the as-yet available episodes of "Missing Richard Simmons" and I'm not so negative about it. I think the podcaster, Dan Taberski, continually examines the morality of his project and exhibits kindness and empathy toward Simmons. The podcast has greatly increased my respect and good feeling toward Simmons — to the point where I could even suspect Taberski of being in cahoots with Simmons in some extremely clever PR project. Simmons has spent decades promoting himself one way or another. Why wouldn't he retool his fame like this?
I guess I should send my theory in for Taberski to examine. It could be whole episode!