For six weeks, millions of listeners were captivated — or repelled — by the podcast Missing Richard Simmons. But in the end, we’re left not knowing much more than when we started.

By Cristina Everett
March 22, 2017 at 03:57 PM EDT
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For six weeks, millions of listeners were captivated — or repelled — by the podcast Missing Richard Simmons, with good reason: The eccentric pop culture figure with a multimillion-dollar fitness empire vanished from the spotlight in 2014, opting to live a more private life in his Hollywood Hills mansion.

The abrupt disappearance worried fans and confidantes alike, including former Daily Show producer Dan Taberski, a onetime friend and host of the podcast, which tracks his quest to find Simmons. The show was lauded by some for revealing Simmons' empathic nature (he used to call hundreds of strangers in need of a friend) and criticized by others for being intrusive and unkind. It resurfaced old tabloid rumors that the fitness guru has denied — like that he's depressed or being held hostage — and spurred a recent welfare visit to Simmons' home by the LAPD. (He's "fine" and appears "healthy and fit," according to a police officer.) In the finale episode, Simmons' own manager, Michael Catalano, told Taberski, "I can't say Richard feels better as a result of the podcast. Perhaps you do."

Dan Taberski
Dan Taberski

When Simmons first launched, it immediately garnered comparisons to Serial, the hit 2014 whodunit that evolved in real time as reporters tried to figure out whether Adnan Syed, a high school student convicted of murder, was actually guilty. Like Serial, Simmons centered around an exhaustive search for the truth and became major dinner-party-debate fodder. Now that Missing Richard Simmons has concluded its six-episode run, its finale is drawing even more comparisons to Serial, and not in a flattering way. Though public hype is at least partly to blame, the fact remains that listeners anticipated a happy ending – but Simmons, like Serial before it, ended with more questions than answers. <iframe src="https://embed.radiopublic.com/e?if=a45f1ca3-fbde-4028-86f9-8be3711a14a1" width="100%" height="185" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" sandbox="allow-same-origin allow-scripts allow-top-navigation allow-popups" class="" allowfullscreen="" resize="0" replace_attributes="1" name=""></iframe>

Taberski never connected with the 68-year-old — he'd been hoping to tape a bonus seventh episode featuring Simmons — and offered listeners this final note in the finale episode: "The longer you stay in isolation, the world goes on without you. And maybe for Richard, that means freedom."

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