Podcasts have become so sophisticated that they have started to take on the characteristics of their entertainment predecessors. Their production values are often sky high. Many are divided into “seasons,” with lengthy arcs that take time to build and land. And also, as with TV, there are way too many to consume than a single person could possibly do in a lifetime.
As a result, there are some podcasts that I’ve wanted to get around to, but have avoided due to the “commitment” required. Now, a few lengthy road trips later, I am slightly more caught up on all the media I’m behind on.
Here are a few podcasts I’ve been listening to that I’d highly recommend:
The Drop Out – Examining the life and times of Elizabeth Holmes and her catastrophic failure of a company, Theranos, has become a big business. This podcast is one of the latest entrants. While I still think the book Bad Blood is the definitive retelling of the Holmes scandal, this podcast makes for fascinating listening, allowing you to hear fairly extensive interviews with many of the main players. With seven 40-45 minute episodes, they have enough time to dive in depth into some of the key aspects of the story. Overall, this is probably what I’d recommend for people who don’t have time to read the book but want to learn what went wrong at Theranos.
Surviving Y2K – I wasn’t a fan of “Missing Richard Seasons,” which I found to be a bit too creepy and invasive for my tastes, but I quite liked the second season of the Headlong podcast, which dives into the Y2K phenomenon. The show revisits the mania around the Y2K bug, and how people from different walks of life reacted to it. In addition, the host, Dan Taberski, uses the show as an opportunity to reveal how he tried to use Y2K to restart his own life. It’s a bold thing whenever a podcast host bleeds for his art. In this case, it also made for a worthwhile listen.
Slow Burn: Season 2 – “Slow Burn” is a testament to the importance of learning from the mistakes of the past. This politics-focused narrative podcast, whose second season covers the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, is fascinating and gripping. Listening to it, I am struck by many things: The quaint concerns of both parties at the time (The Republicans were worried about the deficit and about the morals of our President; with time, let’s just say those concerns have been revealed to be not truly embedded in the DNA of the GOP). The cruelty of many of the players involved, who may not have understood that they were destroying a young woman’s life, but were certainly willing to take that risk. Mostly though, I realize how we’re still dealing with many of the same issues today as back then, not to mention many of the same actual individuals. If anything, politics and political coverage have been revealed to be even more venal than we could’ve imagined back then. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Good One – Not a narrative show, but this podcast by Jesse David Fox makes for insightful listening about the nature of comedy. It’s basically Song Exploder, but for jokes. Where else can you find an analysis of the Totino’s pizza sketch on SNL and the “Juan Likes Chicken and Rice” episode of Documentary Now?
I hope you have a chance to check these out. I’d ask for your recommendations, but I have too many other podcasts on deck already to possibly finish them all… (e.g. In The Dark, Caliphate, Serial Season 3, etc.). That said, if you have any must-listens, send them my way!
Some more links from the week:
- Speaking of podcasts, I was very moved by this recent episode of This American Life, which covers the intractable problem of conspiracy theorists. No solutions are proffered; just a sober analysis of the problem and what people are doing to try to fight back. See also: this related New York Times story.
- In case you missed it: TV critic Myles McNutt joined me for a video to discuss how to make a proper pop culture bracket. I definitely recommend this video for anyone even vaguely interested in pop culture ephemera.
- On the /Filmcast this week, we reviewed Jordan Peele’s Us. I also did a spoiler-free vlog about the film, plus a spoiler-filled vlog.
- I recorded a Periscope featuring Peter Sciretta from /Film reacting to this past week’s Apple Event, which saw the unveiling of a new news service, credit card, and TV subscription service.
- Also in Apple News: The Wall Street Journal published a devastating takedown of their embarrassing keyboard problem. And after many months of speculation, Apple canceled Airpower. What an odd saga for this niche product.
- This week on the Write Along podcast, C. Robert Cargill gives advice for how to write a horror film.
- In the latest scene that we will soon be living in the world of Children of Men, a recent study showed that Americans are having less sex than ever.
- Soraya Roberts has a thought-provoking piece in Longreads about the stultifying sameness of popular culture.
- Conor Friedersdorf wrote about how the endless cycle of speech policing we now live in has left little room for substance.
- Here’s a fun piece: Nate Jones wrote for Vulture about how Jason Clarke seems to frequently play a cuckold in his films.
- And finally: An incredible story from Buzzfeed about how a woman ended up giving birth to her own granddaughter.