It is. More than a decade ago, Bill Simmons cross-pollinated sports and pop culture and launched The B. Early on— The B. He took note of the diminishing returns of what celebrities and athletes were willing to say and the disgust fans had for sound bites and puff pieces. The show follows her train of thought, taking listeners through unexpected twists and turns where they find out flamingos can drink boiling-hot water, robust mite communities live on our faces, and why no one ever sees a living armadillo it has to do with a phenomenon known as eye shine.
Lichtman has a fantastic sense of humor and a charming curiosity that seduces listeners into the topic du jour. The show is perfect politically neutral entertainment for conversations with the in-laws or for work parties. Every other week, people who have experienced a massive disturbance in their life tell their stories uninterrupted, no questions, no music. A male model becomes the target of the Japanese mafia in one show, and in the next, a victim of incest talks about how advocacy changed her life.
IVFML features a couple enduring the in vitro fertilization process with shameless humor and a lot of compassion in five serialized episodes. But it works. This sponsored-by-Tinder podcast made by Gimlet Creative puts the show host in the driver seat to swipe on behalf of random DTR listeners.
The concept is simple: Tinder users are introduced, we hear a bit about their situation and interests, and then we listen to the host Jane Marie scroll through with guest comedians like Jason Mantzoukas or Aparna Nancherla. Sometimes the process is a disaster. Dirty John most certainly had a moment this year. A fair amount of dramatic irony underlines the plot, especially the rapid-fire romance that started on a dating website and raised clearcut red flags that Newell ignored or missed somehow.
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She married John on a whim without a prenup and in secret because of the expressed objection of her daughters. The series gets darker with each episode: There are lies, threats, restraining orders. Dirty John is an object in a curio cabinet that you take out, examine, and put back. It has no higher purpose. But as the audio equivalent of a page turner, it will keep you engaged, if a bit perplexed, from beginning to end.
StartUp launched as a meta-narrative about the creation of its parent company, the podcast network Gimlet. Many a listener fell in love with the producer-turned-entrepreneur Alex Blumberg, riding the roller coaster with him while he found a partner to launch his venture. StartUp was a wonderful idea that threatened to become obsolete the moment Gimlet found its footing. Since entrepreneurs evolve or perish, so did the show, and under its new host, Lisa Chow, it roared back to life with a fresh voice.
In Seasons 5 and 6, which aired this year, StartUp turned out self-contained episodes around distinct inventors and product ideas. One two-parter tracks the rise and fall of the now lost-to-time Friendster, a website once perfectly positioned to be what Facebook became. Another episode explores why Stuart Anders, the inventor of the slap bracelet, was doomed before he ever went to market, even though his idea sold millions of units.
The behind-the-scenes pressure and rise-to-stardom drama of bootstrapping a company are too hard to put down. While many of the changes this year are cosmetic, such as a new logo and an obsession with finding spectacular episode titles, the show did lean more heavily toward the topic of activism. It replaced some punditry with guidance on how to protect legislation, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals DACA , contact congresspeople, vote, and donate to causes.
But, at its core, Pod Save America is still a conversation among talented friends, a highbrow-lowbrow, inside-and-outside-the-Beltway essential political companion. Missing Richard Simmons crosses an ethical boundary in a way unheard of in chart-topping podcasts it was number one on iTunes for weeks after its debut. The filmmaker-turned-podcast-host Dan Taberski, who is wonderfully at home in audio, seeks out his former weight-loss mentor, Simmons, who disappeared from the public eye years ago for reasons unknown listeners do know he is safe and alive even as the series launches.
But nothing stops the host from positing theories that risk outing Simmons: his possible declining health, his potential transition, his maybe falling under the spell of his housekeeper, and his likely—but unproven—decision to stop talking to the public. Science Vs almost always frames its episodes around topics that have failed to reach a cultural consensus: the existence of ghosts, the dangers of nuclear power, the usefulness of chiropractic care. This show is brilliant and dead serious about getting to the bottom of its hypotheses. You might call it the progeny of MythBusters : It grapples with the scientific method while not being afraid to get its hands dirty.
There are younger passionate voices too, including the civil-rights activist DeRay Mckesson and the singer Katy Perry. None of this is a problem for Black. Podcasts, to their detriment, have largely ignored long-form sports narratives in favor of talking heads. Some of the episodes support what ESPN airs on cable—and are definitely worth your time—but the best ones stand alone: stories about John Madden Football, the bloody origins of the UFC, and the touching relationship between two decathletes from the Olympics. Some of these tales will leave you cowering beneath your headphones, because the things these adventurers do for kicks may seem reckless.
The host Malcolm Gladwell hyper-focuses on ideas that have been left in a time capsule no one bothered to crack open.
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Take the iconic photograph of a young man being attacked by police dogs in Birmingham—civil rights is a recurring theme in Season 2—and now imagine the victim sees it much differently than you do. For Gladwell, some of the material is personal. Considering the age of the medium, the true-crime series Criminal is old guard.
It broke out nearly four years ago, with gold-standard production and tight, well-written scripts. They blend whodunits, horror, and conspiracy theory as they delve into the harrowing and occasionally spooky drama of wrongful imprisonment, mysterious noises coming from inside your apartment, the alleged assassination of Senator Huey Long, and ancient burial grounds.
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Judge and Spohrer confront their material fully aware of how gruesome and occasionally titillating it can be. Theory of Everything also celebrates and captures wonderful, creative people coping with the pickle of modern life: how creature comforts are increasingly served with collateral damage, from gentrification and fake news to data collection and Russian infiltration. Having a stutter, dating after sexual assault, swiping for the first time at age 70, dating as a person of color, and confronting a ghoster all serve as fodder for this charming, earnest, generous exploration of love in the digital age.
Megan Tan started by recording from her closet in , inviting listeners to join her on her journey from waiting tables after college to getting her first real job. Throughout the seasons, we meet her long-time boyfriend, we follow her as she applies for a competitive fellowship, and we cheer her on when she lands in, you guessed it, radio.
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Radiotopia picked up her show, and after just one season there, Millennial is no more. Fans may want to revisit the four-part series Tan did from Cuba earlier this year, though new listeners should start bingeing Millennial from the very beginning. Moss has been remembering that he has to die memento mori since Moss has traditionally kept himself out of the story, but this year, when he came out from behind the mic and played both the subject and the host, the show became extra special.
In the two-part finale, Moss travels to Peru to partake in seven ayahuasca ceremonies in hopes of experiencing a psychedelic ego death. On paper, it could all sound a little hollow—the en vogue nature of ayahuasca journeys, that he talks through his intentions with a life coach, that he wants to kill his ego in the first place—but Moss is both curious and a tiny bit skeptical, an appealing mix. The podcast considers the enormous amount of design and architecture that hides in plain sight, brilliantly deconstructing an object to reveal the intent of the creator, why certain design choices were made, and how they might affect you.
The host Roman Mars knows that the harmony that connects designers, physical structures, function, and human ambition is as rich and complicated as that created by any orchestra. The New Yorker Radio Hour is a weekly news and arts compendium. Timely, hard-news stories on the Supreme Court, the White House, Harvey Weinstein, and the other of-the-moment pieces being covered by the magazine show up in this iteration, too.
But the show has a looser structure, and its host David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker , allows the lighter-hearted narratives to meander into quiet, contemplative places, giving it variety-is-the-spice-of-life, coffeehouse vibes. She would probably make the perfect dinner-party host. She probably also knows the best icebreaker for a Bumble message and the coolest empty bar to hit in Manhattan on a Friday night. Let You Must Remember This baptize you into the world of show business. Many of the origin stories she tells predate the talkies, flashing back to vaudeville and New York theaters.
Hirway even deconstructs the Stranger Things theme song. In some perfect confluence of events, the Sidedoor host Tony Cohn ended up with a microphone in his hand and at the Smithsonian. Sidenote: Sidedoor has an incredible website. The fifth season includes a three-part series about a woman forced into hiding in the Witness Security Program after unwittingly—and later wittingly—becoming involved in the Colombian mafia and drug trafficking.
Labeling Radiolab a science podcast misses the mark. The association bears out in one regard, because the longtime hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich frame stories around a battle between wonderment and skepticism. But any topic is fair game. This long-running series continues to set the pace for producing the most awe-inspired goosebumps.
Lea Thau just announced that she will break from Radiotopia, but in her final season of Strangers with the podcast network, she did some excellent and unexpected work. She equates an episode of Strangers with taking a shot of empathy, and the analogy shakes out. For instance, at one point this year, she was traveling around the country debating Trump supporters, even staying in their homes. Thau first endeared herself to the audiosphere through her work with The Moth , and her series Love Hurts , in which she interviews her ex-boyfriends.
Wortham and Morris spend each week soaking in news, technology, film, TV, and music and crushing on celebrities.
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When you dig into these dialogues, you understand just how much research and preparation go into its creation. Wortham and Morris structure an episode well in advance and it shows. A thoughtful gift about the world they were born into. Our original, bestselling birthday book is a page celebration of the ones you love. All we need to get our personalisation magic started is a name, gender and date of birth. You get to add the finishing touches, and your family and friends can record a surprise video message that the recipient will find nestled at the back of their book.