We round up the best new talk shows, audio dramas and comedy podcasts (along with a few old favourites) to help you pass the time while you’re on your commute, doing the housework, or driving home for Christmas.
Serial – Season 3
When the first season of Serial hit the internet way back in 2014, podcasts weren’t the media phenomenon they are today. In fact, it could be argued that Sarah Koenig’s addictive true crime show helped popularise the medium, as the case of accused killer Adnan Syed became appointment listening. The second season aired without much fanfare, and failed to recapture what made the first run so compelling; the “whodunit” mystery. Earlier this year, after a lengthy absence, Serial returned to the landscape that it helped shape. For the third season, Koenig and co. decided to do something completely different; they spent several months in a Maryland courthouse. Each episode of Season 3 follows an individual case, and the season as a whole provides a fascinating glimpse into the American criminal justice system.
Heston’s Pod & Chips
Billed as “the world’s first multisensory podcast,” Pod & Chips is a must-listen for food lovers and fans of chef-turned-mad-scientist Heston Blumenthal. Using the medium of audio and the power of the human mind, Blumenthal claims to be able to change what you are tasting, based on what you hear.
Serving up her own twist on the crime podcast is Caroline Crampton, who examines the role that women have played in the detective genre over the years. From the feminist subtext in the noir novels of the 1930s to the mysterious real-life disappearance of Agatha Christie, each episode of Shedunnit plays out like its own delicious detective story.
The Gurls Talk Podcast
In this audio extension of her Gurls Talk organisation, Adwoa Aboah is joined by a different guest each week to talk frankly and uncompromisingly about the issues that have had an impact on their lives. Guests so far include Professor Green, who talked about his experiences of loss and grief, and the West Midlands’ own Jorja Smith, who shared her thoughts on internet trolls and the importance of self-acceptance.
The Mortified Podcast
Can you imagine anything more embarrassing than having to read aloud from your teenage diary in front of other people? That’s the whole premise of The Mortified Podcast, in which guests read extracts from the journals, letters and poems that they wrote in their most angst-filled moments, and find moments of genuine insight amid all of the cringing.
Ira Madison III, Kara Brown and Louis Virtel break down the week in politics and pop culture with savage wit. The title of the podcast (and the game with which they end each episode) originated as a running joke on Twitter; Ira’s way of rejecting something, be that an unwanted reboot or a half-arsed celebrity apology. Trust us, you won’t be saying “keep it” to Keep It!
What Page Are You On?
Alice Slater and Bethany Rutter talk all things books in this bibliophile’s dream of a podcast. Some episodes are themed, others are a book club discussion about a specific novel, and every now and then there’s an illuminating author interview. Highlights from 2018 include the “Party Monsters” episode which covers books set in the New York party scene of the 80s and 90s, and their chat with Sarah Breen and Emer McLysaght, whose ‘Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling’ Facebook page became the surprise breakout book of the year.
We all have goals that we put off or avoid, whether that be getting in shape or working on a personal project. And we’re all familiar with the guilt that comes after we make excuses. Power Hour, hosted by Adrienne Herbert, is all about inspiring listeners to unlock their potential by dedicating one hour each day to self-improvement. Each week she speaks to a coach, leader or creative to find out the rules and routines they follow, and how listeners can put them into action in their own lives.
Each week, Dana Schwartz and Max Genecov take the listener on a deep dive into a film from the great romantic comedy canon. In addition to working their way through the iconic films of Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan, the podcast also looks at the conventions of the genre itself and asks what exactly makes a romantic comedy while discussing wildcard entries like William Goldman’s cult classic The Princess Bride and anime love story Your Name. (There’s also a pretty great episode in which Dana and Max dissect Netflix’s festive Vanessa Hudgens vehicle The Princess Switch.)
Ever since Serial showcased the storytelling possibilities of podcasts, there’s been a slew of great audio dramas which use the true crime genre as a jumping off point. Limetown and The Black Tapes are perhaps the most successful examples, both of which are narrated by intrepid female reporters on a quest to unravel a seemingly inexplicable mystery. The newest addition to this canon is Wondery’s horror story Blackwood, which follows a group of teenagers recording their own podcast as they investigate a series of strange occurrences linked to their local urban legend, “The Bugman.”