Podcasts Worth Listening To

Andrew Stephens, Sunday the 18th of March, 2018 in Rant

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I enjoy listening to podcasts. It is a such a shame but for a company who introduced podcasting to the masses Apple sure seems intent on killing it again. The built-in podcasting app on iOS is a terrible mixture of bad UI and utterly confusing functionality. I spent years trying to get it to sync my podcast subscriptions across devices by choosing from the arcane settings that seemed to do either three quarters or five thirds of what you actually wanted.

I've been listening to more podcasts lately, mostly because I finally installed Overcast, a great app for subscribing to podcasts in a sane way. I really can't say enough about its simple and effective design. If you have any interest in podcasts and a iOS device you should install it immediately.

As promised, here is a non-exhaustive list of the podcasts I regularly listen to. There is no particular order.

The Old Doctor Who Show

The Old Doctor Who Show Podcast Dan and Eric are two guys who set out to review every episode of classic Doctor Who that was available on Netflix. The BBC promptly pulled the episodes, leaving this podcast somewhat pointless but they decided to press on regardless.

The hosts are obviously old friends who don't see each other much any more, so the first ten minutes of each episode are basically them just alternatively shooting the breeze or complaining about Netflix not showing Doctor Who. Neither of them do much research, or even appear to like Doctor Who much, but the podcast survives on charm.

Tone: matey, increasingly discontented as they enter the Colin Baker era.
Fast forward: the first ten minutes of general chit-chat
Good introduction: the bad episodes of Doctor Who tend to make for amusing listening as the exasperated hosts try to make sense of things, so try Episode 44 - Timeflight.

How Did This Get Made?

How Did This Get Made Comedians Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, Jason Mantzoukas, plus a rotating roster of guests watch and discuss terrible films, with a focus on big blockbuster productions. A very professional podcast, with large live-shows and plenty of famous guests.

Tone: brash and crude.
Fast forward: the ads. Also, the mini-episodes are pretty worthless.
Good introduction: the producers are trying to get people to subscribe to their paid-podcasting service so not all the episodes are online. However Episode 99 : A View to a Kill is a solid live show.

Planet Money

Planet Money

A regular segment on NPR, each episode focuses on one specific area of business and explains why it works the way it does, which is very often not what you would expect. I love the interviews they do with industry insiders as they try to explain what people get wrong about their lifes' work.

Tone: sonorous and knowledgeable while just a little bit self-satisfied, as specified in NPR's editorial guidelines.
Fast forward: nothing, this is one podcast that gets straight to the point.
Good introduction: Episode 822: The Shortest Super Bowl, how the secondary market for sports tickets works and why it went horribly wrong for the 2015 superbowl. Also, their episode on the Crazy Eddie financial scam is well worth a listen.

History Extra Podcast

History Extra Podcast A spinoff from BBC History Magazine, this podcast is usually an interview with one of the contributors to the latest issue on newsstands. Often this an interview with an author that has a book to flog, but the topics are so varied and interesting that it is hard to be upset.

Tone: scholarly excitement. So British you can occasionally hear the clinking of tea cups in the background.
Fast forward: the bit at the end where they pimp the magazine.
Good introduction: Mary Shelly and Her Monster, an examination of the life of Mary Shelly.

Futility Closet

Futility Closet Podcast Husband and wife team, Greg and Sharon Ross, host this spin-off from the excellent Futility Closet blog, where they ruminate on various odds and ends from history, literature, and art. Every episode ends with one of the hosts challenging the other to a game of twenty questions, which is more entertaining than it sounds.

Tone: serene excitement, clearly a labour of love for the hosts.
Fast forward: the occasional talk about their cat.
Good introduction: they are all good so I will just point to a recent show: Episode 190 : Mary Patten and the Nepture's Car for a ripping nautical tale.

The British History Podcast

British History Podcast Not just a British history podcast, The British History Podcast is worthy of its title. Host Jamie Jeffers is telling the story of Britain in chronological order, starting from the ice age. After 272(!) episodes he is all the way up to the early 900s and the reign of Æthelflæd. Jeffers spins the tale with all the drama and color of an episode of Game of Thrones, drawing closely from primary sources but not afraid to point out where the official record is probably bollocks.

Tone: an insightful and chatty monologue. No inter-host banter here.
Fast forward: none. The episodes are short and to the point.
Good introduction: unless you feel like jumping in at a particular point, the special topic episodes are a good start. Try Episode 51 : Dark Ages Feasting.

Studio Sessions

Studio Sessions Podcast Christian James Hand would be just another annoying radio DJ except that he is also a total recording nerd. He hosts this segment on 95.5 KLOS where he plays the master tapes of "classic" songs and explains how the tune was put together, dropping musical theory and the names of famous people he just happened to meet at the gym last week with equal aplomb.

Tone: slightly douchy but somewhat informative.
Fast forward: the ads and the tedious morning crew handover.
Good introduction: Rio by Duran Duran or the 60 minutes of Livin' on a Prayer.

In The Cut

In The Cut Podcast Jesse Holden really loves movies. Together with a few friends he picked a some films to watch and discuss. Unlike other film podcasts, instead of picking good or bad films to talk about, In The Cut focuses on interesting films. The results are sometime hilarious, sometimes profound, sometimes a little dull but often worthwhile.

Sadly, Holden only made 30 episodes.

Tone: restrained passion for the subject matter
Fast forward: the running joke with the show's sponsor being the state lottery scratch cards got old after the first 30 seconds.
Good introduction: the last episode, [30] Stalker: The Holy Fool is an interesting attempt to make sense of that film. For a less cerebral listen, try [2] Robocop 2: Suck My Dick, I’m Robocop.