I've been thinking of putting together this list for a while, but I saw this post by Kyle Ritter and it prompted me to go ahead and do it. Check out his post. It's clean-looking and informative. Also, his favorite podcasts are all different than mine, but his title is similar because I ripped it off.
- Who does it: Linda Holmes, Stephen Thompson, Glen Weldon, Trey Graham.
- What it's about: The four are NPR staff who spend their regular time covering all things pop culture. On PCHH they get together to talk about it.
- Why I like it: The group has great chemistry; they're smart, funny, and charming, and they've been doing this together for a while so they know each other well. I get turned on to lots of new things through them, and I have a radio crush on Stephen Thompson. I'll bet he's gorgeous.
- A good one to start with: Cancellation Blues and Cultural Etiquette from 5/17/13, in which Glen tells a story about his former self.
- Who does it: screenwriters John August (Big Fish) and Craig Mazin (The Hangover Part II)
- What it's about: They "discuss screenwriting and related topics in the film and television industry, everything from getting stuff written to the vagaries of copyright and work-for-hire law."
- Why I like it: These guys, among other things, do a good job at being both candid and encouraging when it comes to screenwriting. John seems infinitely reasonable and Craig brings the umbrage. I've also learned useful things about writing by listening to their podcast (and by reading John's blogs). They're putting out something helpful and valuable for free just, it seems, because they want to.
- A good one to start with: Episode 92, The Little Mermaid. In this one, they dissect and discuss the Disney movie. I've been struggling to grasp story structure, but I feel like my understanding of it took a leap forward with this episode.
- Note: There are a ton of radio dramas available through the BBC website. The individual programs are on a cycle; each episode being available for seven days. They do cycle back around eventually, but I'm not sure what the timeframe is. I've included my favorites, most of which can be found under the crime sub genre.
3a. Lord Peter Wimsey
- Who does it: Based on the books by Dorothy L Sayers. Ian Carmichael plays LPW.
- What it's about: Wimsey is a high-born hobbiest sleuth, what what? He goes around collecting clues by talking to people, and he commonly says, "Dash it all." An interesting thing to remember in these older mystery stories is that when someone gets convicted of murder they get hanged. In two of the stories I've heard so far (or maybe just one that I heard twice), Peter wraps up the case by confronting his suspect, convincing him to write a confession - clearing someone else's name of guilt - and then telling him, "I know what I would do", which leads to that person's suicide. He's delightful. Stories run in six episodes, 30 minutes a piece.
- What (else) I like about it: More so than the other series I've listed here, it strikes me how much empathy this one has for its guilty characters. They always have some degree of depth and understandable motivation.
- Who does it: David Threlfall plays Baldi. Produced by BBC Northern Ireland.
- What it's about: Paulo Baldi is a Franciscan Priest who's questioning his commitment to the holy order. He's interested in academics, semiotics in particular. He gets involved in murder cases through his friend and (possible) love interest DI Mann. Stories told in a single episode, 45 min.
- What I like about it: My feelings for Steven Thompson pale in comparison to those for Paulo Baldi. He's gentle, smart, self-deprecating, and often consumed with grief when another character dies (and these are murder mysteries, so).
3c. Poirot - based on the books by Agatha Christie
- What it's about: Monsieur Poirot is a semi-retired Belgian sleuth who likes food and is mostly a wet blanket about things (e.g. refuses to go in boats). Stories come in 4-6 half-hour episodes.
3d. Miss Marple - based on the books by Agatha Christie
- What it's about: Miss Marple is an old lady that is conveniently around a lot of crimes. She usually is able to solve by capitalizing the fact that people don't pay attention to her or that they don't think twice about telling things to old ladies. 4-6 half-hour episodes
3e. One-off dramas: stories that come in the 60- or 90-minute format tend to be very good. Some favorites of mine have been Twelfth Night, Picture of Dorian Gray, Bartelby the Scrivener, and The Diary of a Rose (especially Diary of a Rose).
- Who does it: Dan Harmon (show runner - again! - for Community) and Jeff Davis among others like Kumail Nanjiani and Erin McGathy
- What it's about: the conceit of this show is that it's a town hall meeting, Dan is the mayor, and Jeff is the comptroller. It ends up being a lot of rants, stories, improv, and Dan stammering. A couple folks are usually pulled up from the audience, and at the end they play Dungeons and Dragons.
- Why I like it: It's consistently funny, bizarre, and insightful, which is something that I think many shows of this type strive for and accomplish. What strikes me as unique about this show is Dan Harmon's seriousness about connecting to his Harmonians. He gives me the impression that if he likes you, whoever you are, he will be your friend because you showed up to his podcast.
- A good one to start with: Episode 56, Language is Thought and Spiders are Black People(includes a segment on language, among other things - hooray.)
- Who does it: James Urbaniak, a.k.a. Dr. Venture
- What it's about: James Urbaniak plays James Urbaniak in different dramatic readings by various authors.
- Why I like it: The content in the stories is mundane, ordinary, but it has a dark tone. It feels brooding and solitary. It's also very very funny, and James Urbaniak has a wonderful voice.
- A good one to start with: Go with the first one. "The Wolf in the Kitchen" by Anne Washburn. There's a good bit in there about capers.
- Who does it: Ben Blacker
- What it's about: Ben Blacker does weekly interviews with a panel of various writers.
- Why I like it: Ben is delightful, and he invites lots of television writers to be on the panel. You get to hear about their thoughts on story, the process of writing, what it's like to be in the business, and other stuff like that. Jane Espenson is a somewhat regular panelist, and she is awesome. (Battlestar Galactica, yo.)
- Who does it: Jenni Murray and Jane Garvey
- What's it about: It's about all sorts of stuff: politics, news, health, "sport", art, "the menopause", fiction, food, fashion, work, education, music.
- Why I like it: Jenni and Jane are excellent presenters and interviewers. They are smart, funny, and measured. It's a daily podcast, and I appreciate how it persistently brings up female viewpoints. I feel like in the U.S. we have these bursts of controversy over women or how things are affecting women, and the discussion tends to be ragged and heated and gross, and then we don't hear anything about it until the next burst. When I listen to Women's Hour, I'm exposed to many different viewpoints and stories - both because they have a range of older women on the program, and I don't tend to hear about or from them much, and because it's in the UK.
- Good one to start with: From 6/4/13, this one includes a segment on the first Saudi woman to climb Everest, which got me all pumped up.
- Note: These, like the dramas, are on a cycle. The individual ones are not always available. (but they do come back!)
- Who does it: Sandi Toksvig (host), Jeremy Hardy (regular panelist), Susan Calman (regular panelist), (other panelists)
- What it's about: It's a comedy news quiz. Topical satire.
- Why I like it: I like this so much more than Wait Wait Don't Tell Me (no slam to them at all). The three people I listed above are my favorites. Unlike Wait Wait, they do more long-form rants and monologues. It's less structured and driven so it gives the panelists more time to interact and improvise, which for them goes great.
- Note: it switches out with the Now Show every so often, and the Now Show is not nearly as funny. So, if you're trying this one out, make sure you've got the right thing.
8b. Clayton Grange
- Who does it: written by Neil Warhurst and Paul Barnhill
- What it's about: it's about a secret/ illegal research facility seen through the eyes of the naive and newly hired health and safety inspector.
- Why I like it: The story and the jokes are incredibly tight in this one. It has a similar feeling to Archer, I think. Really tight, bizarre comedy.
8c. Cabin Pressure
- Who does it: written by John Finnemore.
- What it's about: it's a "sitcom about an airline for whom no job is too small but many, many jobs are too difficult." It includes Benedict Cumberbatch as "Martin". So there's that.
- Why I like it: It took me a few episodes to get into this one, actually. But by the end I cared for the characters and liked hearing them interact. I would like to work on this little airline with them.
If you listen to any of these, let me know what you think. And tell me about your favorite podcasts. Happy listening.