Podcasting is still a relatively new medium, but it is quickly becoming more mainstream. Due to the success of shows like WTF with Marc Maron, it sometimes seems like the only viable format for a podcast is “dudes with a mic cracking jokes”.
This format varies slightly, but it basically boils down to one or two dudes sitting in front of a mic, just talking about life with no real structure. Sometimes, they do this with a special guest (usually a stand-up comedian), and sometimes they do it without a special guest.
Now, there is nothing wrong with these types of podcasts. I love them. There are some amazing shows that follow this format and use it to its full potential. However, just like I wouldn’t want every movie to be a comedy, or a drama, or a documentary, I don’t want my podcasts to all be cookie cutter shows. I want variety. I want originality. I want… more.
And that’s just what the Internet gives me.
I listen to podcasts every day of my life. I walk a lot and take public transportation, so I burn through my podcasts like a box of Girl Scout cookies. It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t listen to them just how devoted you get to your shows, just how invested you get in that weekly fix. It’s different than any other medium. You feel connected to a podcast. You feel like part of a family. You feel like you’ve uncovered a long lost treasure, and you want to share it with the world.
That’s what this list is – my chance to share my treasures with the world. I’ve written about some podcasts in the past that I love, but this list is going to focus specifically on my favorite shows that shatter the “dudes with a mic cracking jokes” format.
1 – Limetown
Limetown is an old school radio drama that plays off of the success of Serial. In the first season, American Public Radio reporter Lia Haddock investigates the mystery surrounding the community of Limetown, which had a strange tragedy strike it ten years ago. As her investigation pries deeper into the mystery, she quickly starts getting answers to questions she didn’t even know to ask.
I don’t want to say anything else about the plot, because it’s far too delicious to uncover yourself. Do yourself a favor. Grab a cup of tea and a blanket, curl up in a comfy chair, and just enjoy the journey.
Intense at times, scary at times, and always intriguing, Limetown is by far the best example of the recent rash of serialized mystery podcasts. It is well-produced, well-written, and well-acted. It is also addictive from the very first episode. Luckily, the entire first season has already aired, so you don’t have to go through the agony of waiting for the newest episode to drop. Now is the perfect time to get caught up.
Of course, we’re still waiting on the second season…
You can check out their webpage at http://www.limetownstories.com/ to start your own listening adventure.
2 – You Must Remember This
If you have any affinity at all for old Hollywood, old movie stars, or history, you have to check out You Must Remember This. Helmed by Karina Longworth, who also narrates, this show takes you on a trip through the fist century of Hollywood, digging deeper into the lives and scandals of the people you thought you knew.
What impresses me most about this show is the depth of the research Karina does on each and every topic. It is truly a passion project for her, and it shows in every episode. She is able to present the history of Tinseltown in an informative, personal, and entertaining way that manages to humanize the revered, and revere the forgotten.
My personal favorite episodes are the series she did about Charles Manson’s Hollywood. They are truly frightening and sad. The episode focusing on Dennis Wilson was particularly moving and poignant.
To listen for yourself, you can check out the website at: http://www.youmustrememberthispodcast.com/
3 – The Arkham Sessions
Okay, I’ll admit it. This one might be a little niche for some. Even if you’re not addicted to all things Batman the way I am, however, I think there is still something to enjoy. If you are addicted to all things Batman, how are you not listening to it already?
Dr. Andrea Letamendi and Brian Ward walk us through Batman: The Animated Series, episode by episode, and dive into the psychology of the characters, including Batman himself and his greatest foes. It’s a fascinating dive into the very nature of the human mind, and I daresay you may just come out on the other side a wiser, more compassionate person.
Who would’ve thought you could do all that with a cartoon show about a grown man in a cape?
I enjoy this show for the serious way they approach the subject matter, and how clinical the discussion is, while never losing the sense of fun and almost whimsy.
You can check out their website at the following link: http://www.underthemaskonline.com/the-arkham-sessions/.
4 – Crime Writers On…
Of course, anyone who has ever heard of a podcast knows about Serial. It‘s the gold standard against which all other podcasts are measured now. Crime Writers On… started off as a show about a group of crime writers sitting around and talking about the minutiae of every episode of Serial, but it has since evolved into so much more than that.
Rebecca Lavoie, Kevin Flynn, Lara Bricker, and resident naysayer (as they lovingly call him) Toby Ball have done an excellent job expanding a simple concept into an artfully produced show that discusses not just Serial, but all true crime related topics. This includes reviews of crime-related television shows and podcasts, interviews with authors, journalists, content creators, and law enforcement officials, as well as looking at current headlines for (often humorous) crime stories. The charm and chemistry of the hosts really sells the entire show, and the production values are top notch.
Follow Crime Writers On… at http://www.crimewriterson.com/
5 – Read it and Weep
Read it and Weep might, on its face, seem like just another one of the plethora of “bad movie podcasts” out there, but the truth is that it is much more than that. First of all, the hosts tackle bad books and television shows as well as movies, but that variety alone is not really what sets this podcast apart from the pack.
Read it and Weep is truly unique in the way it approaches the pain of enduring bad art. Most podcasts just go through the movie they watched plot point by plot point, poking fun and cracking jokes as they go along. Read it and Weep adds another layer of madness and hilarity by integrating games, elaborate ads, and forced, (mostly) genuine, compliments from each participant at the beginning and end of the show. It also benefits from having a mostly stable cast of hosts, with a variety of returning guests rounding out each episode.
Read it and Weep also allows sponsored episodes, so the variety of bad books and movies they are forced to endure is painful and wonderful. I haven’t researched it so I can’t say for sure, but I’d be very surprised if any other podcast has covered My Immortal, Look Who’s Talking, Fuller House, Star Wars Episode I, all the Twilight books and movies, and 50 Shades of Grey.
Catch Read it and Weep at: http://read-weep.com/