Need some new podcasts in your life? Here are a few hundred hours of podcasts on everything from bad movies to true crime, from cognitive science to misbehaving squirrels.
This American Life
Ah, the granddaddy of podcasts. This American Life started as a radio show in the ’90s before podcasting was even a twinkle in Steve Jobs’s eye. They’re up to 700 hour-long episodes that cover human interest stories. You could start with “#61: Fiasco!,” which includes the story of a rookie cop who picks a fight with a squirrel—and loses. Or “#513: 129 Cars,” the inside story of a car dealership and character study of those who work there, desperate to make quota for the month. Or “#654: The Feather Heist,” the story of a young violinist who steals rare feathers from a museum in London to make and sell handcrafted fishing lures.
Are you still watching The Office? If data from Netflix is to be believed, then yes, you and millions of others are rewatching one of the most beloved comedies of the past two decades, yet again. So why not listen to a behind-the-scenes podcast with two people who were there? Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey host Office Ladies, an episode-by-episode breakdown of the series. They’re occasionally joined by other stars of the show, writers, producers, directors, or celebrity fans.
How Did This Get Made?
Comedians Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas spend an hour and a half talking about one particular bad movie on How Did This Get Made?. Past movies they’ve talked about include Tammy and the T-Rex, Cats, and The Hottie and the Nottie. They also frequently have other comedians, such as Nick Kroll, Chelsea Peretti, and Seth Rogan, do guest appearances. They’ve talked about 275 bad movies, so chances are they’ve done an episode on something you’ve seen. But if you happen to be from Toronto, you want to check out their episode on Little Italy.
There are plenty of great hockey podcasts out there, but we really like 32 Thoughts. First of all, we like all hockey, and this podcast isn’t limited to just the NHL. Second, they seem to be the most up-to-date with news. Third, they get really interesting guests. Fourth, hosts Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman have a lot of inside sources in the world of hockey, so you sometimes get the inside scoop from these guys before anything becomes official.
In Our Time
Melvyn Bragg hosts this BBC offering, which has been a radio show longer than a podcast. Subscribe to In Our Time and you’ll have 800 45-minute episodes where a knowledgeable host and three guest speakers, all respected academics, discuss a serious topic from math, history, science, or literature. Recent episodes have included “The Evolution of Crocodiles,” “Edward Gibbon,” “Journey to the West,” and “Longitude.” If you go to the show’s website, they also have RRS feeds specific to broad topics such as history, religion, or science, in case you want to narrow down the 800 episodes a bit.
There are a lot of true crime podcasts out there. But we’d contend that Criminal, hosted by Phoebe Judge, is a) one of the best and b) a true-crime podcast for people who aren’t crazy about true crime. There are no series-long arcs here. Each episode is standalone, and topics range from solved to unsolved, serious to silly, modern to historical. Recent highlights have included “Episode 149: Dr. Parkman Is Missing,” the story of an 1840s murder and one of the first times forensics was used to identify a body; “Episode 158: ‘If it ever happens, run.,’” the history of how white supremacists overthrew the government of Wilmington, North Carolina; and “Episode 138: Starlight Tours,” a case of disturbing treatment of First Nations people by RCMP in the Prairies.
You Are Not So Smart
Why do we make the cognitive mistakes that we make? Science journalist David McRaney interviews scientists and psychologists to get at why all of us are a little bit self-deluded. Hence, You Are Not So Smart. In the past, he has discussed the conjunction fallacy, crowds, labels, survivorship bias, uncivil agreement, and other topics related to how we fool ourselves into thinking we’re a little more in control, a little more competent, and a little smarter than we really are.