I’ve really got into podcasts in the last year or so. You know, once I figured out what they were and everything.
Pre-recorded radio shows available to download on a range of topics? Yes please!
My absolute favourite? So hard to pick just one, but I think the one I got most excited about updating, and the one I got the most upset about when it finished was The Thrilling Adventure Hour. A weekly podcast containing three short radio plays in the style of the ones from the 40s? All comedies? Many famous guest voices? Yes please! My favourite was Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars, probably because Nathan Fillion often guested on it and they had to explain to him the concept of a space western… There were many other plays, all spoofing various genres – campy 60s sci-fi with Captain Laserbeam, Dr Who-style time travel with the very camp The Cross-Time Adventures Of Colonel Tick-Tock (with his trick clock!), Depression-era hobo travel Down In Moonshine Holler as a millionaire turns hobo to find his one true love, the hobo princess, a sort of supernatural Nick and Nora in Beyond Belief.
It’s finished now, but all the episodes are available through iTunes and other podcatchers and they occasionally update with new bonus material. It was through The Thrilling Adventure Hour that I found We Got This With Mark and Hal, two members of the Thrilling cast who debate stupid arguments every week so we don’t have to. Ever needed to know if it’s OK to put ketchup on a burger? Which Christmas movie is the best? The ultimate question – which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek? Now, I must admit, I don’t always agree with their decisions. For better or worse, they’re very US-centric but they are amusing and Mark Gagliardi has a very sexy voice. So, there’s that.
I’ve always considered myself half a historian, as my degree was split between history and English literature. I listen to a few different history podcasts on different ends of the spectrum. On one end is Stuff You Missed In History Class. Two non-historians research and deliver a 30 minute podcast on as aspect of world history that often isn’t covered in school – again, the US curriculum as the podcast is American. They often pick interesting topics that I haven’t heard of, but sometimes you do get some badly recorded interviews with curators of textile museums, so pick your download carefully, I suppose. On the other end of that scale is Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, a podcast that updates every few months and produces hours and hours of careful analysis of different historical topics. Dan Carlin is no trained historian either, but you can’t deny that he puts his work in. I skipped his First World War series, as I’ve studied that a lot and there’s not a lot there that isn’t familiar to me, but his series on the Greeks and Persians had me fascinated as I’ve never learned any Classical history. Definitely one for a long drive somewhere. In the middle is the History Extra podcast, updated fortnightly and accompanying the BBC History magazine. The production values can be a bit low when they’ve recorded on location, and the editor of the magazine is completely the wrong choice to narrate the links as he has the most adenoidal voice ever, but the power of the BBC name does get them a lot of access to interesting historical sites and they’ve taken to allowing historians to interview other historians.
I’m a massive A Song of Ice and Fire nerd, so I’ve got a couple of podcasts about both the book series and the tv series. I’m having to grit my teeth with one of them – History of Westeros should be everything my nerdy little heart is desperate for, in-depth analysis of the background world of the books. Unfortunately, the early episodes, the interesting ones, are very difficult to listen to due to the horrific sound quality. They improved their quality with their later episodes, but their main host often comes across as smug. His sidelined female co-host also has the most annoying laugh I’ve ever heard. I’ve suffered through them because they were the only podcast I could find that wanted to discuss the history of Westeros, but my patience is really limited with them these days. Radio Westeros has much better production values and hosts who are far less grating, but they don’t delve into the history nearly as much.
Serial and Page 94: A Private Eye Podcast both look at topical news issues, Serial in a long-term, in depth way and Page 94 in a much shorter way. No Such Thing As A Fish is a weekly podcast from the QI Elves, who talk about what Quite Interesting facts they’ve dug up this week. Always funny and informative, I really recommend this podcast. You Must Remember This is a weekly well-researched look at the first hundred years of cinematic history, even if the host’s voice lands too far into languorous sex-kitten territory on occasion. Welcome To Night Vale is a podcast legend at this point, an extended story of a strange little desert town where literal five headed dragons run for mayor, the Old Lady Who Lives In Your House watches your every move and if you’re very lucky you’ll get a scientist with perfect, perfect hair for your very own. Weird and atmospheric, it updates twice a month.
My latest find is the adorable Can I Pet Your Dog?, which is simply two dog nerds sitting and rhapsodising about the dogs they’ve met that week. As I too am a massive dog nerd but cannot have a dog because of my long working hours, this is a blissful excursion into a life I wish I had. The voice of their producer is a little off-putting, but the enthusiasm of the two hosts is infectious.
Anybody got any recommendations? I’m always on the look-out for a new podcast!