Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Podcast Reviews

Forgive my posting slump. I've been hunkered down in this occasional mode I get in, featuring weak social media presence, going to work and listening to podcasts with my headphones on while I work if I don't have a meeting, coming home and spending time with my little family, and reading. I think my social interaction was maxed out a few weeks ago. We threw my daughter two separate sleepover parties on two separate weekends. I know I need to get out of my unwilling-to-do-anything-that's-beyond-the-bare-minimum mode. This (upping my social media presence) is a little step in that direction.

On the bright side, I've been listening to more podcasts beyond just the four I used to listen to. I think most are pretty darn interesting. I should do a review of the ones I like and the ones I don't like all that much.

This American Life - This is the most popular podcast in the nation with 1 million downloads per week. By now I've listened to approximately 10 episodes. My original intent was to go back all the way to the 1995 archive when I started college and go through their 20 years of work. (Their initial schedule was very sporadic, so they actually have a do-able amount of episodes--about 500 hours of broadcasts in their archive over 20 years.) The themes they do are hit-or-miss, and sometimes even if the theme is good, the episode is lame. I am only in 1996-97 though. I suppose I don't "get it" because it's produced more like a variety show with dramatic readings, songs, and pieces that only vaguely relate to the theme. It's more of an "old-timey" radio throwback than educational, at least to me.

Mystery Show - This one is #2 in the nation after TAL, at least recently, and is a spin-off of TAL like Serial, which soared to fame and was many people's first dabble in podcasts. (As a side note, I wasn't that impressed by Serial since, in my opinion, there are other good true crime podcasts that actually have a resolution.) Mystery Show is a new podcast with only 5 episodes so far. What caught my eye was that as a new podcast it was so popular. I checked out the 5 episodes. Each podcast episode is a case, like Encyclopedia Brown back from my childhood, that she comes up with or one of her friends gives her. For example, she saw a vanity plate that said ILUV911 a few years ago and wants to know what it means. So she enlists her friends, her Twitter connections, and her detective skills to get to the bottom of these everyday mysteries. My example is representative of the cases, so the excitement factor is rather low, but it is a cute background discussion to listen to if you're working. I don't think it's worthy of being #2 in the nation, but it is a spinoff of TAL & TAL has a huge following.

WTF with Marc Maron - I find him an acerbic comedian and not laugh-out-loud funny like Sarah Silverman, but he interviews cool people (Obama) and is a fine interviewer. If it's someone I want to learn more about, I will tune in.

In Bed With Joan - RIP Joan Rivers. I really enjoyed this one where she interviewed comedians and entertainers. I really connected with her self-deprecating style and the way she would ask very personal questions. "Who did you hate working with on set?" A few would dodge the question, but most would actually answer! So sad there won't ever be more episodes of this one.

Nerdist - Chris Hardwick is a really good interviewer, and I enjoy his interviews with famous people, even the ones I don't know who the person is.

Freakonomics - I enjoy the intellectual, conversational take on real-life plights.

Sane Show - This is a health podcast that looks at the science research of diet and exercise. Bailor is a very passionate advocate of eating and exercising smarter, and, while his guests sometimes have different approaches, there is a solid theme throughout the episodes.

How Did This Get Made - This is a podcast about crappy movies. Each week is a different crappy movie. In looking through all of the episodes, I had only seen two of the movies they had reviewed out of 100 or so, so I downloaded those specific episodes. I enjoyed the podcast episodes I listened to although I noted that the three people tended to talk over one another. Their voices are easy enough to keep straight, but it can be a cacophony sometimes.

And then there are my old stand-bys:

Gilmore Guys -  Two twenty-something guys watch each episode of Gilmore Girls and comment. Kevin is especially passionate and opinionated about the show, and both are easy on the ears.

Best of Friends - I really don't know why I listen to this one. I don't really like the show Friends, and I'm not enamored by the production value of this podcast. But there is a strange chemistry among them: a lesbian from the South, a single straight guy trying to make it in Hollywood, and a married narcissist.

Savage Lovecast - I've listened to Dan Savage for decades. Sometimes he can be hard to take, and I don't listen to each episode. Rather, I go on small binges with him.

Kevin Smith podcasts - I actually listen to a lot of these. They can be repetitive and full of pot-induced tangents, but for some reason I really connect with his style and find his voice enchanting.

So that's what I've been up to. I've been listening. A lot.

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