Podcasts are everywhere in 2018. But how do you find shows that are actually good?
To answer this question, the RadioTimes.com team has sorted the proverbial wheat from the chaff, the brilliant from the merely mediocre. We have pulled together our top recommendations – in no particular order – from podcasts that will make you laugh to podcasts that will make you cry.
The team’s favourites stretch across comedy, true crime, film and TV, and storytelling, and feature everything from feathered dinosaurs to UFO suicide cults. Give these a listen:
What are the best comedy podcasts?
My Dad Wrote a Porno
Try and listen to this without exploding into laughter – you can’t, it’s impossible. The premise is simple: Jamie Morton reads his father’s erotic novel, Belinda Blinked, aloud while his friends James Cooper and Alice Levine ruthlessly pull it apart (for its bad grammar and its absurdity). Filthily funny and worryingly addictive.
The Adam Buxton Podcast
If you enjoy meandering, you’ll like this podcast. In it, comedian, writer and actor Adam Buxton not only meanders through the woods with his dog Rosie but also through conversations with guests ranging from his old pal Louis Theroux to the likes of Sharon Horgan and Greta Gerwig.
Audible Presents: Live At The Edinburgh Fringe
Comedy fans can now experience the best of the Edinburgh Fringe without the expense of peak-season hotel prices and train tickets. This series of live shows was recorded at the 70th anniversary of the Fringe in 2017 and features big-name comedians as well as hilarious newcomers.
Fortunately… with Fi and Jane
Nothing warms the cockles more than the sound of two incredibly sharp, intelligent and mischievous women discussing totally random things for 40 odd minutes. BBC Radio veterans Fi Glover and Jane Garvey have one special guest per episode and discuss everything from Marxism to sex positions.
Nick Offerman’s Bedtime Stories for Cynics
“If our language offends you, then you are a child. Congratulations, you have your whole life ahead of you, don’t f**k it up.” That’s how Nick Offerman introduces Bedtime Stories for Cynics, and it should give you a taste of what’s to come. This silly series tells inappropriate children’s stories intended for adult ears only and is presented by Parks & Recreation’s Ron Swanston (Offerman), with the assistance of comedy guest stars.
WTF with Marc Maron
Barack Obama, Jennifer Lawrence, Bruce Springsteen. These are just a few of the supremely famous people Marc Maron has invited into his garage (literally) for a chat about life. The interviews last over an hour and Maron has a real knack for relaxing his guests and getting under their skin.
This darkly funny podcast is the brainchild of Blindboyboatclub, one half of the satirical Irish band The Rubber Bandits. He started it last October to promote his new book of short stories, and it has evolved into something quite magnificent. His take on the world, punctuated with very funny anecdotes, philosophy, music and dark tales is perhaps unique in the podcasting world.
What are the best film and TV podcasts?
How often do you get the chance to listen in on an hour-long sit down with film royalty? From Judi Dench to Steven Spielberg, The Hollywood Reporter’s podcast has access to the crème-de-la-crème of the industry and their in-depth interviews with awards season frontrunners offer candid insights into their paths to the top. A must for wannabe actors, filmmakers and, of course, fans.
A Stab in Dark
Mark Billingham (himself a bestselling crime writer) probes the inner workings of mystery fiction in the company of some leading talents such as Michael Connolly, Ann Cleeves and Patricia Cornwell. All corners of the genre are explored from hardboiled to forensics by way of the psychological thriller, while TV hits including Death in Paradise and Sherlock also come under the spotlight.
How did Oprah Winfrey go from local TV broadcaster to international sensation? This podcast tells that story, interviewing producers and publicists who worked on The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as the woman herself. Over the course of three episodes it neatly breaks down the expertise of its host and charts how her fired up team turned their US chat show into a global phenomenon.
How do you make a podcast about actors and acting, without coming off as extremely pretentious? Craig Parkinson (aka the villainous Dot Cottan from Line of Duty) seems to have cracked it. For each one-hour episode he interviews fellow acting types about the highs and lows of life on the stage and screen.
It’s been a staple part of the Radio 4 schedules since 1998 and, for our money, there’s still no other show that covers both high and popular culture with as much authority as Front Row. Its daily digest ensures that you never miss out on any major happenings in the arts. Presenters John Wilson, Kirsty Lang and Samira Ahmed keep the reviews and discussions lively from Monday to Friday.
We Hate Movies
A troupe of New York-based comics/writers/film nerds sit down each week to affectionately rip bad films to shreds. Kudos must go to WHM for being unafraid to dissect the more hellish outposts of movie franchises (Superman IV: the Quest for Peace, The Ewok Adventure and Jaws: the Revenge have all been covered), while spin-off show Animation Damnation (some episodes are behind a Patreon paywall) skewers beloved cartoons.
Anna Leszkiewicz and Caroline Crampton’s funny and informative pop culture podcast was formed with the intention of taking cultural artefacts like the latest hit Netflix series, Harry Styles single or indie film just as, well, seriously and with as much in-depth discussion as any work by the Great Masters or the Kirov ballet. The chemistry and banter between the pair is top-notch – and one-off specials on topics like Friends, Harry Potter and Gilmore Girls have become particular highlights.
What are the best fiction podcasts?
Outliers: Stories from the Edge of History
A collaboration between Historic Royal Palaces and producers Rusty Quill, Outliers is a charming historical fiction podcast. Each short story weaves a beguiling narrative around a real person, place or event, focussing on little-heard tales from Britain’s ancient buildings. From the decadence of Hampton Court to the dread Tower of London, this podcast truly makes walls talk.
Proof that The Archers still has the power to shock came with the death of Nic Grundy last month. Having not been publicised before broadcast, her demise came as a surprise to Ambridge aficionados, who quite rightly praised the serial drama (they’d never dream of referring to it as a soap) for its storytelling skill. You don’t just listen to The Archers, you live it.