The Best New Podcasts of 2017
Podcasts are a great way to increase knowledge, inspire, and while away some time. Seeing as we are halfway through 2017, D'Marge thought it was an appropriate time for a list of the best so far.
The folks behind Serial returned with a predictably hyped series, this time about a small town in Alabama and its most eccentric inhabitant. A trio of former top Barack Obama staffers formed a political media empire in less than 6 months. Richard Simmons became the subject of a controversial investigation, and bad days and depression proved to be surprisingly funny topics of conversation.
We don’t know what the second half of the year has in store, but here are the best new podcasts of 2017 (so far).
We begin with the obvious: a new podcast from Serial and This American Life was bound to make a splash, and S-Town didn’t disappoint. Brian Reed, a longtime This American Life producer, started reporting this story more than three years ago, when he received an email from a man named John with the subject line “John B McLemore lives in Shittown Alabama.” John asks Brian to investigate the son of a wealthy family who has allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, and the search for the truth leads to a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life.
The Daily, hosted by The New York Times‘s Michael Barbaro, is on a mission to present “only what you want to know, none of what you don’t.” Episodes drop five days a week, Monday through Friday, shortly before 6am. Each clocks in at only 20 minutes, making them a perfect soundtrack for your first cup of coffee or your commute. By the time the morning grogginess has worn off, you’ll be fully informed about the biggest news of the day.
Welcome to Crimetown, a new series from Gimlet Media and the creators of HBO’s The Jinx. Every season, the podcast plans investigate the culture of crime in a different American city. First up: Providence, Rhode Island, where organised crime and corruption infected every aspect of public life. This is a story of alliances and betrayals, of heists and stings, of crooked cops and honest mobsters—a story where it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Though it technically started in late 2016, the most Crimetown episodes have dropped in 2017.
30 FOR 30
ESPN Films and ESPN Audio’s new collaboration, 30 for 30 Podcasts, doesn’t launch until late June 2017, but already it’s getting positive buzz. The series will tell original, high-quality sports stories in the likeness of the acclaimed 30 for 30 documentaries, but made exclusively for audio. Each episode will explore and report on a new sports story with a combination of original interviews and archival sound. Subjects for the first season include the true story of the massive 1990’s marketing campaign around the world’s two best decathletes, and the story of how a group of amateur Brits became the first all-women’s team to make it to the North Pole.
As Bernie Madoff’s US$65 billion dollar Ponzi scheme collapsed and the Wall Street financier went behind bars, he left behind a mystery. Hosted by journalist Steve Fishman, Ponzi Supernova is an original audio series that questions how and why Madoff was able to get away with the largest con in history and who may have helped. Drawn from hours of unheard conversations with Madoff from prison, as well as interviews with law enforcement and victims, the series takes a hard look at what happened while tracing still unfolding effects.
THE CROOKED MEDIA FAMILY
We couldn’t pick just one of the stellar (and rapidly expanding) offerings from Crooked Media – a new burgeoning political network from Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor. The dynamic trio of former Obama staffers “couldn’t find a place to talk about politics the way actual human beings talk,” so they did the only logical thing: create their own. Calling itself “a political conversation for people not quite ready to give up or go insane,” the Crooked Media family of podcasts now includes Pod Save America, Pod Save The World, Pod Save The People, Lovett Or Leave It, and With Friends Like These.
MISSING RICHARD SIMMONS
On February 15, 2014, fitness guru Richard Simmons disappeared. He stopped teaching his regular exercise class at Slimmons, cut off his closest friends, and removed himself from the public eye after decades as one of the most accessible celebrities in the world. Nobody has heard from him – and no one knows why he left. Filmmaker Dan Taberski was a Slimmons regular and a friend of Richard’s. Missing Richard Simmons is Dan’s search for Richard – and the deeper he digs, the stranger it gets. Critics accused Missing Richard Simmons of being invasive, uncomfortable, a let-down, and irrelevant – but there’s no denying it caused a pop culture frenzy when it aired.
TERRIBLE, THANKS FOR ASKING
You know how every day someone asks “How are you?” and even if you’re totally dying inside, you just say “Fine,” so everyone can go about their day? This show is the opposite of that. Hosted by author and notable widow (her words) Nora McInerny, Terrible, Thanks For Asking is a funny/sad/uncomfortable podcast about talking honestly about our pain, our awkwardness, and our humanness, which is not an actual word.
Containers is an 8-part audio documentary about how global trade has transformed the economy and ourselves. Host and correspondent Alexis Madrigal leads you through the world of ships and sailors, technology and tugboats, warehouses and cranes. At a time when the global economic order seems dangerously unstable, Containers provides an illuminating, deep, and weird look at how capitalism actually works now.
THE HILARIOUS WORLD OF DEPRESSION
A show about clinical depression… with laughs? Well, yeah. The Hilarious World of Depression is a series of frank, moving, and, yes, funny conversations with top comedians who have dealt with this disease, hosted by veteran humorist and public radio host John Moe. Join guests like Maria Bamford, Paul F. Tompkins, Andy Richter, and Jen Kirkman to learn how they’ve dealt with depression and managed to laugh along the way.