Arts & Culture

Podcast reviews: In the spirit of #trypod, we share 5 podcast favorites

Arguably the 21st century’s most successful new media format, the podcast has been growing by proverbial leaps and bounds in recent years.

Just this month, the podcast industry launched a new promotional campaign – #trypod – in an effort to keep the momentum going and attract new listeners. (Podcast fans are asked to share their favorite podcasts on social media with the #trypod hashtag.)

In the latest installment of our semi-regular Podcast Picks series, we recommend five more series, for newbies and podcast vets alike.

Hollywood and Crime

In January of 1947, aspiring Hollywood starlet Elizabeth Short was found gruesomely murdered in a vacant lot in Los Angeles. Still unsolved, the infamous case of the Black Dahlia has obsessed true crime buffs for more than half a century. “Hollywood & Crime” uses the Black Dahlia case as a launching point for a series of dramatized investigations into similar murders in Los Angeles at that time.

True crime is a popular podcast genre these days – Durham’s own “Criminal” is still the best – and “H&C” brings high production values and a kind of dark campiness to the party. The series is one of several from Wondery, a new podcast network backed by 20th Century Fox.

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The Daily

Another major media player, the venerable New York Times, is also getting into podcasting in a big way. “The Daily” is just that, a daily 20-minute briefing running down the paper’s top stories, five days a week, posted by 6 a.m. Those guys like to keep busy, clearly, and the new podcast is backed by the mighty reportorial resources of the best newspaper in the world.

“The Daily” is exceptional in both content and form. Hosted by veteran political reporter Michael Barbaro, the series mixes straightforward radio-style presentation with brief commentary from the reporters, plus audio effects and other narrative flourishes. The coverage tends toward national politics, but hey – those have been the headlines everywhere since last November.

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Stuff You Missed in History Class

One of the oldest and most popular history podcasts, “SYMIHC” originally sprung from the “How Stuff Works” educational website, launched by former N.C. State professor Marshall Brain.

Currently hosted by HSW editors Tracy Wilson and Holly Frey, the show bounces around U.S. and world history topics, often incorporating current headlines to explore a related topic from the past. “SYMIHC” drops on Mondays and Wednesdays, locking in nicely with sister podcast “Stuff You Should Know” on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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Norm MacDonald Live

Canadian comic Norm MacDonald is, hmm ... “acquired taste” is probably the polite term. His laconic, low-key style of comedy has attracted legions of fans – I’m one of them – but also hordes of haters who consider him the worst Weekend Update host in the history of “Saturday Night Live.” Philistines.

“Norm MacDonald Live” is a comedy interview podcast, similar to Marc Maron’s “WTF” but run with a much looser schedule and vibe. In fact, Norm hasn’t posted a new show in months, but that’s OK because you can dig back into the archives for rowdy interviews with showbiz colleagues like Adam Sandler, Ray Romano and Bill Hader. MacDonald is a brutally frank sort of fellow, so this is a good place to listen in on dishy stories from the back rooms of comedy.

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Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me

NPR’s weekly news quiz has a global army of fans who tune in each weekend to hear host Peter Sagal riff on headlines with a rotating panel of celebrity guests. But what a surprising number of people don’t know is that you can get to the “WWDTM” archives through pretty much any podcast app on your phone or other mobile device. (Or you can use the dedicated NPR One app – search for it at the app store.)

The quiz show format is durable indeed, going all the way back to the first days of broadcast radio, and “WWDTM” keeps the spirit alive with remarkably consistent funny business, week after week.

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