This Week in Podcasts a weekly roundup of mini-reviews of all of the podcasts I’ve listened to in a week. If you see any podcasts that you feel are missing from my list, there’s a good chance I haven’t listened to the show yet! Feel free to give me recommendations–as well as any feedback or discussion!–in the comments below, in my asks on tumblr, or on twitter.
This week, I also wrote a new Podcast Problems post about terrible mouth noises and wrote a full review of The Adventure Zone‘s Stolen Century arc. I also started Spirits and Potterless, both of which are delightful, but neither of which will get a full review. Both are very niche, and they’ve been around for too long to have a First Impressions. As the shows continue, they will show up on these This Week in Podcasts lists, though.
Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!
“BONUS: Soap Opera Contest Winner”
This short, 6-minute episode of Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me! is not the comedy game show we’ve come to love over what seems like eons of NPR. Instead, this episode is a short soap opera written by a listener, performed by Peter Sagal and Bill Kurtis (and briefly Paula Poundstone), and produced by some absolute renegade sadist. This episode was so indulgently bad it was immediately curative. The dialogue is, of course, as cheesy as it should be, complete with an end-of-story twist/cliffhanger. The acting is earnest in a way that makes the writing even more over-the-top. The key to this episode, though, is how hedonistically terrible the production is, in a very self-aware way. The same sappy music plays over and over. Almost every dialogue moment has a sound effect–many of which are, inexplicably, a duck quack. The entire thing is an exercise in making sure the audience does not take them seriously–something that’s always set Wait Wait apart in the scope of NPR, but is solidified beautifully with this ridiculous, ridiculous episode.
The Adventure Zone
“Ep. 66. The Stolen Century – Chapter 7”
It should come as no surprise that the final episode for the Stolen Century arc was another benchmark for both The Adventure Zone, audio drama, and emergent storytelling. I want to avoid spoilers as best as possible here, because I want readers to listen to the show. I have a review up for this arc, but if you’re not caught up yet, know that this episode feels like what everything has been building towards, both in story and in emotional depth. The Adventure Zone is not quite the level of groundbreaking that Wolf 359 has hit on specific episodes, but it has gotten closer than most other shows I can think of.
Like the Wait Wait episode, this ars PARADOXICA short shone because of its absolute silliness. In this episode, written by some of the Greater Boston (a show I’m starting this week) team, Sally Grissom teaches the team to swear. The setup is simple, and the punchlines are expected, but hearing them executed by such earnest performances is what makes them stand out this week. ars PARADOXICA is a show that gets intense, and while it never quite abandons its humor, it’s nice to have an episode of pure comic relief.
Note to Self
“We’ve Gained So Much With the iPhone. What Have We Lost?”
This episode of Note to Self felt shockingly anti-technology, complete with discussing how our phones have made us less social. It was both antithetical to the show as a whole and incredibly tired, with few new pieces of criticism thrown in. This wasn’t the worst episode of a podcast I’ve heard, but it was the worst Note to Self I’ve ever heard, and it was certainly the worst episode I heard this week.
This Week’s Ratings
- The Sporkful, “The Thinking Person’s Competitive Eater”: C
- The Once and Future Nerd, “What Used to Be Enough, Pt. 3”: B+
- Hello from the Magic Tavern, “Season 2, Ep 15 – But What About Flower”: B
- My Brother, My Brother and Me, “MBMBaM 361: Gelsey Krammar”: B-
- Wolf 359, “Episode 48: Theta Scenario”: B+
- Beautiful Stories from Anonymous Strangers, “67. Country AF”: C+
- Join the Party, “Punch Bowl: The Dungeoncast”: B
- The Moth, “Stories of Pride: Micah Truran, Kiri Bear & Gil Reyes”: B
- All Songs Considered, “Listener Picks for 2017’s Best New Artists (So Far)”: B
- Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!, “BONUS: Soap Opera Contest Winner”: A-
- Radiolab, “Revising the Fault Line”: A+, but it’s not getting a mention in the highlights because it’s a rebroadcast of one of Radiolab’s best episodes, “Blame,” and that’s cheating.
- Myths and Legends, “73-Japanese Folklore: I will find you”: C
- 99% Invisible, “264-Mexico 68”: B
- Note to Self, “We’ve Gained So Much With the iPhone. What Have We Lost?”: D+
- Code Switch, “It’s Our Anniversary”: C
- Imaginary Worlds, “World War EVE”: B
- The Adventure Zone, “Ep. 66. The Stolen Century – Chapter Seven”: A
- Bite, “34 – You Are What You Eat, Donald Trump”: C
- Snap Judgment, “Snap #815 – True Believer”: C+
- Kind World, “#41: Almost Impossible”: C-
- Welcome to Night Vale, “Bonus – The Tragic Story of Louie Blasko”: C
- The Allusionist, “59. One To Another”: B
- ars PARADOXICA, “Curses”: A-