Do y’all podcast? Podcasts have been a huge part of my life since I started my job, which has historically involved traipsing around town going to home visits with my patients, whose houses were historically spaced rather far apart. Honestly my home visit requirement has lessened, but now I am just addicted to podcasts, so any time I am in the car for longer than 5 minutes I basically have to listen to one. So I thought I’d discuss my faves!
Previously I have expressed my love of My Favorite Murder here. Fun fact- I went and saw my gals live! Along with, oh, 10,000 other true crime obsessed young progressive white women (… they have a pretty homogenous fan base hahaha). I had the best time- I got a solo ticket and made two friends in my row!
They have been on hiatus this summer, frankly driving me a bit insane by constantly posting what looks to be new episodes and then it turns out to be recycled content. Just take a proper hiatus and then come back with new stuff! Us binge listeners have no use for recap episodes.
Anyway, this seems as good a time as ever to discuss some of my post loved podcasts. Sorted into categories:
Mandatory Listening for American Citizens
- In the Dark. GUYS. This podcast is IMMACULATELY reported. Beautiful storytelling, compelling questions.
Season 1 tells the story of a childhood abduction in the 80s that ended up being solved decades later and everything that happened in between, including an examination of the “stranger danger” epidemic that took over in the ensuing decades, the obsession with socially ostracizing sex offenders and its unintended consequences, the bafflingly enormous power of local sheriffs departments.
But season 2… whoa. Season 2 tells the story of a black man from Mississippi who was accused of a horrible crime and has been tried SIX TIMES FOR IT. “But double jeopardy?” you ask. Yes, that exists, but only for people who have been acquitted for a crime. If, as in the case of Mr Flowers, higher level courts continue to overturn your conviction for the numerous constitutional violations committed by the local district attorney, that same district attorney is allowed to keep bringing you back in. Along with a look at the judicial system, jury selection, the complexities of a jury trial, the reporters look at the actual evidence in this particular case. And it is… stunning.
Spoiler alert- season 2 is ongoing for the indefinite future due to some rather important folks called the US Supreme Court. Definitely wort a listen.
- Serial, Season 3. Yes, season 1 took over the world. Season 2 was… whatever. My cousin liked it? No one else I know did. But season 3… Season 3 man!
Season 3 of serial tells the story of a building… a courthouse in Cleveland, Ohio. Again, if you want to have your mind blown by the American judicial system (particularly the juvenile justice system… the reporting on this topic is by far the most devastating) this season is worth your time.
- Breakdown- this podcast by the Atlanta Journal Constitution is several seasons, and each one examines a different court case. Are all bizarre and upsetting in different ways, and all demonstrate various breakdowns in the system that is supposed to get justice for victims of crimes, their families, and people who may be accused of a crime they did not commit.
True Crime Junkies
- My Favorite Murder- my favorite. That said my mom thinks they say the F word too much so if you object to that you’ll likely not care for this. I don’t mind it! I also bought their book, in which they also say the f word a lot.
- Criminal. If you love Phoebe Judge’s soothing tones on NPR, there’s more of them in this very well produced podcast. Each episode is short (20-30 min) and gives you a little slice of someone’s life or the story of a place. For example, a story of a girl who met a cute but sketchy boy and somehow ended up using thousands of dollars counterfeit money in New York City bars; an academic look at how polygraphs work or fail to work and how we can actually tell if someone is lying; a behind the scenes examination of police dogs and their sometimes rather melodramatic relationships with their trainers.
- Small Town Dicks. This podcast is SO well produced- it’s made by Yeardley Smith (aka the voice of Lisa Simpson) and her friend Zibby Allen and features two detectives from “Small Town America” (their location is kept secret) along with some of their peers on the police force and in the emergency dispatch world. If you feel that recently Americans have been somewhat unwillingly forced into pro-police and anti-police camps, this podcast is a really nice antidote. The detectives are really good storytellers and clearly have a lot of respect for the victims of the crimes, but also discuss at length how important it is for them to follow proper procedure and respect the constitutional rights of people accused of crimes. Be warned- some of the content is EXTREMELY upsetting- one of the regularly featured detectives works on crimes involving child sexual abuse.
- Uncover: Escaping NXIVM- I will tell you the premise of this podcast and you will immediately know if it is for you (because I heard it and went YES I WANNA LISTEN TO THAT): A journalist goes to his hometown. There, he runs into an old friend, who he has known since preschool. As their kids play together on the playground, he asks her, “How have you been doing?” And she goes “Oh, all right, I actually just escaped a cult.” YEAH. And it’s THAT cult, the one in all the news, with the branding and the Seagrams heiresses and the craziness! Quite the story. I have to admit I felt a bit smug after listening to it because she talked about the initial marketing about self improvement that first drew her in to the organization and I went “… that sounds real stupid to me.” My constitutional aversion to self help I think has served me well in avoiding being recruited by a cult.
- Dirty John. I feel like everyone knows about Dirty John right now? Since it was also made into a TV show? But just in case… I made my mom listen to this one with me 🙂 If you like listening to a con man get his comeuppance whoo boy.
- I’ve listened to a gazillion true crime ones! Hard to narrow down. Dr Death had me shook and shed some alarming lights on how much doctors can get away with. The Teacher’s Pet, Broken Harts, Phoebe’s Fall are all about mysterious deaths. Believed is about the young women and men victimized by Larry Nassar, the Olympic doctor who turned out to be a serial sexual abuser, and is beautifully reported. The Shrink Next Door is about a deeply sketchy psychiatrist exploiting his patients but also about how weird and manipulatable (? Is that a word?) human beings are, especially when they are surrounded by ostentatious wealth. The Dropout has similar themes, about a woman who amassed literally billions of dollars from Silicon Valley investors whose groundbreaking technology turned out to be rubbish. All are good in their own ways and which you like will sort of depend on what stories you’re drawn to (and what kinds of accents you like?!)
Weird/interesting stories in history
- Slow Burn- Two seasons have come out so far and I’ve loved them both.
Season 1 is a deep dive into Watergate. Random bit players (a melodramatic low level cabinet official’s wife potentially could have blown the story wide open years before most of America found out about it?!) tell the stories of weird little details behind Watergate you never knew. The parallels to now are, uh, hard to miss, and it makes for a compelling listen.
Season 2 is a deep dive into the Clinton impeachment. I was a wee one when all this stuff was happening, with the result being that I thought subpoena was a bad word (I mean to be fair, I knew the president had done something bad involving sex and that the word subpoena rolls off the tongue in a dirty sounding way?) and didn’t know much else at all. This was illuminating. The episode on the feminist movement crashing and burning into Monica Lewinsky was fascinating. And somehow they got an interview with Linda Tripp?! Which is as wild as you’d expect.
- What Really Happened- more deep dives, one per episode! This show is hit or mis with me; some are enthralling and some are a little slow. Not to be missed are the stories of Britney Spears’ financial conservatorship, Mohammed Ali talking down a disabled veteran from committing suicide by jumping off a roof, Meek Mills’ legal battles, the huge box office bomb John Carter, and Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton’s relationship.
Podcasts that didn’t do it for me
- Tell Me Something I Don’t Know- I’m sick of white men who think they are funnier than they are. Someone
- Last Podcast on the Left- More white men annoying me! The My Favorite Murder gals recommended this one for true crime lovers but I didn’t enjoy it.
- Wonderful- Aaaaaand more white men annoying me. This man and his wife discuss things they find wonderful (Four square! Using the phrase “no worries!” Things that should be really sweet and delightful!) but the man is a deeply irritating conversation dominator and I just get mad on his wife’s behalf.
- Missing and Murdered- ugh, there’s all this reporting about some truly upsetting events, but you don’t find anything out. Maddening.
- Cover Up- ditto above! I need some kind of beginning, middle and end to my true crime stories. And the Chappaquiddick thing is something I’ve always been fascinated by so I was disappointed not to get more information. Like, of course none of the important people are talking… but it doesn’t make for a good podcast!
- Zealot- As discussed above, I love a good cult podcast. And this one has promise… it has fun musical segues between topics. However, the sound quality is poor and the storytelling is meandering. Alas.