A lot of creative jobs seem to start intensely but smooth out as you continue. Once you've made initial tests, research and style decisions it becomes a matter of just getting on with it. I actually really like this part of the creative process through to avoid becoming stressed out that things aren't going the way I expected I often keep any tension diffused by listening to a Podcast. This means I am as close to a podcast expert as anyone who doesn't work in that industry gets, I've listened to loads and thought I'd put some recommendations down so you can listen for your commute, your job or just to relax. For this list I am limiting it to serialised podcasts and only those who have one-off stories or at least has a year between series, otherwise, it would be too long. I will do some more but these are the essentials if you're looking to get engrossed in one particular story. Warning, they tend to be addictive!
1. Missing Richard Simmons
It's no surprise if you haven't heard of Richard Simmons and live in the UK though you would probably recognise his face if not his name. What you need to know is that during the 80's and 90's he was a fitness guru like no other who was massive in the US and as extrovert as they come. He would come out and meet tourists that would drive past his home, personally lead fitness classes every week and would often wear work out gear that was adorned with Swarovski crystals. And then he just disappeared. This podcast is an exploration of what could have happened and goes from the sinister to the ridiculous. I don't want to spoil any of the ultimate conclusions the podcast comes to but I will say it will make you admire Richard Simmons and his massive levels of compassion.
2. 36 Questions
In 2015 psychologists published a list of 36 questions that supposedly could make you fall instantly in love with another person if you completed them (have a google, it's interesting!) 36 questions is a three-part musical (yes, MUSICAL!) podcast that deals with a couple who asked these questions on their first date 2 years ago but have since fallen part as one person answered dishonestly. They decide to complete the 36 questions again to see if there's a chance to salvage the relationship. It only has 2 performers, Jonathan Groff who is fantastic, emotional without being pathetic and Jessie Shelton who's vulnerable performance helps us route for her even though she's done some terrible things previously. The songs are really beautiful and it's well worth a listen.
3. Dirty John
True crime drama podcasts are all the rage now due to the final podcast that I'll feature here, but Dirty John is refreshingly different. I want to give as little away as possible as it gave me actual chills listening (honest goose bumps!) but to give you some idea it's about a woman who rushes head first into a relationship with a stranger and the reactions of her family. The thing I love about this podcast is that it really tries to go beyond the surface of these true extraordinary events and say things about family, forgiveness and what people do when cornered. It's absolutely thrilling and you'll enjoy every second.
You've probably heard of Homecoming recently as a TV adaptation is in the works staring, in what will be her first television role, Julia Roberts. It's easy to see why she was attracted to the projected. Homecoming is like 'The Manchurian Candidate' meets 'Momento' with a murky plot that only gradually becomes clear as you continue to listen. The story is told using interviews, phone calls and therapy session meaning you really get to know the characters. It starts as a really slow burner but I encourage you to stick with it as it gets really good. It has a ridiculously starry cast that includes Oscar Issacs, David Schwimmer, Amy Sedaris and Catherine Keener who all give intense brilliant performances.
The one that started it all and it may still be the best. If you haven't heard serial yet I envy you. It's easy to describe, Serial season 1 explores the real life murder of a teenager in the 90's and exploring the idea that the man convicted of the crime and now serving time may be innocent. It sounds innocuous and unexciting but believes me when I say Serial is the most incredible listen. You will be enthralled as you try and work out what happened and why. Over 40 million have listened to Serial so if you haven't don't get caught out, and everyone else, it does make great repeat listening.
Also a quick note in support of Serial season 2. You should definitely start at the first season of Serial but a lot of people felt season 2 was a letdown. I'd encourage you to give it a go as it explores the 'why' of a crime rather than the 'what happened.'
So there you have it. My top picks! I would love to know if you have any favourites or what you think of my choices. I'll be sure to tell you some more of my podcast favourites in a future post.