What I’m Streaming: The Best Podcasts of 2018
I would consider myself a podcast expert. In fact, there was a time in college where listening to podcasts was my primary source of entertainment. I had 54 podcasts in my feed that I would rotate through, while walking to class, sitting in the library, or relaxing back at my dorm. Over the years, that number has dwindled, as life has gotten busier. However, I still try to listen to as many podcasts as possible. At the time of writing this article, there is 19.63 GB of storage taken up on my phone just in podcasts alone.
So, I think I have a good sense of what podcasts were popular this past year, and I have comprised my list of shows to listen to from this year. As we begin the holiday season and travel is inevitable, please give these a listen, as I’m sure they will be a good use of your time:
From Wondery, the network behind the hit podcast Dirty John, DR. DEATH is about a medical system that failed to protect patients from a serial killer doctor. It’s a fantastic podcast that sometimes is hard to listen to since there are graphic details about medical procedures that were conducted incorrectly. The story has a few twists and turns, but some of the most shocking things occur in the podcast updates, which I recommend you listen to after the series comes to an end. You’ll never look at going to the doctor the same way again.
In the Dark: Season 2
Curtis Flowers has been tried six times for the same crime. For 21 years, Flowers has maintained his innocence. He’s won appeal after appeal, but every time, the prosecutor just tries the case again. What does the evidence reveal, and how can the justice system ignore the prosecutor’s record and keep Flowers on death row? This podcast will definitely make you angry. It’s unbelievable that this man has been tried so many times for a crime by the same prosecutor! I subscribed to In the Dark last year, and couldn’t wait for more episodes—season two has been a fantastic listen. This is my favorite true crime podcast of the year, and one that you should definitely check out as I believe this surpassed Serial season one in its storytelling and editing.
Serial: Season 3
Speaking of Serial, season three was much better than the last season. In fact, this most recent season of Serial may be the best in terms of its overall exploration of the justice system. Rather than focusing on one singular criminal case, Serial: Season 3 focuses on everyday ordinary cases in the courtroom. They chose to record in Cleveland (since that’s where they were given permission to record), and I didn’t know that a city could be so corrupt. There’s instances of police brutality, intimidation, judges prosecuting to their own extent of the law, and a brutal breakdown of the juvenile justice system. This season also introduced us to a new co-host, Emmanuel Dzotsi, who is awesome! He’s so good at breaking down all the jargon, and has a great connection with the defendants. To be honest, I was kinda tired of Sarah Koenig’s “voice” since her perspective on crime is nuanced, but you should give this season a listen just for Emmanuel. I can’t wait for him to start his own true crime podcast, and I’ll give you the details when it happens.
On Slow Burn, Leon Neyfakh excavates the strange subplots and forgotten characters of recent political history—and finds surprising parallels to the present. Season one captured what it was like to live through Watergate, and season two does the same with the saga of Bill Clinton’s impeachment. If you’re frustrated with the current political climate and are eagerly awaiting updates from the Mueller probe, then you have to give this podcast a listen.
Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project: Season 2
ITS BEEN FOUR YEARS! I have waited with baited breath for this podcast to return. Andy Daly and Matt Gourley are finally back with a second season of the Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project. For those who are curious, the podcast project is an improv comedy series where hosts, Andy Daly and Matt Gourley (and their friends), take over the roles of characters and submit podcasts to the Earwolf network. Basically, outside of the intros, the hosts don’t appear on the show—wink* wink*. So, you have some returning podcast submission from Dalton Wilcox, Don DiMello, and August Lindt (all played by Andy Daly), as well as some new shows, including one from L. Ron Hubbard. This is some of the best stuff going on in comedy podcasts right now, and I would recommend listening to each podcast multiple times because there’s always a new joke that catches you each relisten.
The first scripted comedy series from Maximum Fun, Bubble tells a tale that is both contemporary and otherworldly. It’s a hilarious sci-fi spin on utopia that perfectly parodies hipster culture. The entire series was released at once, and it is extremely bingeable. It also features every host who is on the Max Fun network, so you’ll hear the voices of Jesse Thorn, Jordan Morris, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Mark Gagliardi, Janet Varney, etc.
Gettin' Better with Ron Funches
Actor, comedian, and writer, Ron Funches, sits down every week to talk about his life, passions, hobbies, and how he is on a constant journey to better himself. Let’s be honest, every once and a while you need a podcast that just makes you feel warm inside—and Gettin’ Better is that podcast for me. Including stories about losing 150 pounds, pursuing a career in comedy, and parenting his son with autism, this is a fantastic podcast for those who are also trying to better themselves.
Hey Riddle Riddle
Who knew riddles and puzzles could be so fun! Hosts, Adal Rifai, Erin Keif, and JPC, spend each episode discussing and dissecting as many thought questions as possible, and you’re welcome to play along at home (or wherever you are). What makes this podcast great is that the hosts are also fantastic impersonators, and will sometimes break down a riddle or puzzle by acting out a hilarious scene.
Mission to Zyxx
Alright, so this is like the third improv comedy podcast that I’ve recommended in the comedy section, but honestly this one is my absolute favorite. Mission to Zyxx is a improvised science fiction podcast that follows the adventures of ambassador Pleck Decksetter and his intrepid crew, including a know-it-all droid called C-53, a hulking, omnisexual security officer named Dar, and an outdated, sentient starship called Bargie. This is my new Star Wars, and this past year, the quality of the podcast has increased significantly. The sound effects and mixing are perfect, and you feel like you’re in the world with them rather than just listening to a radio drama. The show has even gotten to the point where they have been experimenting with live shows, and it’s so seamless that you can’t believe they’re doing it live!
The one and only news podcast that I have listened to this past year, but to be honest, it’s the only news podcast you need. Created by the Vox media network, Today Explained will break down the big news stories of the day into episodes that are short and sweet. Also, for a show that’s journalistic, it’s a fun listen (which many aren’t). The hosts and guests are knowledgeable, as well as can explain almost anything in a reasonable and easy to understand manner.
A controversial pick since reviews for this podcast (by frequent podcast listeners) are poor, but it did well with a general audience. I thought it was fine, so I’m putting it on my list. The Habitat is a podcast about surviving on Mars. It’s an experiment where six volunteers isolated themselves in a habitat on a volcano in Hawaii in order to imitate the harsh conditions of the red planet. How will these strangers get along? Will they make it through a year in isolation? You’ll have to listen to find out.
This is Love: Season 2
The partner podcast to Criminal, This is Love tells stories of “how to be alone, how to live forever, how to wait, how to worry, and yes, how to love.” Pun intended, but I love this podcast. It puts me in such a great mood after finishing an episode, and it would be my top pick for a holiday listen since it’s heartwarming and…well…truly lovely!
Wolverine: The Long Night
The first scripted podcast that features the Marvel Comics character, Wolverine, and the first Marvel New Media podcast. Partnered with Stitcher, Wolverine The Long Night is just as good (if not better) than a comic book, featuring the character. Give it a listen if you’re a fan of Marvel, and here’s to hoping that the company releases more stories to the podcast medium.
So, those are my podcasts recommendations for 2018. I hope the new year brings many new podcasts to the table. As always…give a new podcast a try!