(photo above is not Perry Missner’s arm, sadly for him)
Podcasts seem like a relatively new form of entertainment, but this is already the fifth year of my Podcast Hall of Fame. As such, I went through the four earlier posts to see exactly which podcasts have stood the test of time. I think there has been a definite shift away from sports and toward pop culture in my listening, but there are some sports podcasts that are simply too entertaining to put away. In past years, I organized the Hall of Fame by priority or day of the week that the podcast appears. This year, I am going with longevity. Which podcasts have been with me since the beginning? I should have more to write about the newer podcasts, so I will start with the first-year inductees.
First Year Inductees
People who come from NPR generally prize conciseness. Eric Molinsky produces this podcast on science fiction and fantasy, and it generally runs about 20 minutes. I listened to all of the episodes last year. I really appreciate the editing and the general sense of wonder when encountering these imaginary worlds. Molinsky examines subjects like Star Wars, Dungeons & Dragons, and Harry Potter. Despite the brevity of the podcast, Molinsky injects his point of view and provides a sense of humor, which is an important part of the listening experience.
I listen to music podcasts when I run. All Songs Considered used to be enough, but I have been in a running groove so that I needed a second music podcast. I heard about this one when Brian Koppelman mentioned it. Because Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot had produced more than 500 hour-long episodes before I started listening, I did not listen to the entire back catalog. I picked a bunch of episodes and started listening to the new ones. I am about six months behind. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to keep this podcast in the rotation, but I was hooked when DeRogatis expressed that he thought Bruce Springsteen was overrated. I wish their music:talk ratio leaned more toward music, but they play enough to keep me moving through the dawn. This podcast is pretentious and that comes through when they take listener calls, but I don’t mind a bit of pretense.
Second Year Inductees
I think this is my favorite basketball podcast, although Lowe has the advantage of not being on every day like The Starters. The formula seems simple: have a host that has in-depth knowledge of his subject, has good rapport with his guests, and mixes in a sense of humor. Add in the mix that Zach Lowe seems to really care about the NBA and that teams should try. He has even stopped mentioning his draft wheel, which seemed like an interesting albeit completely untenable idea. I like almost all of his guests, but particularly like Kevin Arnovitz and Howard Beck. What up, Beck? I don’t particularly like Brian Windhorst because he seems to think that teams should listen to his advice.
There are several podcasts on this list for which I have a substantial backlog. This movie podcast which run two shows in a week on an every-other week schedule is one with a backlog. Very few of the movies they discuss actually come to Lafayette, LA, so I wait until the library gets the new releases and save the podcast until I see the movie. I listen even if I don’t want to watch the movie just to hear the former Dissolvers and AV Club members discuss the films, which they do with both seriousness and humor. I have both Don’t Breathe and Wait Until Dark at home from the library and I may watch one or the other after I finish typing. Maybe someday I’ll catch up.
Third Year Inductees
Koppelman took a long break after Donald Trump was elected because he wasn’t sure his podcast had a place in a world in which the United States elected such an obvious buffoon. Fortunately, he decided to come back and talk to musicians, writers, and film directors about their art and creativity. Obviously, this isn’t a podcast for Trump supporters or people who are not interested in the arts, but I am not one and am the other. Koppelman even made Adam Carolla and Mike Lupica seem interesting, even though I find neither person particularly appealing. Although Koppelman no longer focuses on “the moment,” he continues to provide excellent, deep-dive interviews with a variety of people.
Some people still read newspapers. I stopped that practice when I moved to Louisiana, so I rely on podcasts like The Gist to fill me in. The 25-30 minute daily podcast seems to be rolling along even though Mike Pesca has had to fold the Trump Worry Index. Like me, Pesca is quite liberal and he comes to the news with that slant. The former NPR sports reporter also has excellent repeated segments such as Is That Bullshit with Maria Konakova, and Billboard number ones from a particular year with Chris Molanphy. Pesca does try to one-up comedians at times, but he is usually very funny. I usually knock out this podcast on the day of or catch up during the weekend.
While this is a new podcast to my rotation, it is the third iteration of the podcasting world of Chris Morgan. He was in the first class of the Podcast Hall of Fame with his brother on Cheers. Morgan then joined forces with Seth Macy for Existential Parachute Pants: a 90s Nostalgia Podcast. That ended, but Morgan and Macy returned in 2016 with Matt Schimkowitz in a recap show of The Redd Planet, a nearly forgotten TGIF comedy. The recaps are generally not on point as Morgan goes off track and tries to provoke Schimkowitz. If they get 20 comments on iTunes, they will end the podcast. They have seven comments. Oh, and if you ever wondered how the Rockers in the WWF broke up, this is the podcast for you.
Fourth Year Inductees
This is my weekly sports roundup. Pesca, Josh Levin, and Stefan Fatsis discuss the biggest stories each week. It is basically a new age Sports Illustrated as the fellows delve into things like soccer and team handball. They are generalists, so I think I probably know more about college basketball than they do. However, I get my bits of baseball and football input from this podcast. Levin likes to keep things local by always mentioning LSU sports, even though the Tigers have been failures in the post-Nick Saban world. Despite his Louisiana roots, Levin pronounces the word “years” like Malcolm Gladwell as “yirs.”
The Watch is the last of the Bill Simmons podcast empire that I dip into. Like Sound Opinions and The Next Picture Show, I have a backlog, but I am slowly whittling away. Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald tend to concentrate on HBO shows, which I generally don’t watch. Every now and then, I’ll catch a Netflix show like Stranger Things or The OA that they discuss, but this is more about discovery for future shows for me. Greenwald is now a writer on Legion, which I will watch when it becomes available to me. The boss doesn’t stop by too often, which I find fortunate.
Fifth Year Inductees
I get most of my NBA news from The Starters. I should probably start watching their show on Youtube because a lot of the segments deal with video. I have done that from time to time. This year, the Starters have introduced a Tuesday Twitter show, which is like a second weekly Drop, a longer podcast than their daily TV show. The breakout segment is called Say What in which they take some dialog from NBA game commentators and try to suss out whether it is real or fake. It sounds ridiculous, but it is very funny and shows off The Starters’ imagination.
Imaginary Worlds lives in the same universe as where Jeff Rubin started. He has fanned out into all kinds of places of interviews you didn’t know you wanted to hear. In the last few months, Rubin has had a Microsoft Powerpoint champion, a finger dancer, and the guy who did the Double Rainbow Youtube video on his show. As always, Rubin interviews the person with curiosity and a willing desire to get nerdy. This show is consistently unexpected and good.
This show is funny, so I keep listening. The format has not changed over the years even if some of the panelists have. This year, my wife has started listening and she laughs even more than I do. I have a backlog of clip shows that I may never get to. Peter Sagal and company are amazingly consistent.
My music discovery avenue keeps supplying me with tunes. Over the past year, I have picked up The Peals, SUSTO with my favorite song of the year “Chillin’ on the Beach with My Best Friend Jesus Christ,” and Father John Misty’s “Pure Comedy.” Most of the music just enters my ears and passes right out, but I love connecting with new music. Unlike Sound Opinions, the music:talk ratio here is 75:25. They also feature interesting and often fawning interviews. I don’t find Martin Atkins funny.