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PodmassPodmassIn Podmass, The A.V. Club sifts through the ever-expanding world of podcasts and recommends the previous week’s best episodes. Have your own favorite? Let us know in the comments or at podmass@avclub.com.

CARAVAN
When The Man Comes Around

For the first eight episodes of CARAVAN, a steamy Weird West adventure, listeners have lived alongside Samir, a queer South Asian man in love with his best friend who tumbled straight into a supernatural canyon. Now, his best friend, Carlyle, takes center stage in a form-breaking episode that has a surprise around every corner. Creator Tau Zaman expertly guides the plot at a quick clip through what Carlyle has been doing while on his quest to save Samir; namely, battling demonic forces, joining an unusual and fiercely protective caravan, and making dangerous bargains with creatures he does not comprehend. Briggon Snow excels as Carlyle, with tenderness, flaws, and rough edges. New cast members Valentine, Huang, and Beeler bring a necessary vibrancy to their demonic characters, rounding out the cast with wit and passion. Carlyle has bought into a strangely sweet version of a white savior narrative, while still unlearning toxic masculinity behaviors, and cares about his friends with a moving and heart-wrenching depth. Surrounded by demons who have brought out fresh and untested parts of himself, this episode serves as both a superb foil to Samir’s journey and an enticing lead-up to a highly anticipated confrontation. [Elena Fernández Collins]


Bats, Bails & Biryani
The Biggest Desi Obsession

Bats, Bails & Biryani is a new cricketing podcast from the BBC Asian network that will run concurrently with the Cricket World Cup through June and July. Rather than focusing on in-depth match analysis, hosts Noreen Khan and Nikesh Rughani instead celebrate the culture of cricket and what it means to the South Asian community in the U.K. and around the world. Joined for this premiere episode by YouTube personality Smash Bengali and cricketer Naomi Dattani, the panel reminisces about childhoods spent in alleyway matches played with cheap plastic bats that melted in the sun and worshipping the posters of batsmen and bowlers on their bedroom walls. Key to their devotion, they say, is the fact that South Asians just don’t have great visibility in other sports. It’s the one international game where they can not only see themselves represented, but also see themselves dominate. There’s also a consensus that what most unites Indians, Pakistanis, Bengalis, and Sri Lankans is the desire to see any one of their countries absolutely destroy England at cricket. But when it comes to the panel’s teams facing each other, unity goes out the window and the trash talk flies thick and fast. [Anthony D Herrera]


Inside Star Wars
Dreams Of Star Wars

From the team behind Inside Psycho, Inside The Exorcist, and Inside Jaws comes a look into one of the most influential film franchises ever. Hosted by Mark Ramsey, Inside Star Wars details George Lucas’ journey to creating the iconic sci-fi series. With fun sound design that adds dimension to Ramsey’s narration of Lucas’ early years, Inside Star Wars manages to dramatize a biography in a fashion akin to cinematic biopics. Voices reenact bits of dialogue and music underscores Ramsey’s narration to immerse listeners in the start of a young filmmaker’s career. The second episode of the series, “Dreams Of Star Wars,” picks up after George Lucas survives a serious car crash and begins film school. He then meets Francis Ford Coppola on the set of Finian’s Rainbow as Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, try to move past Fisher’s father abandoning the family. Ramsey’s characterization of the various players is entertaining, and the narrative is insightful, with well-executed audio design. Film buffs and Star Wars fanatics won’t want to miss the latest series that goes deep inside such groundbreaking movies. [Jose Nateras]


Man Up
What Hollywood Gets Wrong About Black Manhood

For the past month, Aymann Ismail has been engaging in conversations about men and masculinity on Man Up, reexamining beliefs regarding manhood. This episode finds him catching up with Cord Jefferson, a television writer and script editor for shows like Master Of None and The Good Place. Growing up biracial in Tucson meant that his chances to engage in black culture were few and far between. Even the golden age of black TV in the 1990s didn’t reflect Cord’s own experience. Finding more in common with Lisa Simpson than Martin Lawrence, his outsider outlook influenced him to create multidimensional characters of color once he got his shot in the writers room. Jefferson speaks at length about the importance of a diverse writing staff as well as confronting one’s own biases before sitting down to write. Relaying a story where a date confronted him about his issues with female sexuality, Cord recognizes that as the moment where the deep look within himself began. Questioning the rigid boundaries of his own masculinity allowed him to get to a place of balance and nuance within his own writing, and the television landscape is better for it. [Jason Randall Smith]


Nym’s Nebulous Notions
The Truth About The Signal

From the creators of audio fiction smash hit Love And Luck comes a new limited series about context, conspiracies, and jumping to conclusions. The charm of Nym’s Nebulous Notions doesn’t end with its delightful alliterative title; the series boasts a cast of endearing and intriguing characters in a compelling space setting. The series is a refreshing take on the “investigative fiction” framing device, and not only does the titular character take the audience on a journey, the writing and acting makes it impossible for listeners to not want to follow her. With bite-sized episodes ranging from eight to 16 minutes, Nym’s Nebulous Notions tells a complete story that gets straight to the point, but still takes time to be poetic and contemplative. All 12 episodes have dropped at the same time, Netflix-style, and it’s a decision that pays off, as this is way too captivating of a story not to be experienced in a single burst. [Alma Roda-Gil]


Podcast: The Ride
Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge Day Special

At the end of last month, Galaxy’s Edge, Disneyland’s new immersive Star Wars theme park experience, officially opened for business. Among those standing in line at 8 a.m. on opening day were the hosts of Podcast: The Ride, the premier theme park podcast. Being the very good, obsessively thorough podcasters that they are, they recorded their predictions the night before, their experience while in the park, and even a post-mortem interview with fellow theme park obsessive Len Testa (Disney Dish). The result is a comprehensive audio breakdown of what visitors can expect during their time at this wildly popular new attraction, from the galactic cocktails available at Oga’s Cantina to the less-than-stellar adventure awaiting them aboard the Millennium Falcon. Unsurprisingly, though, the highlight of this theme park experience is the attention to detail Disney paid to its immersive qualities. The park employees remain in-character as natives of Batuu and make you feel as though you’re really a space-traveling tourist visiting a fully realized planet from the films. For some Star Wars fans, that’s worth the price of admission alone. The $200 screen-accurate lightsaber is just gravy. [Dan Neilan]


Prinze And The Wolf
The Straight Pride Parade, difficulties w/ technology, an old school “VS” battle and a ton more!

Introducing America’s number-one bromance. Each week on Prinze And The Wolf, actor Freddie Prinze Jr. and stand-up comedian Josh Wolf sit down and dish on anything and (fortunately for listeners) everything. The men offer their unfiltered opinions on the entertainment industry, dish on their love of the WWE, and give their hot takes on the news of the day. This week the guys treat listeners to their hilarious thoughts on Boston’s upcoming “straight pride parade” and their plans to crash the whole event Ferris Bueller–style. If you didn’t think it could get more absurd, then you don’t know Wolf and Prinze: The duo also improvise their own comedic version of a scene from Schindler’s List, and Prinze takes a walk down memory lane and spills the details on the one actor he believes made his 2002 film Scooby-Doo such a national phenomenon. The episode wouldn’t be complete without Wolf’s impeccable comedic timing making their traditional “VS” segment nonstop laughs. If you’re looking for a bright spot in your week, Prinze And The Wolf will deliver it. [Vannessa Jackson]


Shmanners
Advice

Advice podcasts are a staple genre in the podcast world, but not many of them provide advice on how to give advice correctly. On this week’s meta episode of Shmanners, the hosts tackle the polite art of doing just that. Teresa and Travis McElroy show listeners that advice is actually far more complicated than just telling people what to do. They cover famous competitive advice-columnist twin sisters, the four different types of advice people seek, how to acknowledge when the advice-seeker actually just wants validation, and more. The rules of etiquette can be baffling and sometimes even daunting. However, with the McElroys, learning all the rules feels like getting a funny how-to guide to life. There’s something uniquely charming about this series. The quirky intro music and the chemistry between the married hosts immediately invites the listener in: Shmanners offers up tips for extraordinary etiquette every Friday and the hosts would love to have you. They don’t even require an RSVP. Listening to this podcast series is something we would encourage you to do, but of course, we support you in whatever decision you make. [Nichole Williams]


Stellar Firma
Star Theft And Star Marlins

Improvised narrative comedy podcasts need a solid framework to sustain themselves, and this newest offering from Britain’s Rusty Quill (home of the exceptional horror series The Magnus Archives) and brothers Ben and Tim Meredith has expertly exploited its premise for consistent, frenetic laughs. In the reaches of far-future space, a hapless clone named David 7 (Ben) finds himself plunked down in a chaotic, seemingly no-win struggle to assist boozy, vainglorious, and questionably qualified planet designer Trexel Geistman (Tim) in the task of creating a new custom-built planet each week. Trexel invariably swans in just before deadline, leaving the mismatched pair to scramble—in impressively improvised, squabbling panic—to create an entirely new world before time expires and the sensible yet powerless David is “recycled” into slurry. The show’s inventive sci-fi trappings evoke Douglas Adams, but it’s the Merediths’ interplay as the combative mad scientist and exasperated assistant that makes this series a pell-mell yet improbably tight comedy high-wire act. This episode sees Trexel once more breaking his promise to show up just a bit earlier, leaving just 20 harried minutes to craft a gallery planet for a multimedia space opera about the birth of the star-marlin, a benevolent (yet disgusting) spacefaring creature with exacting standards. [Dennis Perkins]


The Queen
Bobbie And Diana

Through her decades-long career of fraud, Linda Taylor provided the basis for the racist stereotype of the “welfare queen,” a figure that Ronald Reagan used on his 1976 campaign trail to argue against public aid programs. But when the facts of her life are laid out, Taylor seems to have followed no greater pattern of human behavior—just her own. In the final episode of the Slate miniseries podcast The Queen, host Josh Levin presents two stories of Taylor’s two extremes. In one, she rescued a black family from a life of sharecropping in the South. In another, she might have been responsible for murder. Two witnesses to these different episodes give perspective to the cryptic, confident mystery that was Linda Taylor. Levin, also the author of a book on Taylor (The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind An American Myth), does his best to create a balanced, complex picture of a woman whose story seems to have been flattened out at every turn. We might never understand why Taylor did what she did, but we can attempt to understand her as more than a referent for racist rhetoric. Her life, messy and cruel as it sometimes was, was her own. [Jade Matias Bell]


UnF*ck Your Brain
Pain & Illness

It seems wild that a project initially intended as a stress management and communication resource for lawyers could morph into a cognitive-therapy-based how-to for putting feminist ideals into action, but as it turns out, there is a lot of overlap between the subjects. Un*Fuck Your Brain is hosted by former litigator, academic, and think tank director Kara Loewentheil. Exploring the surprising intersection between feminism and neuroplasticity, this podcast provides practical tools to unlearn the conditioning that plagues people who have been socialized as women, helping to replace that saboteur in your head with a higher self that loves the fuck out of you. This episode trudges through the horrible thought cycle of chronic pain and illness, offering ways to change habitual thoughts around experiences of pain that can help alter your experience. This isn’t a weird The Secret–type thing (though it’s cool if that works for you) or an attempt to convince you that pain is only an experience is in your mind; instead these are literal ways to help tell a different story as you experience pain and unwellness. Chronic illness is the worst, and this episode might help take the edge off. [Morgan McNaught]


Unladylike
How To Wear Body Hair, Part 3

For women, body hair is never just body hair, and this three-part miniseries investigates why women do or do not shave. Previous episodes focused on the history and social politics of body hair removal from the second-wave feminist movement all the way up to Julia Roberts’ infamous pit hair reveal, including interviews with Sasheer Zamata and an extremely charming 11-year-old terrified of growing hair. This final installment features Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa, a spoken word artist, advocate, and educator who some might recognize from her 2016 appearance on Australia’s Got Talent. As Khalsa tells hosts Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin, body hair can be especially complicated for women of color. Schoolmates ruthlessly teased her as a child for her hairy arms and legs, and she struggled to reconcile her desire to shave with her Sikh faith, which traditionally holds body hair as sacred. Khalsa describes her journey from removing body hair to please others (including family members who urged her to “cover up” her hairy legs) to becoming a true Kaur, or “lioness.” Now, she’s not ashamed of her hair, and she’s not shaving for anyone. [Sofia Barrett-Ibarria]

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