In Podmass, The A.V. Club sifts through the ever-expanding world of podcasts and recommends 10–15 of the previous week’s best episodes. Have your own favorite? Let us know in the comments or at email@example.com.
America Adapts—The Climate Change Podcast
The Intrinsic Value Of Climate Change Adaptation
One of the biggest hurdles in the fight against climate change, from a preventative or adaptive standpoint, is convincing people of its urgency. Despite it being a universal problem of epically disastrous consequences, it’s hard to get citizens to care when so many of them don’t feel extreme weather affecting their daily lives—yet. Or, as World Wildlife Fund Senior Director Of Adaptation And Resilience Shaun Martin puts it, most folks only want scientists to tell them exactly when the seawater is going to come rushing underneath their door. Until then, they won’t bother to give any of it much thought. As Martin explains to America Adapts host Doug Parsons, that’s a wrongheaded way of viewing climate change—a stance that’s ignorant of its complexity and constant mutation. He then pulls out a surprisingly non-fatalistic Titanic analogy that makes the issue much more understandable and easier to talk about. It’s the sort of discussion that makes this episode and America Adapts as a whole indispensable in the Trump era, a time when so many elected officials make a point of not addressing climate change at all, or worse, actively encouraging use of fossil fuels. [Dan Caffrey]
Beef And Dairy Network
Beef And Dairy Network Podcast has created an absurd and endearing world to inhabit once a month, and the latest episode adds yet another fascinating persona to its growing list. Henry Paker plays “bovine poet laureate” Michael Banyan, who stops by to promote his new book of cow-themed poetry, Crab Of The Land—a fittingly bizarre title for the ever-growing landscape of this show. Paker’s commitment to character drives this episode. He is genuine and matter-of-fact as he explains why he got into bovine poetry (the money, of course), and he reflects on the reckless celebrity lifestyle he’s lived. The tone established throughout by both Paker and host Ben Partridge is played so straight, it’d be easy to mistake for a serious show if not for everything they’re actually saying. A lack of evident jokes somehow makes it consistently funny, and the performance of Michael Banyan’s bovine writings underscores the podcast’s allegiance to sincerity over punchlines. Complete with a surreal mid-episode aside from Beth Eyre on looking deep into a cow’s eyes, this is Beef And Dairy at its best. [Rebecca Bulnes]
We Went To The Women’s March On Washington!
If ever there was a podcast buoyed purely by the strength of its hosts’ personalities, this is it. While there are currently a glut of shows in which a handful of media types prate about the news, Girl Friday is something more—more interesting and more entertaining, thanks to the charisma and comity of the three women at the center of the show. The Daily Beast’s Erin Gloria Ryan might be the most recognizable name, but without Amanda Duarte and Briana Haynie on the mics beside her, the show’s alchemy would be off. In this bonus episode, the trio sit at a literal kitchen table in D.C. immediately after participating in protest history, and they share their experiences with emotion, empathy, irreverence, and a surprising amount of scatological humor. Laughter is a major element of the show, as is particularly evidenced in a recent episode featuring Teen Vogue’s Lauren Duca. The hosts obviously enjoy each other’s company, and it’s infectious. Girl Friday is an intelligent show for intelligent people who nonetheless enjoy stupid jokes about national tragedies. [Dennis DiClaudio]
How2Wrestling hosts Kefin Mahon and Jo Graham live in the U.K., so this exhaustive episode detailing Donald Trump’s contributions to the WWE offers some illuminating outside perspective. Graham, for example, had never even heard of Trump—let alone known him as a recurring figure in sports entertainment—before the latter announced his presidential run, while Mahon grew up watching Trump on WWE but knew little of The Donald’s other endeavors. The duo touches on cultural differences (such as the portrayal of wealth in America versus Europe) as they discuss everything from Trump’s hosting of early Wrestlemania live events to his 2009 “takeover” of Monday Night Raw, which hilariously resulted in crashing stock prices for the WWE. They question whether supporting WWE programming is supporting Trump himself, given he and WWE CEO Vince McMahon’s chummy, mutually beneficial relationship and the fact that former CEO Linda McMahon has been tapped for Trump’s cabinet. Overall, the episode helps paint a broad portrait of Trump’s ascension in pop culture and, it’s worth noting, his popularity. Lest we forget, the Wrestlemania he headlined went on to be the best-selling Wrestlemania event of all time. [Randall Colburn]
Maltin On Movies
Anyone experiencing withdrawals from the loss of actor Stephen Tobolowsky’s brilliant storytelling podcast The Tobolowsky Files would be wise to listen to his latest appearance on Maltin On Movies. Tobolowsky, recognizable from his turns in everything from Groundhog Day to Glee, is a natural wordsmith, a guy whose every anecdote is flecked with the world-building details you’d expect from a polished draft. Even run-of-the-mill questions from Maltin give way to gripping stories, from Tobolowsky’s relationship with his aging father to seemingly lost childhood treasures to an early career encounter with the sitcom One Day At A Time, the reboot of which he currently co-stars in on Netflix. As always, Tobolowsky exudes warmth and honesty; pairing him with the genial Maltin results in an eminently soothing hour of conversation. Tobolowsky’s best story comes near the end, in which a chance meeting with film director Jonathan Demme led to a night out with David Byrne, which led to the Talking Heads song “Radio Head,” which led to a particular band’s name. Yes, by Tobolowsky’s account, he’s inadvertently responsible for a group of English rockers calling themselves Radiohead. Who knew? [Randall Colburn]
Nerdist Writers Panel
Can We Get Back To Politics?
Now that politics is the driving force of our lives, monopolizing our mental energies for the foreseeable future, it’s an opportune moment to drill down into what makes compelling political drama on television, too. For this episode of Nerdist Writers Panel, industry veterans who have tackled the peculiar kinks of swamp-based TV sat down before an audience at Austin’s ATX Television Festival this past June and discussed their victories and failures in trying to tell the stories of esteemed elected officials. Kevin Falls (writer, The West Wing), Rosemary Rodriguez (director, The Good Wife), and Bryan Seabury (head of drama development, CBS) discuss the appropriate dividing line between the real world and the fictional universes they’ve created. Should the protagonist talk to an actual sitting congressperson? Should they reference George W. Bush? How about John F. Kennedy? It’s more complicated than it might seem, and the answers are not always obvious. These are experienced professionals whose exceptionally interesting stories are compelling to writers and dedicated viewers alike. [Dennis DiClaudio]
Offices And Bosses
Singing Sword From I.T.
Centered around the famous Foonish role-playing game Offices And Bosses in which players navigate their characters through the exotic realm of an Earth workplace, this brand-new spin-off of Hello From The Magic Tavern embraces its multilayered conceit with a surprising amount of humanity. The podcast features Metamore in the role of Office Manager, and each episode features various guests from the Magic Tavern canon playing the game along with him; what ensues is a podcast that hilariously amplifies the mundane details of office life. Familiar hosts Chunt, Usidore, and Arnie play as their respective characters Dan Smith, John Bastion, and Orlando Bloom. The Singing Sword (Erica Elam) takes on the role of Gail Davidson-Durst from IT, and together the group navigates the high-stakes adventures of interpersonal relationships and an ill-fated trip to Panera Bread that quickly turns lethal. By limiting these fantastical characters to a grounded world—or rather, one that’s grounded to us, but topsy-turvy to them—the improv skills of the cast are elevated to new heights. [Rebecca Bulnes]
Sooo Many White Guys
Phoebe And St. Vincent: Behind The Music
When Phoebe Robinson’s comic interview podcast Sooo Many White Guys dropped last summer, one could have hardly anticipated just how prescient and necessary it would become. The show is a true tonic—like a haymaker on an unsuspecting nazi—given that the White House is facing the least diverse cabinet in 36 years, led by a man who is a virulent strain of weaponized whiteness. That isn’t to suggest that Robinson’s work only shines against the current climate, though; even in a vacuum her abundant charm could reverse entropy. Kicking off the show’s second season, this episode is relaxed, hilarious, and sometimes scandalous, the highlight being an interview between Robinson and Annie Clark. This includes a reveal by Clark about somewhat mistakenly giving a half-hearted handjob to a Torontonian male stripper whilst wearing a turtleneck and drinking prosecco. The program is an effervescent joy for a multitude of reasons, from its noticeably deft production to Robinson’s singular comic sensibilities, demonstrating that shows guided by benevolent ideals aren’t beholden to conveying them with orthodoxy or solemnity. [Ben Cannon]
Two Beers In: A Tipsy Political Round Table
Sopan Deb, Erin Gloria Ryan, Jess McIntosh
Cody Lindquist and Charlie Todd end their hiatus with this reenergized taping at the East Village Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. It’s a special treat when buttoned-up journalists and influencers visit to chug a couple beers onstage and talk current events, so this month’s dais of heavy hitters from The Daily Beast, The New York Times, and EMILY’s List offers an especially welcome blend of comedy and thoughtful discussion about what the hell just happened this January. The massive Women’s March demonstrations provide a launching point for frank discussion about the uncomfortable reality of white women’s turnout for Trump and how single-issue anti-abortion voters reconcile their values with those of the new president. Unlike other satirists and writers who frequent the show, this month’s panel is atypically familiar with the inner workings of punditry and press pools. Sopan Deb talks about the parallels he sees today between the orchestration of Sean Spicer’s press conferences and the rallies he covered on the campaign trail, and Erin Gloria Ryan makes a brilliant hidden-in-plain-sight observation about Kellyanne Conway’s extraordinary and unique media role. [Dan Jakes]
Gimlet Media’s been launching an ambitious number of podcasts lately, making it a foregone conclusion that not all of them would stick around long-term. Such is the case with Undone, a podcast that, across its eight-episode run, has explored the small stories that surface in the wake of much larger ones. For its final episode, host Pat Walters focuses on the tragic 2003 collapse of the Columbia space shuttle, which resulted in seven casualties. Laurel Clark was one of them, and in the aftermath, her husband, Jon—a NASA employee himself—channeled his grief into a practical investigation of what happened to the spacecraft. Clark is disarmingly candid with Walters about how the inability to escape his grief drove his efforts to increase safety at NASA, which ultimately improved both crew training and spacesuit design. A postscript to the story details Clark’s work developing a suit that could help someone survive up in the stratosphere. To test it required a dive from a balloon 135,000 feet in the air, almost exactly the same altitude as the Columbia’s demise. It’s a sad, poetic, and ultimately hopeful ending to a moving finale for Undone. [Randall Colburn]
“I admit it, you know, hands up. I went off the rails, I’m not proud of it. It’s not edifying when you open the papers and see photos of yourself stumbling out of Spaghetti House at 1 a.m. with Haruki Murakami on one arm and bits of bruschetta on the other. You wake up hungover, you think, ‘Who am I gonna find in my kitchen today?’ You walk in, and it’s Jonathan Franzen again.”—Michael Banyan on his wild literary lifestyle, Beef And Dairy Network
“For the next four years, it’s fuck or get fucked. And I’m here to fuck!”—Erin Gloria Ryan, Girl Friday
“It’s a hard time to do [television] politics, because real politics has jumped the shark.”—Kevin Falls, Nerdist Writers Panel