Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Cassie Randolph and Colton Underwood
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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.

An Arm And A Leg
Why Are Drug Prices So Random? Meet Mr. PBM

Just your typical, heartwarming story of healthcare in America: guy gets new insurance, then finds out his new copay on a prescription is $700 at his local drugstore—but somehow it’s only $25 at a supermarket down the street. The guy is Dan Weissmann, a journalist who happens to be hosting a podcast about the “unhealthy” costs of healthcare, so he’s going to spend hours and hours of his own precious time researching the question of why drug prices vary so much, so you don’t have to. And the answer is just as tangled and weirdly fascinating as you might expect, involving a web of backroom deals, bad-faith negotiations, and a hidden, growing monopoly of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (or PBMs) that have a vice grip on prescription drug prices in the United States. Weissmann uses classic film metaphors and revealing interviews to deftly explain the history behind how things got so bad—the implications of which will have you chugging your vitamins for days (an ounce of prevention, right?). [Amber Cortes]


Dead Ass With Khadeen And Devale Ellis
Life Ain’t the Same After 3 Whole Boys!

Khadeen and Devale Ellis are keeping it real. They sprang to fame by posting videos of themselves with their kids, so it makes sense that they would want to share the secrets to life and love after children. “I can honestly say fatherhood made me a way better husband,” Devale explains. They both emphasize how important it is to not let your negative energy affect your children. As content creators, they make a living for their family via their phones, and while their family might be front and center on social media, the Ellises explain how you can’t let your online presence overshadow your actual presence in your children’s lives. Modern-day parenting sometimes comes with more obstacles than people can see, which means parents always have to stay aware of how to make their children a priority in real life. Plus, there’s the issue of “getting it in when you can.” Kids change your sex schedule! Staying true to form, there is no boundary this couple won’t cross to keep it real. Dead ass, this may be one of the best podcasts in the game. [Vannessa Jackson]


Dirty Girl
Honest Ableism

Dirty Girl is a podcast where women celebrate all the grossest parts of being a woman with no judgement or shame. Filthy habits, sex, and bodily fluids are routine subjects of conversation. But more fundamentally it’s a podcast about the reality of women’s bodies. In this episode, host Heather Ann Gottlieb welcomes comedian Danielle Perez to speak about her reality. Perez lost her legs at the age of 20 and soon learned that the world is a hostile place for the disabled. Where she once saw the cobbled streets of New York as beautiful and romantic, she soon realized they were absolute hell for a wheelchair. The comedy clubs she works mostly view her as a liability and either refuse to book her or won’t let the staff assist her in any way for fear of being sued. Many clubs are in basements, which means she must crawl down the stairs carrying her chair as she goes. But the worst part might be people condescendingly referring to her as “brave” when maybe all she accomplished that day was purchasing drugs. While there is no “gross” content covered in this particular episode, society’s disregard for the disabled can certainly be disgusting. [Anthony D Herrera]


Earwolf Presents
Teledetective

The city of Julius needs your help! There are humorous crimes that need solving and not enough serious detectives to solve them. Thankfully, you’re such a good gumshoe that you can figure out these whodunnits simply by listening to audio news clippings, recorded interrogations, and police interviews from the safety of your car/living room/local gym. At least, that’s the premise behind this new interactive podcast. Presented by comedian (and former Onion contributor) Ian Abramson, Teledetective is the latest installment of Earwolf Presents, a revolving showcase of podcast pilots with the potential to go to series. Over the course of the pilot episode’s 12-minute runtime, your secretary Becky will tell you all about local crime boss Tony McNamara and the supposedly supernatural enforcer that’s running amok all over town. You’ll also get a nice voicemail from your mom. Once you’ve digested all the evidence, it’s your responsibility to email Becky and see if you’re on the right track. The professional sound design and quality voice acting courtesy of a handful of LA comedians makes this a fun, low-stakes puzzle game. We just hope Earwolf has the sense to put it into full production. Someone has got to stop these criminals! [Dan Neilan]


Freaknik: A Discourse On A Paradise Lost
Prologue, or: The Abominable Discretion of Youth

This brand-new podcast documentary from filmmaker Chris Frierson sets out to explore the birth and demise of Freaknik, the legendary Atlanta celebration of black culture held during the last two decades of the 20th century that drew crowds in the hundreds of thousands. If it wasn’t obvious from the show’s baroque subtitle, this podcast adopts a sort of galaxy-brain approach in telling the story of the festival. It’s an excellent move, elevating the program into something of an anthropological study, diving back into history to examine the unique social and cultural factors that helped make Atlanta into the capital of black American culture. Frierson posits that Freaknik was more than just a massive party, it was an organic outgrowth of the factors that shaped Atlanta. To understand what the celebration represented and to appreciate its cultural impact, one needs to hear the disparate stories that wove together to create it. Benefitting from Frierson’s warm personality and energetic sensibilities, the documentary hopscotches all over the place, checking in with everyone from rappers, politicians, lawyers, HBCU students, and strip club managers along its merry, winding way. This is a fresh, wonderfully original show. [Ben Cannon]


Here’s The Situation
Riding and Writing

The premise of Here’s The Situation seems vague at first; it’s pitched simply as “a very real podcast about very hypothetical situations.” In practice, it feels like a combination of a game show and a conversation on a long car ride. This week, hosts TJ Jagodowski and Rush Howell trade hypotheticals surrounding themes of travel and literature. Their answers open up into conversations that almost feel like short stories or essays in themselves. A simple would-you-rather about having to walk or bike 300 miles to a wedding turns into an anecdote about pain and nostalgia. Meanwhile, a scenario involving a book that tells the story of the reader’s life turns into a discussion of the author’s narrative quirks. Jagadowski and Howell are funny, charming hosts, and the specificity of their questions and answers keeps the show from feeling stale. Every thought experiment, after all, is rooted in bigger questions that are far from hypothetical. If you’ve never thought about how much you’d pay to own a soulless horse that can’t run faster than 30 miles an hour, Here’s The Situation is the only place to start. [Adrian Jade Matias Bell]


Hills I’d Die On
The Bachelor Is The Best Way to Find Love

People outside Bachelor Nation would agree that going on The Bachelor is a great way to launch your tequila brand, hawk your scrunchie line, or turn your Instagram feed into a bevy of spon-con, but definitely not a way to find love. Writer-comedian Alex Franklin wholeheartedly disagrees and joins Hills I’d Die On to defend her position to the death. Every week, comedian Taylor Cox invites guests to pick an unpopular opinion, debate its truthiness, and fight for the glory of being right. While arguing the case for finding true love on The Bachelor seems like an impossible task, Franklin’s encyclopedic knowledge of the franchise and its spin-off, Bachelor In Paradise, will make you believe. In a world where producers create ideal conditions for privileged people to find that Midwestern dreamboat, with a worst-case scenario of heading to an island to join hot people drinking in bathing suits, true love can’t be far away. Though the counterarguments from Cox are effective, one side is more fun to agree with than the other. This sparkling debut makes Lincoln-Douglas-level debate more fun than it has a right to be and it’s a total treat. [Morgan McNaught]


The Anthropocene Reviewed
Gray Aliens and Rock Paper Scissors

Novelist John Green is on record as being a Gloomy Gus about humanity’s impact on the planet, not that that marks him as special nowadays. Rather, it’s his creative indulgence of that insecurity that sets him apart, as it prods him to review facets of the Anthropocene on a five-star scale. Often this focuses on tangible objects that hypothetical future beings could ponder as they sift through civilization’s debris. Here, though, he turns his attention to formless devices that reveal a measure of humanity’s self-recognition. First are gray aliens, which Green posits are not real, even though an imagined sighting as a child filled him with an enduring paranoia that he was the lone human in a world full of extraterrestrials. Adult Green sees gray aliens as an obvious projection of our collective vanities and fears. Then, he turns the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, traces its ancient roots (it was sometimes played during foreplay), and admires its utility as an arbitration device and shrine to luck. The game served an especially significant function in his own personal fate: it’s how he and his wife chose their first house. [Zach Brooke]


The Museum At Tomorrow
Per me si va ne

Jeffrey Nils Gardner is one of the executive producers at HartLife NFP, the brains behind the recent Gothic horror success Unwell, but their new solo project demonstrates a different viscerality and a breathtaking range of ability in form and sound. The Museum At Tomorrow is an audio fiction collage where the beats of a narrative outline are layered over with interviews, improvised dialogue, field recordings, visits to museums, and music. Nils Gardner compares the effect to something like “a magic-eye puzzle”—if you focus and unfocus just the way that moves you, you’ll pick up on one layer more than the other, and therefore, the story you’re following is just that much different from someone else’s experience. This staggering of compositional beats is what lends the opening episode its haunting, worrisome, adventurous quality. It’s what determines whether you’re hearing the raspy description of a landscape or the despondent answers to unheard questions about being alone. Musings about the word “alone” roll into descriptions of empty rooms covered in maps, a child’s fear of loneliness, the dreams of being alone in a labyrinth. This strange art will make you want to lean into it and see if you can find yourself inside it. [Elena Fernández Collins]


This Is Uncomfortable
Home/work

If there’s one thing that makes a majority of the world uncomfortable, it’s discussing money. Reema Khrais knows this, which is why her newest podcast, This Is Uncomfortable, aims to shed some light on the ways money can affect our lives and lifestyles, our relationships, and our identities. This week’s episode, “Home/work,” sees Khrais discussing two ways work can affect our home life: childhood tasking, and live-in partner chores—namely, dishwashing. Khrais takes center stage for the episode’s first segment, discussing how her own family set her up with jobs as a kid and how she assumed the roles of proofreader and translator for her family’s business, which sometimes needed a slightly Americanized Arabic touch to communications. The latter half of the episode shows how one couple figured out the secret formula for a consistent dishwashing home schedule, in the form of... fining the partner who doesn’t keep up with dishes as much $100 a month. This Is Uncomfortable manages to show that buried underneath an individual’s financial circumstances is a person who has a heart. [Kevin Cortez]


TuneDig
Prince and the Revolution’s “Purple Rain”

Throughout the season-three finale of the music podcast TuneDig (aka “the heavyweight champion of podcasts for music lovers”), Kyle and Cliff, the alabaster-skinned, Atlanta-based hosts, make some declarations that might have some people smashing their listening devices in sheer WTF frustration. At one point, one host—since they don’t introduce themselves, you never know who’s saying what—claims that, with all the music and mythology he created during his time, Prince is “the textbook example of a difficult artist to get into.” They practically spend this whole ep talking about an album many Prince fans consider to be the perfect gateway to his discography. It’s hard not to stop listening when one of them says the Foo Fighters version of “Darling Nikki” is preferable to the down-and-dirty original. (You almost expect them to fawn over Mariah Carey’s Sisqo-fied cover of “The Beautiful Ones.”) And yet, for all their damn-near-blasphemous hot takes, these guys, in their own relentlessly hyperbolic way—they are obviously representing for all those vinyl-heads who love getting into debates at record stores—acknowledge the revolutionary, funk-rock sea change Prince and his Revolution brought to pop music 35 years ago with this album. [Craig D. Lindsey]

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