Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Photo: Olivier Douliery (AFP via Getty Images)
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.

Behind The Bastards
The Worst Grifters Of The Coronavirus  

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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has infused modern life with an air of uncertainty. And on Behind The Bastards, Robert Evans and guest Jamie Loftus (My Year In Mensa, Robot Chicken) remind us that whenever there’s chaos, grifters will always try to profit. In this timely episode, Evans outlines some “remedies” that snake oil salesmen have been shilling during the outbreak. Televangelist Jim Bakker, for example, is currently being sued for selling a “silver solution” to cure users of COVID-19. Alex Jones, surprising no one, also makes an appearance on Evans’ list thanks to his insistence that silver-infused toothpaste and emergency survival foods are the only way to make it through the outbreak alive. Beauty YouTuber Michelle Phan recently recommended anti-viral essential oils, which she said would kill the virus before it enters the body—only to retract the claims later. This episode won’t provide you relief from thinking about coronavirus, but it’s a useful primer on the predatory products out there. [Nichole Williams]

Blank Check
5th Anniversary Special

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Had things gone according to plan, Griffin Newman and David Sims would have celebrated the fifth anniversary of their beloved podcast about filmographies in front of a live sold-out audience at the Bell House in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, as is the case with many things over the past few weeks, extenuating circumstances forced plans to change. Instead, Griffin, David, their longtime producer Ben Hosley, and their newly promoted co-producer Ang Ferraguto celebrated the momentous occasion over video chat from the safety of their own apartments. Government-mandated social distancing didn’t stop them from delivering a hilarious, thoughtful, and, at times, tear-jerking episode in which they play classic clips, hear from past guests, and generally reflect on their collective podcasting journey, which is bound to be especially impactful for those fans who have been on that journey from the very beginning. There is, of course, plenty of time made for bits both retired and new, as well as some hints about future Blank Check–adjacent projects. In these uncertain times, it’s comforting to know #TheTwoFriends are still here to provide goofs and, more importantly, context to Blankies in need. [Dan Neilan]

Code Switch
Sex, Friendship And Aging: ‘It’s Not All Downhill From Here’

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NPR’s Code Switch is a home for weekly conversations about how everything from pop culture to politics is affected and informed by race. This is a very special, mostly coronavirus-free episode featuring senior correspondent Karen Grigsby Bates in conversation with her longtime friend Terry McMillan, best-selling author of Waiting To Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back. The two friends talk about McMillan’s new book, It’s Not All Downhill From Here, as well as how friendships have saved her life and what she wished she would have known about getting older. Funny as hell and inadvertently inspirational, this conversation destroys the notion that books about women (and the ways women experience friendship, love, and the world) automatically qualify as chick lit. For folks that worry they are too old for sex, too old for success, or too old to be seen, McMillan stresses that it’s never to late to get it on. Listen all the way through to make sure you don’t miss the cute action item at the end. [Morgan McNaught]

Our Plague Year
Stories in the Dark

Illustration for article titled Podmass regrets to inform you that most podcasts are about COVID-19 now

In a neverending news cycle that makes a week feel like a year, it’s hard to be grounded. Everything spins to create a new kind of dizziness, one that feels ineffable and unending. New from Night Vale Presents, Our Plague Year acknowledges this in the most comforting way. It tells the audience that they’re not alone, and that it’s okay to feel lost. With monologues and short stories from Joseph Fink and other writers, the series stresses the importance of human connection in uncertain times and fills a current and desperate need: consuming entertainment that doesn’t acknowledge what’s going on often feels “wrong,” but we can’t possibly follow the news at all times, either. Our Plague Year is a promise that we’ll get through this with collective hope and despair and warmth. It’s a log—and a lifeline—in interesting times. [Alma Roda-Gil]

The Big Picture
We’re Watching Every New Movie At Home Now. Is That a Good Thing?

Illustration for article titled Podmass regrets to inform you that most podcasts are about COVID-19 now

What else can you do during a quarantine besides consuming media? The Ringer’s Sean Fennessey tells us how it’s done as he runs down the movies he binged over the past weekend, revealing that there are only six films released in 2020 that he hasn’t seen yet. Amanda Dobbins, on the other hand, tells us how she spent her weekend with Mark Wahlberg’s TikTok. But most importantly, Fennessey and Dobbins take this week’s episode of The Big Picture to talk about how movie theater shutdowns are affecting at-home screen time, and how movies that were in theaters mere weeks ago are now available to stream nationwide. The two describe the drawbacks of video-on-demand services just before reviewing two recently released films that are already available for rent: The Hunt and Emma. The icing on top of this episode is when The Podfather himself, Bill Simmons, makes an appearance to argue with Fennessey and insist that The Hunt was the perfect movie to watch at home. This is the ideal shut-in podcast for cinema fiends. [Kevin Cortez]

Toasted Sister
Inez Cook—Salmon N’ Bannock, “My Personal Journey” 

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Toasted Sister is a podcast that celebrates the Native chefs, farmers, and foodies who keep traditional indigenous cuisine thriving in the modern world. In this episode, host Andi Murphy speaks with Inez Cook, who owns and operates Salmon N’ Bannock, the only brick-and-mortar indigenous restaurant in Vancouver. Cook’s mission is to bring completely authentic indigenous foods to the public, which she freely admits is fraught with difficulty. Aside from the cost of using only fresh-caught fish and wild game, indigenous cuisine does not have the brand recognition that Italian or Chinese food does. Cook works hard to make sure that Salmon N’ Bannock is not seen as just a novelty or, worse, a Native themed restaurant. For Cook, this a personal journey and celebration of indigenous cultures that have persevered despite centuries of hardship. This episode was recorded at the start of the coronavirus outbreak, with her restaurant already feeling the financial effects. If nothing else, this interview shows just how much risk is involved in running a small business and should encourage listeners to support their local restaurants when they can. [Anthony D Herrera]

Toy Heart
Ricky Skaggs

Illustration for article titled Podmass regrets to inform you that most podcasts are about COVID-19 now

This limited-run podcast captures the preservation and growth of bluegrass music from the perspective of its greatest living musicians. Over the course of an hour, Ricky Skaggs reflects on a storied career that began with playing mandolin on stage at six years old. Six decades later, Skaggs, now a legend in his own right, is also a bridge linking genre epochs who counted near-mythological figures like Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley as touring partners and offstage friends, and then played on the most seminal bluegrass album in a generation. Later, Skaggs garnered the enmity of purists by transitioning over to mainstream country music. Throughout the fiercely intimate and sweeping conversation with interviewer Tom Power, Skaggs repeatedly fashions the whole of his journey to a stiff spine of spirituality. He credits his religious upbringing as the arrow guiding him toward success where countless other child prodigies have fallen, and he cites faith as the inspiration behind his most inspired album. [Zach Brooke]

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