Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Charmander torches a herd of Exeggutor.
Screenshot: Pokémon: Indigo League
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.

Couldn’t Help But Wonder
“Sex And The City”

Sex And The City premiered nearly 21 years ago, and people are still talking about it. But people aren’t talking about it the same way they talk about the other hit shows of the past two decades (“Aw, remember how good Breaking Bad was?”). No, when fans of Sex And The City talk about their favorite show, it’s like Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha never really left. At least, that’s the impression you get listening to comedians, best friends, and SATC superfans Jamie Lee and Rose Surnow on their new podcast. While the impetus for the podcast was to do an episode-by-episode retrospective, the hosts can’t help but insert themselves into the storylines so they can analyze their own relationships, the Samantha-like adventures they’ve had in the past, and the reasons they now relate more to the jaded Miranda. Surnow’s previous experience as a sex and relationship columnist (“Essentially a living, breathing Carrie Bradshaw”) helps these discussions go deeper than any TV show ever could. Be forewarned: Not everything in Sex And The City has aged well. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy it. [Dan Neilan]


Feminist Folklore
Law & Order: Arabian Nights

Co-hosts Rachael Marr and Carlea Holl-Jensen gear up for the upcoming release of Disney’s Aladdin with a feminist critique of “The Three Apples,” a story from the historic folktale collection The Thousand And One Nights, which inspired the original film. This early whodunnit, however, is far from family-friendly. When a fisherman stumbles upon a chest containing a woman’s dismembered corpse, the caliph commands his royal advisor to find the perpetrator and solve the case within three days or risk execution himself. The story only gets darker and more disturbing as a series of flashbacks reveal further instances of violence against women, culminating in a deeply upsetting conclusion. There’s a lot of blatant misogyny to unpack here, and Marr and Holl-Jensen discuss the story’s problematic treatment of women, a legacy still prevalent in the true crime genre. Examining “The Three Apples” through a feminist lens reveals this isn’t merely a tale of barbaric, ancient gender norms. As this story and many recent high-profile cases confirm, telling the truth won’t always set women free. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. [Sofia Barrett-Ibarria]


Field Work
Drain Tile: Friend Or Foe?

If you don’t have many opportunities to think about drain tile, the latest episode of Field Work might open some doors for you. With their easy charm, hosts Zach Johnson and Mitchell Hora (both commercial row-crop farmers themselves) prove that the question of water management in U.S. agriculture is relevant not only to everyone who farms, but everyone who eats. Drain tile, which is used to aerate the soil on many commercial American farms, can sometimes cause the soil to lose vital nutrients such as nitrate, which then flow and deposit in surrounding streams and reservoirs. This issue has led farmers like special guest Rodney Rulon, a fourth-generation farmer living north of Indianapolis, to adopt a variety of water conservation strategies. Johnson and Hora are also joined by Professor Matt Helmers of Iowa State University, who provides a more technical perspective on the water management issues raised by drain tile. Both Rulon and Helmers emphasize a full-system approach to water management, seeing drain tile as one piece of a highly variable puzzle. It’s valuable information for commercial farmers—and for all listeners, it’s an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the system we rely on to feed us. [Jade Matias Bell]


Just Another Shark-Man Podcast!
Rooftop Screening

Just Another Shark-Man Podcast! is the bright and cheery kick in the face that the current state of pop culture fandom deserves. The podcast is hosted by two sycophantic sociopaths named Jack and Fergus (played by series creators Jack Bradfield and Fergus Macdonald), who are addicted to internet fame and the Shark-Man film series. Shark-Man is a superhero who has the power to throw sharks at people, and the Shark-Man universe is quite literally the center of Jack and Fergus’ world. The power of these films is so absolute that the studio can have people murdered for releasing spoilers. Jack and Fergus are a spot-on parody of the fans who worship billion-dollar franchises beyond all reason. They are glib and internet savvy, and their sprightly banter dances over a reality of extreme violence and pain caused by a series of films that are seemingly choking the planet to death. It’s also very funny. Details like a DVD island that has formed in the middle of the ocean and a former co-host who murdered everyone involved with Dark Squid, the only bad film in the Shark-Man universe, hilariously fill out this world that is only slightly madder than ours. [Anthony D. Herrera]


Lauren Conrad: Asking For A Friend
Motherhood: It Only Looks Easy On Instagram

The Hills are alive with the sound of babies! In the first episode of her podcast Asking For A Friend, Lauren Conrad opens up about the newest chapter of her life: motherhood. The former reality star turned entrepreneur has an inspiring conversation about the ups and downs of modern maternity with her friend and New York Times bestselling author Leslie Bruce. Bruce is a mother of two who is very passionate about the phenomenon of “mom guilt,” and she encourages other women to find their own parenting styles. “Feeling guilty is a really good reminder of how much you love your kids,” Bruce says as she shares her own experience being a working mother. Both women agree that juggling high-powered careers has only improved their lives. The two break down the pitfalls of the current Instagram culture we live in as well, explaining why it’s important to not take everything you see at face value. While the first episode focuses on a topic close to Lauren’s heart, she’s sure to remind listeners that this episode is only a sample of what is to come, and promises many more answers to share with your “friend.” [Vannessa Jackson]


Lindsay: A Radio Play
Trust The Butler

What if the horrific turn of events that happened to Lindsay Lohan after the release of The Parent Trap was because Lindsay wasn’t really Lindsay at all? Lindsay: A Radio Play is the never-before-heard behind-the-scenes (and completely dramatized) saga of filming this beloved and often maligned remake and the offset drama between “twins” Sydney and Lindsay Lohan. This bonkers film noir follows Marzipan, a stoner with questionable boundaries, as she becomes extra security for the twins when terrifying letters threatening Lindsay (and maybe Sydney) begin appearing on set. The letters take a dark turn in this episode, and a catastrophic bucket accident (not an accident) sends Sydney to the hospital. Hiding in the isolation cabin, Marzipan concocts a madcap plan to entrap the killer, confident that the threats will stop. Maybe there is a murder. Maybe art imitates life and one twin takes the place of another. Who could say? Lindsay: A Radio Play scratches a wildly specific pop culture itch in the most satisfying and ridiculous way while examining the questionable ethics of creating child stars. Clearly, all characters and events, even the ones based on real people, are imagined. But, like, are they? [Morgan McNaught]


Pizza City With Steve Dolinsky
Gina Pianetto From Pat’s Pizza In Chicago

Pizza is an incredible food. The universe loves gooey mozzarella cheese lying atop a base of hot tomato sauce, melted together on a circular bed of freshly made dough. But what actually makes good pizza good? Does a difference in dough starter actually matter? And what the hell even is deep-dish pizza? James-Beard-award-winning journalist Steve Dolinsky answers at least some of these questions with his fantastic Pizza City podcast, which spotlights the various pizza makers who operate within this pizza-loving nation. This week’s episode has Dolinsky speaking with Chicago restauranteur Gina Pianetto, third-generation owner of Pat’s Pizza, which is locally known as having been film critic Roger Ebert’s favorite. Pat’s is famous for its tavern style (thin crust) pies, which, contrary to popular belief, are the preferred style of pizza in Chicago—not deep dish. Dolinsky’s interview with Pianetto is entertaining and informative as both professionals drop dense facts on listeners in a casual conversation easy enough for us pizza peasants to comprehend. If terms like “tip sag” and “stuffed pizza” pique your curiosity, Dolinsky’s got the answers you seek. [Kevin Cortez]


Quid Pro Euro
Movement

From the magnificent brains of Felix Trench (Wooden Overcoats) and Zachary Fortais-Gomm (The Orphans) comes this satirical comedy about the European Union. A set of videotapes from 1995, designed to inform employees about what the future of the EU is going to be like in the 21st century, have been adapted for audio. Trench is the deadpan, ominously helpful narrator, a classic style of absurd satire you can find in works like Look Around You. The EU is distorted beyond recognition, and yet somehow ends up smartly commenting on things like the ridiculousness of how the EU handles freedom of movement. Trench’s subtly judgmental and irritatingly cheery demeanor is the perfect delivery system for wondering on topics like moving historic buildings to other countries and checkpoints, while also calmly describing a house where every room is in either Germany or Austria. Quid Pro Euro’s humor would not be as successful without Fortais-Gomm’s sound design, perfectly recreating nostalgic ’90s educational videotape effects like canned laughter, off-key theme tunes, and out-of-place swishing sounds between scenes. [Elena Fernández Collins]


Spirits
Yokai & Pokémon

Multitude’s Spirits is a “boozy dive into mythology, legends, and folklore,” in which one friend, expert Julia Schifini, teaches her friend, enthusiast Amanda McLoughlin, about tales from around the world. The two lifelong friends drink and tell jokes, and the results are sweet, charismatic, hilarious, and sharp. Inspired by the release of Detective Pikachu, Schifini tells McLoughlin this week all about the Japanese myths and icons that inspired Pokémon. The episode features discussion on kitsune, fox spirits that can have nine tails (golly, wonder what Pokémon that inspired); Jinmenju, a tree with human-face-shaped fruits (à la Exeggutor), and more, all while tying it into conversations about pop culture and society. What sets Spirits apart is that not only are these tales treated with the utmost respect, they’re also contextualized in current society, analyzed for why they remain reflections of human nature and the stories we tell. [Wil Williams]


Tell Them, I Am
Tan

Misha Euceph is here to enlighten you. On Tell Them, I Am, she is sharing the Muslim experience with the world in short but very sweet episodes that tell the stories of a variety of Muslim people. Every episode is released during Ramadan and shares the small yet crucial moments that led many of her guests to the careers and lives they are leading today. On the first episode, Euceph sits down with Queer Eye’s Tan France to discuss his childhood and the experiences that have defined and shaped his life. France tells the story of how he has always been known as the person to give people advice, and jokes that when it comes to the platform he has now, he “spent his whole life training for this.” He shares that he can even remember the moment he realized this was a gift he had, which was on a family trip at the age of 9, and how more recently he’s helped his husband make better style and shopping decisions. This interview is just one of the many inspirational moments on Euceph’s podcast that helps normalize and teach people about the power and beauty of the Muslim experience. [Vannessa Jackson]


Trashy Divorces
Diamond Girl: Elizabeth Taylor, With Erica Kelley Of Southern Fried True Crime

When this shameless show about bad relationships kicks off with astrological analysis of the couplings discussed in the episode, you know it’s going to be a party. Our two regular hosts are joined by a fellow Southerner, and the trio effortlessly moves between swears and tears. The whole production feels a bit like if Delilah shit-talked during her long-distance dedications. Elizabeth Taylor, a real-life Snow White surrounded in life by seven seedy dwarfs, seems fairly grounded despite an eye-popping number of husbands, and the actual details of her love life are somewhat less wild than the legend. Only her first match was truly awful (the hosts saddle Conrad Hilton Jr. with a dubious “five trashcan” rating on the shitty husbands scale), and her third marriage to a film producer was positively tragic. Everything else can be summed up as a series of men she had the means and opportunity to fall in and out of love with, if you want to skip the details. Which, of course, these women don’t. [Zach Brooke]


Unburdened
Policy Of Truth

The hosts of Unburdened have been carving out a space for black men to examine the pain and anxiety of their past while dismantling various forms of toxic masculinity one episode at a time. Their latest finds Derik, Gerald, and Corbin exploring the challenges of parenthood as they work to deviate from the “do as I say, not as I do” psychology that they were all raised under. They collectively admit that creating an honest and open environment for children to speak their minds is equally liberating and terrifying. “There’s a difference between them talking to you and them saying what you want to hear,” Derik observes. Such boundaries can leave room for bruised egos when the youth express plain truths, but as Corbin puts it, “The back of my hand can’t be behind your honesty.” As Gerald presents his own struggles in talking with his son who doesn’t want to go to college and whose alternate path is currently no path at all, Derik delivers a gut-wrenching testimony concerning his own college experience, pleading with parents to “stop romanticizing the idea of being the first.” Unburdened is brown-skinned vulnerability unapologetically working toward a nuanced brand of manhood. [Jason Randall Smith]


Where’s My 40 Acres?
The Shea Butter Baby Blues, Ari Lennox Talk

Anyone who listens to Where’s My 40 Acres? knows two things for sure: that the hosts are deadass when it comes to their musical interests, and that North Carolina hip-hop star J. Cole continues to be a thorn in their collective side. But it isn’t just Cole’s knack for meh rhymes and refusal to feature other artists on his tracks that drive them up the wall. It’s also the lack of enthusiasm he appears to show for the talented artists on his Dreamville label. On this episode, hosts PhenomBlak, Ms. MusicLover, and Twanburgundy address that by mostly discussing Shea Butter Baby, the debut album from Dreamville soul singer Ari Lennox. The trio showers the album with unanimous praise, but they’re also pissed at how it was quietly released a couple Tuesdays ago with little to no fanfare. Their lengthy discussion is a sobering reminder that even in this age of tunes being more accessible than ever thanks to streaming platforms, great music—and new artists worth keeping an eye on—can still slip through the cracks without effective marketing and publicity. [Craig D. Lindsey]

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