Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
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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.

A Cast Of Kings
S8E1 - Winterfell

The return of HBO’s Game Of Thrones for its eighth and final season also marked the return of the myriad Game Of Thrones podcasts populating the iTunes store. A Cast Of Kings, hosted by Dave Chen (The /Filmcast) and Joanna Robinson (Vanity Fair), is easily one of the best of the bunch. Fans of the show will delight as the hosts recap, review, and decode every moment from the season eight premiere, “Winterfell,” which saw all of our favorite characters enjoy their own little reunions, some more awkward than others. As Vanity Fair’s resident Thrones expert and an avid reader of George R.R. Martin’s novels, Robinson brings a wealth of behind-the-scenes knowledge from interviews she’s conducted and fan theories she’s unearthed from the forums. Chen, on the other hand, has never read the books and approaches the show simply as a fan of prestige television with an eye for narrative flaws. Together, they leave no stone unturned, while always being careful not to spoil anything from the show’s “Next Time On” segments or illegally leaked episodes. All in all, it makes for the perfect chaser to your drama and dragons-filled Sunday night. [Dan Neilan]

[The myriad Game Of Thrones podcasts now includes The A.V. Club—listen or watch our new video podcast, Winter Is Here with The A.V. Club.—ed.]

By The Book
Bonus Episode: Husbands!

Comedian Jolenta Greenberg and author Kristen Meinzer are here to help. These two friends have taken on the challenge of living by the rules of a new self-help book each episode; consider them your own personal self-help gurus. On this week’s episode, it’s the seasonal husband chat. They sit down with their respective husbands, Brad and Dean, to talk about everything from which self-help journey has been the hardest on their marriages to what kind of self-help books they would write for their wives if given the opportunity. No topic is off limits, and the men even give a little insight into how they knew their wives were “the one” for them. The husbands also hilariously agree that their favorite self-help book their wives have gone through is Year Of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. Is it a coincidence that they just happen to love the books that made their wives say yes to their every whim? Unlikely. The men also discuss what they love most about being married to strong, independent, powerhouse women, and how to raise your sons to embrace powerful women as well. It’s heartwarming, enlightening, and, dare we say, very helpful. [Vannessa Jackson]

Drunk Women Solving Crime
Natalia Tena, A Murderous Marriage & Badly Lit Porn

Alcohol and crime have always gone hand in hand, so combining the two into one podcast just makes sense. Drunk Women Solving Crime features hosts Hannah George, Catie Wilkins, and Taylor Glenn getting drunk and, well, solving crimes. Three crimes to be exact. First, guest Natalia Tena (Game Of Thrones) talks about the time her cell phone was stolen and her less than high-speed pursuit to get it back. They then put their tipsy heads together to solve the real-life “dumbbell murder,” so called for the use of a dumbbell as a murder weapon and because it was considered one of the dumbest crimes ever committed. In the course of the investigation, they also answer a very important question: If your husband constantly talked about how much better his ex-fiancé is than you and made you put a portrait of her in your house, is it okay to kill him? The night of debauchery ends with a listener mystery involving a pickpocket and a goodnight kiss. It’s a raucous and profane evening with four funny women, so why don’t you pull up a stool and join them? [Anthony D. Herrera]

Decomposed
“A fallen, abominable, wicked girl”

Following in the footsteps of podcasts like Aria Code and ArtCurious, American Public Media’s newest release, Decomposed, is a look into the lives of underrated composers with a heavy focus on storytelling. Hosted by Jade Simmons, a “rockstar” classical pianist, the series blends biography with Simmons’s knack for characterizing the episode’s focus. In this first episode, Simmons discusses Clara Schumann, wife of the much more famous Robert Schumann, one of the great Romantic composers. Simmons not only explains Clara Schumann’s life, but also why her works are so important yet so erased in history. The story is told using passages from Clara Schumann’s diaries, but expanded upon by placing the listener directly into each scene. It’s not just a history lesson—it’s a narrative with a character arc, a protagonist, antagonists, a climax, a resolution, imagery, and a heavy dose of emotion. Scored with, of course, gorgeous classical pieces, it’s the perfect mix of drama and art. [Wil Williams]

Outside/In
Must Love Logs

Whatever the hell else “virtue signaling” is, it appears to be an apt definition for self-identifying as “outdoorsy” on dating profiles. As with so many other dating descriptors, it’s a nebulous term prone to wildly different interpretations, plausibly capturing everything from gardening to mountaineering. Misrepresenting one’s enthusiasm for nature is arguably no greater an offense than policing dating profiles, but this great outdoors lifestyle podcast ventures a question nevertheless: how do true weekend warriors cope with all the poseurs who are not actually down to go for a hike anytime soon? There’s an awareness that this can easily turn into gatekeeping—how could someone possibly call themselves a hiker if they haven’t done eight-hour treks in all four seasons? Even some of the rugged outdoorspeople culled from the ranks of Tinder admit they wouldn’t want to date others more intense than them. A nature lover with disabilities is turned off by extreme hikers, finding their professed intensity to be a coded way of indicating body preferences. If you’re a single person with non-negotiable nature preferences, maybe think about specifying whether you’re the restaurant-patio type of outdoorsy or the survivalist-level kind. [Zach Brooke]

Overdue
The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

Everyone has a mental list of fiction, literature, plays, and poets they know they should read in their lifetime. Some of us knock out those reads after a trip to the library or a quick Amazon search. Others let their backlogs become so dense, they avoid acknowledging them because they’ve turned into a chore. Overdue tackles this problem by reading some of those important and contemporary books and explaining them in layman’s terms, simply so you don’t have to. This week, hosts Andrew Cunningham and Craig Getting present a crash-course on H.G. Wells and his 1895 science-fiction novella, The Time Machine. After dropping some serious Wells facts on listeners (he wrote for an at-home war board game, plus he married his cousin), the duo dive into the novella and explain how the author invented the term “time machine” in reference to what we know of as time travel, and how Wells refused to take his story into the past, choosing rather to give readers a glimpse into the future. Even if this book isn’t on your list of must-reads, Overdue is injected with so much personality it’s impossible not to enjoy. [Kevin Cortez]

PLAYLIST
Protest Song

When songs are shared with one another, personal anecdotes often follow. Perhaps this is the main draw to PLAYLIST, a show inviting guest podcasters to curate a collection of tunes based around a different weekly theme. Host Josh Hallmark extends the welcome on this episode to Emily Prokop (The Story Behind), Issa Wurie (Fears And Desires), and Javier Leiva (Pretend Radio) as they discuss their favorite protest songs and political compositions. The group explores how our bodies often respond to music long before the lyrical content impacts our minds, as was the case for Prokop with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s “Ohio,” a critique on the 1970 Kent State Massacre. Wurie speaks of the teachable moments passed down to his children via his Bob Marley selections “Small Axe” and “Get Up, Stand Up,” continuing the generational influence that his Jamaican mother began. Hallmark reflects in unflinching fashion with his picks, offering “Slip Away” by Perfume Genius while pondering the vitriolic opposition to homosexuality that he’s experienced and Milck’s “Quiet” as he shares his testimony of sexual assault. Coupled with profound observations from Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, and Ani DiFranco, it’s downright maddening to consider how timely these songs are. [Jason Randall Smith]

Relatively Healthy
Chronic Illness And Invisible Pain

Since its launch in 2017, Relatively Healthy has explored a wide spectrum of under-discussed health quandaries and concerns, addressing the sometimes uncomfortable questions surrounding issues like mental illness, abortion, and plastic surgery that many listeners might be afraid to ask. In this episode, writer and comedian Hana Michels joins host Janie Stolar for a conversation about life with chronic illness and its often invisible demands, both physical and emotional. Michels, whose name listeners might remember from her viral essay about on “sword guys,” lives with a number of chronic health conditions including Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disorder characterized by hyperflexibility of the joints. In addition to causing widespread chronic pain, this condition makes it difficult for Michels to stand for long periods of time, which as a standup comedian can be especially problematic. Even the most supportive friends might be unsure what they can do to help, and well-meaning suggestions to try a vegan diet, give up antidepressants, or quit birth control aren’t actually helpful or appreciated. The best way to support a friend or loved one with chronic illness, Michels says, is to ask what they need—and listen to the answer. [Sofia Barrett-Ibarria]

The Food Chain
An Inspector Calls

The most powerful food safety inspectors in the world can unilaterally close restaurants and even make arrests. Inspectors from across three continents come together to pull back the curtain and reveal a boring-sounding gig’s gritty thriller elements. Mild-mannered and bureaucratic as they all appear, this is not a job for the faint of heart. One guy even has a superhero backstory, entering food safety training following a cholera outbreak in his South African village. Our subjects are menaced with guns, knives, and political blowback from powerful connections. This is all on top of the vague, omnipresent threat of being locked in a freezer. It turns out owners tend not to respond well to their dirty kitchens being shut down, even when caught serving worms or keeping freshly slaughtered goat carcasses in black garbage bags. Even more striking are the cartoonish diversion tactics restaurateurs’ resort to when stalling for time. All three guests emphasize that they’re not trying to be hardasses, but that food poisoning is routinely far more severe than an upset stomach and must be taken seriously. [Zach Brooke]

The Ordinary Epic
The Group

If you have ever been The New Guy invited to long-running tabletop role-playing campaign, you will identify with Marcus, who’s been swept up into his work colleague’s basement to play the healer in their fantasy game. This scripted audio fiction is one of the cheeriest debuts of spring, with humor that strikes when you least expect it and a keen hand at immediately creating lovable and hateable characters alike. Marcus’ arrival causes utter chaos, and at least one person at the table is greatly bothered by his lack of care for the rules and experience points. The Ordinary Epic is a story that is setting out to explore old friendships and how they can crack, and how new friendships can help heal, not just through their actions at the table, but their lives in the game. When these players drop into character, the sound design cleverly shifts from that of a small, enclosed basement to the wide, echoing fantasy world they romp around in. We can experience the game just as they do: as a living entity that reflects their conversations and their arguments in the real world, but also brings us a sweeping soundscape and beautiful musical design. [Elena Fernández Collins]

The Read
Horses In The Black

After starting with a rendition of “Where My Girls At” by ’90s girl group 702, co-hosts Kid Fury and Crissle talk about their excitement for Little, the new movie starring Marsai Martin, Regina Hall, and Issa Rae. Given that Martin, one of the young stars from ABC’s Black-ish, has made history as the youngest executive producer in Hollywood history by spearheading Little, this serves as the perfect segue into the hosts’ discussion of black excellence. Featured in this discussion is news of the first black-owned urgent care center in Brooklyn: Dr. Tamara Moise and Physician Assistant Wadson Fils co-founded Big Apple Walk-In Urgent Care as a way to address the need they saw for community-focused care. Dr. Moise, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, has a personal understanding of the people their clinic is caring for and is a prime example of a successful member of a community giving back to that community. Moving through stories of home remedies, anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers, and proceeding to their usual pop-culture discussion, Kid Fury and Crissle, as ever, provide hilarious insight and commentary on a range of subjects. Specifically, their impression of Blue Ivy at a dance rehearsal is not to be missed. [Jose Nateras]

The Treatment
Waraire Boswell: “Waraire.com”

Every now and then, former New York Times film critic and pop-culture gadfly Elvis Mitchell will take a break from talking shop with actors, writers, and directors in the entertainment biz on his long-running KCRW show to talk to people involved in another passion of his: fashion. He’s actually been doing it a lot lately, chopping it up with savvy designers, veteran costumers, filmmakers-turned-designers, designers-turned-filmmakers, men’s magazine fashionistas, and even André Leon Talley. On the latest episode, Mitchell interviews Waraire Boswell, an L.A.-based African American designer known for doing custom-made gear for professional athletes—most notably, the Black-and-proud getup Colin Kaepernick wore for his GQ Men of the Year spread a couple years back. They discuss that proud moment in Boswell’s career, along with the journey he went through once he got in the fashion game. “My road was way different than Tom Ford’s, or Ralph Lauren’s,” Boswell tells Mitchell. “Not to say that they didn’t have adversity, but their adversity was not like mine, in any stretch of the imagination.” For those who’ve ever wondered how designers of color persevere in the fashion world, this episode is a blunt and insightful illumination. [Craig D. Lindsey]

You Might Know Her From
Vicki Lewis

Curating conversations with actresses, as well as non-binary and non-cis performers, You Might Know Her From gets the dish from cult figures on their roles, their co-stars, and random pop culture events. In this episode, the theater gods bless hosts Anne Rodeman and Damian Bellino with backstage access to the Broadway production of Anastasia, making this the most special episode yet. Famous redhead Vicki Lewis is an unlikely nexus of must-see TV, the best musical theater roles ever, and vintage York Peppermint Patty commercials. As they meander through her life milestones—studying musical theater at College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati, falling in love with Nick Nolte, getting cast in NewsRadio—Vicki is generous with her intimate and brutally honest anecdotes, though she should probably leave direct impersonations out of her storytelling, some of which stray into problematic caricatures. The hosts’ encyclopedic knowledge of her career moves the conversation in unexpected directions, leaving Vicki herself stumped on some specifics, like why she carried Dixie Carter’s spit cup around backstage during Mame. You Might Know Her From is compiling an audio history of women and non-cis figures in entertainment, and this insightful interview is one that captures such a specific time in pop-culture history. [Morgan McNaught]

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