Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Photo: Chuck Zlotnick ( Marvel Studios)
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.

Calling Darkness
Someone At The Door

Calling Darkness’ comedy-horror relies on a blend of hyperbolic personalities all trapped together and the exaggeration of common tropes, balanced with tension and grotesque sound design—all of which have the effect of making the scenario feel too close for comfort. Six women, participating in an acting retreat at a secluded house with a popular star who faded from the limelight after a very public breakdown, are manipulated into summoning a demon. After struggling through inexplicable occurrences, like unseen forces speaking to them or the road transforming into quicksand to prevent them from leaving, they are somehow still incredibly genre unaware. This fact is what lends every interaction another layer of hilarity, even after the characters are forced to reconcile with the fact that they probably need a priest more than a police officer. There’s a sharp, integral focus on character relationships, mostly in the ways that they hate each other, that allows for humorous moments even when someone is being dragged to their doom. Coupled with the guidance of an evil narrator (Kate Siegel, The Haunting Of Hill House) who really wants to witness some graphic death scenes, the cadence of Calling Darkness lands somewhere between satirical horror and sitcom. [Elena Fernández-Collins]

Dad Bod Rap Pod
Hard To Earn Retrospective feat. DJ Premier

To hear a conversation between the hosts of Dad Bod Rap Pod is to eavesdrop on three longtime hip-hop fans fully invested in the music’s past, present, and future. This episode finds emcee Demone Carter, writer David Ma, and record collector Nate LeBlanc turning their attention to Gang Starr’s 1994 release Hard To Earn, an album celebrating its 25th anniversary. Joined by their comrade DJ Cutso, they examine Guru and DJ Premier’s deliberate move from the jazz-soaked feel of earlier albums toward a grittier production style with lyrics to match, commenting often on how Guru’s monotone flow lays just right within Premier’s staccato snares and cavernous kick drums. Cutso examines Premier’s turntable skills as a pivotal percussive element, equating his cuts and scratches to power chords. This deep dive is not without its conversational asides, whether it’s about Quentin Tarantino and Pulp Fiction or the questionable lyrical ability of other Gang Starr Foundation members. It’s an insightful and hysterical look back at an important album in the group’s career, one that’s made even more memorable via interview excerpts with Premier himself discussing the change in their sound and the making of their massive B-side classic “DWYCK” featuring Nice & Smooth. [Jason Randall Smith]

Fifth & Mission
Finding Kyle


The San Francisco Chronicle’s new podcast, Fifth & Mission, named for the cross streets of the newspaper’s iconic headquarters, is about more than just giving Bay Area residents a recap of the stories making headlines each week. It also provides a behind-the-scenes look at how these stories get reported in the first place, and who exactly is doing the reporting. The inaugural episode, “Finding Kyle,” covers the heartbreaking story of an 18-year-old Sacramento boy who killed himself in 2013 by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. The hours leading up to and immediately following Kyle’s death, as well as the effect his death has had on his family and friends, are all covered in a recent piece by staff writer Lizzie Johnson, who discusses her methods for handling such a sensitive story. She and Chronicle editor in chief Audrey Cooper then discuss what efforts the city is making to stop suicides on the bridge, which any San Franciscan will tell you are far too common. As a local news podcast, Fifth & Mission will appeal most to those living within the Chronicle’s circulation radius, but fans of quality journalism everywhere would do well to check it out. [Dan Neilan]

Han And Matt Know It All
Han And Matt Disinvite Fascist Relatives


Han And Matt Know It All is an advice podcast for people who think advice podcasts lack bite. Advice columnists can often be a little too sympathetic to question askers, and they also have a tendency of being fine with the status quo. Hosts Han and Matt, a queer power couple (or power two-parts-of-a-larger-polyamorous-relationship), offer a complete 180 on that setup. Because they have some distance from the question asker, they can really sink their teeth in and call the person an asshole when they’re being an asshole. Han and Matt’s experience in marginalized communities also means their take on problems is often multifaceted, nuanced, and more focused on empathy than a perceived normalcy. This week, the hosts tackle questions from other advice columns, like whether to invite a racist uncle to a wedding, whether to dump someone who cheated but then found out they have cancer, and whether Mussolini’s granddaughter can rightfully be mad at Jim Carrey for saying her grandfather—who, again, was Mussolini—was a bad person. (Spoilers: no. He was literally Mussolini.) [Wil Williams]

How To Survive The End Of The World
Disability Justice For The Apocalypse: Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha Gets Us Together


This episode of How To Survive The End Of The World begins with a recommendation to grab a notebook and pen, and honestly, grab one, because what follows is a dense, delightful imagining of what a community of real care could look like, and this will be a conversation you want to return to. Hosted by sisters, writers, and activists Autumn Brown and adrienne maree brown, How To Survive The End Of The World is a wildly engaging, Octavia Butler–infused guide on surviving the apocalypse and dreaming new futures. Every installment of this series is essential, and this conversation featuring the wildly lauded queer, disabled femme writer Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is no exception. Exploring and unpacking disability justice, a framework centering justice and wholeness for disabled and sick people and their communities, Leah shares what disabled folks have to teach us about surviving the apocalypse, which is basically everything. Highlighting the political and cultural identities and communities of disabled folks; the intersectionality of disability, race, gender, and poverty; and must-have items for your bug-out bag, Leah invites accomplices to move beyond checking boxes. The end may already be here, but with humans and movements like this, we might survive together. [Morgan McNaught]

It Could Happen Here
The Second American Civil War


At episode’s opening, listeners are introduced to a world of explosions, rifle fire, and power outages. It is a war zone that has just become daily life to inhabitants of the United States. In each season of It Could Happen Here, host Robert Evans (Behind The Bastards) explores an unlikely scenario, as in this season, a second American Civil War, how it could happen, and what it could look like. Evans explains how in 2016 he stopped viewing this as “speculative sci-fi bullshit” and started developing concern, validated by ex-federal agents, military officers, and Civil War scholars. Evans has personal experience in this area, having seen and reported on systems collapsing in war-torn countries, which provides a unique perspective on how close the United States is to chaos. The speculation put forth is backed by parallels in history, the realities of modern war, and current events. There isn’t a suggestion that the final push will come from any specific political affiliation or group, but that it could come from anywhere. It Could Happen Here will leave listeners looking at their surroundings, realizing nothing is permanent, and wondering what if. [Nichole Williams]

Jensen And Holes: The Murder Squad
The Other Victims Of Bill Bradford


The name might be bouncy, but The Murder Squad has a serious mission. In this new series, retired cold case investigator Paul Holes and investigative journalist Billy Jensen revisit unsolved homicides with fresh eyes and ears. The first episode, featuring My Favorite Murder host Georgia Hardstark, focuses on the victims of William Bradford, a serial killer notorious for luring young women into the desert with the promise of a free photoshoot before raping and murdering them. Authorities found dozens of photographs of possible or actual victims in his apartment after his arrest. Bradford is long dead, but many of the women in the photos remain unidentified. Listeners are invited to view and share the evidence on the podcast’s website and contact the show directly if they recognize someone. While it can be as upsetting as any true crime podcast, The Murder Squad moves past pure shock value by centering discussions of homicide around bringing justice to the victims rather than marveling at the killer. Instead of focusing on the crimes’ violence, this podcast draws on true crime fans’ desire for closure—and their ability, as an audience, to help achieve it. [Jade Matias Bell]

Medium Popcorn
Save The Last Dance


Medium Popcorn (a.k.a. Ni**as Spoiling Movies) might not be the most scholarly, civilized movie review podcast out there, but damnit to hell, it’s the funniest. Every week, East Coast comedians Brandon Collins and Justin Brown break down a (usually bad) film, cracking each other up with profane tirades, bizarre asides, and other riotous, stream-of-consciousness moments. Lately, Gordon Baker-Bone, another outrageous black comic, has been filling in for Brown, who is in Finland bonding with his newborn son. Baker-Bone has adapted very well to being second chair, especially in this episode as he and special guest (and Collins’ wife) Tatiana Albandos go to town on nearly 20-year-old teen flick/interracial love story Save The Last Dance. It has a young Julia Stiles playing a budding, lily-white dancer who learns hip-hop moves from a brotha (Sean Patrick Thomas—remember him?) she eventually falls for. Baker-Bone and Albandos also spend quality time roasting Collins for, among other things, catching this movie on opening day, but not having seen any of the Breakin’ movies. [Craig D. Lindsey]

The Breakfast Club
RIP Nipsey Hussle


Last month, the hip-hop community lost a hero. A leader, a father, a partner, a son, and a friend, the Grammy-nominated artist and businessman Ermias “Nipsey Hussle” Asghedom was murdered in front of his own store in Los Angeles on March 31. The Breakfast Club hosts DJ Envy and Charlamagne Tha God reflect on Nipsey’s extraordinary reputation and commitment to socioeconomic wellness for his beloved South Central Los Angeles and the black community at large. Their personal reflections of Nipsey’s character are colored by disbelief and pain. The episode continues with updates and current events: on a semi-lighter note, Charlamagne gives Omari Hardwick “Donkey Of The Day” for his awkward kiss with Beyoncé at the 50th NAACP Image Awards. When it comes to the “World’s Most Dangerous Morning Show,” you can count on both quality information and a reality check. [Nekala R. Alexander]

The Cracked Podcast
The Bizarre Hassles Women Face In Our World Designed For Men


Reference Man is a medium-built white guy somewhere between his mid 20s and early 30s, or rather, he would be if he were a real person. As host Alex Schmidt explains, “Reference Man” describes a set of specs that designers, researchers, and corporations use to create widespread products and technologies like smartphones and transit seats. The problem, of course, is that Reference Man is a man, and though he might not have a problem taking one-handed photos on his large, bricklike iPhone, men aren’t the only people who use smartphones. For women, who generally have smaller hands, a too-large device is not only cumbersome, but it can also increase the risk of developing repetitive stress injuries over time. According to journalist, activist, and author Caroline Criado Perez, smartphone design is just the tip of the unconscious bias iceberg. Perez joins Schmidt for an in-depth discussion of the research presented in her new book, Invisible Women: Data Bias In A World Designed For Men, which sheds light on the everyday hassles of navigating such a world, as well as the subtler and often insidious ways popular media, government institutions, and recorded history erase women from cultural narratives—unconsciously or otherwise. [Sofia Barrett-Ibarria]

The Trail Went Cold
Ricky Hochstetler


Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: The Manitowoc County Sheriff Department in Manitowoc, Wisconsin botches an investigation, prompting rumors of a cover-up. But this isn’t Steven Avery. When this case occurred, he was wrongfully in prison on rape and attempted murder charges. Instead, this is the unsolved hit-and-run death of 17-year-old Ricky Hochstetler, killed on a rural highway during the wee hours of the morning on January 10, 1999. Years of inaction, anonymous phone calls, and some frankly well-deserved Monday morning quarterbacking gave rise to a dark theory that an off-duty deputy was the culprit. James Lenk, Andrew Colborn, and Ken Petersen, all significant characters from Making A Murderer, are present in this prequel of sorts. There’s even an Avery family connection that might be characterized as a cameo if it weren’t also tragic. Hosted by Robin Warder, this one-man operation does a commendable job breaking apart facts from the host’s own speculation, delivering each in distinct and concise yet comprehensive segments. [Zach Brooke]

Women Of Marvel
Iconic Women Super Heroes Of The 1960s


The Women Of Marvel podcast is a weekly show hosted by Marvel employees and superhero aficionados Sana Amanat and Judy Stephens. Each week the ladies break down the inside stories of some of the most iconic Marvel comics, with special attention paid to the women who have paved the way for the badass female superheroes of the modern age. This week, resident Marvel expert Lorraine Cink sits down to discuss iconic women superheroes of the 1960s in celebration of Marvel’s 80th anniversary. “You can see as we move away from romance comics, women become generators of ideas and heart,” Lorraine explains. She focuses her attention on three who have paved the way: Susan Storm, Janet Van Dyne (a.k.a. The Wasp), and Jean Grey, a.k.a. Marvel Girl. Lorraine shares her thoughts on all of them, including which first made her appearance in the comics wearing a pink Chanel suit, and which woman she believes to be the “heart of the Avengers.” Plus, she explains why the 1960s specifically was one of the most pivotal eras for the women of Marvel. [Vannessa Jackson]

Share This Story

Get our newsletter