2017 has proved to be another great year for podcasts, with established voices and newcomers alike producing more great shows that have captivated and entertained listeners through amazing storytelling, laugh-out-loud moments and insightful interviewing. Here we pick out some of the shows that have grabbed our attention during the last 12 months.
When a podcast comes along with the line ‘from the producers of Serial and This American Life’ attached, you had better clear your listening schedule and get ready for something special. Even more so when, in the case of S-Town, the entire series drops in one go, Netflix-style, ready for binge-listening.
S-Town was released this spring and its genesis was an email sent to the team at This American Life by a man living in small town Alabama (the ‘shit town’ of the show’s title) who claimed to know of a murder that needed investigating. That man was troubled, tattooed horologist John B McLemore, and although this incredible podcast begins with talk of a killing and a cover-up, it soon becomes so much more through the telling of his unique story and those of the rich cast of characters who fill his life.
Hosted by comedians Carl Donnelly and Chris Martin, this show represents something of an audio intervention aimed at giving a jump-start to the often aimless existence of fifty-something Aussie stand-up Trevor Crook. Each week the two hosts set Trev some homework to get him off the sofa – be it an introduction to modern art or cooking a romantic meal for long-suffering wife Julia – but the real highlights are the wild and often x-rated stories from his past. So put your headphones on, fire up the show and join the Trevolution today!
Set Piece Menu
It’s been another big year for football podcasts, with more shows than ever competing for our listening time. But while the big boys of the scene (think the Football Ramble, Football Weekly, the Totally Football Show) continue to crank out the coverage of the week’s action, Set Piece Menu has become a go-to show for a deeper dive into the wider issues surrounding the beautiful game.
Billed as four friends talking football over food, the show sees presenter Hugh Ferris, commentator Steve Wyeth, journalist Rory Smith and former pro Andy Hinchcliffe discussing topics like youth development, the existence (or otherwise) of an English football culture and what moments in the game deliver the most joy. But don’t imagine it’s wall-to-wall chin stroking and serious debate – Hinchcliffe’s colourful ‘Soccer Stories’ from his playing days guarantee there are plenty of laughs too.
If podcasts once started out as rough-and-ready recordings with little to no production values, then 2017 was definitely a year when we saw just how far things have come. The medium is now home to painstakingly crafted works of suspenseful storytelling (S-Town being a great example), and this joint production from Wondery and the Los Angeles Times was another prime example of how journalists are embracing long-form audio as a means to tell incredible tales.
Dirty John is the reporting of the Times’ Christopher Goffard and tells the story of Debra Newell, a California interior designer who meets her dream man online. But as the story unfolds over six increasingly gripping episodes we learn that ‘Dirty John’ is not the man he appears to be, and the truth of his real identity is gradually revealed as we spiral towards the show’s shocking conclusion.
Reasons to be Cheerful
It has sometimes been a little difficult to remain chipper in the face of the political news of 2017. Brexit, Trump, a nuclear North Korea – sometimes the 24-hour news cycle leaves us all a little overwhelmed by it all. So it was a pleasure this year to add to our podcast schedules a show that tries to tip the balance a little further back towards positivity and a sense that, despite the screaming headlines, there is still cause for optimism as we look ahead to 2018.
Described as ‘a podcast about ideas’, Reasons to be Cheerful sees former Labour leader Ed Miliband and radio host Geoff Lloyd tackle some of the most pressing issues of the day, from the housing crisis to air pollution, from the rise of the tech giants to transgender rights. But the joy of the show is as much about the rapport between the hosts as it is about the debate and discussion. There’s a good chance you’ll walk away thinking that if only Ed had shown this side to his character a little more when leader of the opposition, perhaps we wouldn’t be in the mess we are today.
Unfiltered with James O’Brien
Probably best known for his phone-in show on LBC, James O’Brien has made a name for himself for his outspoken opinions and methodical dissection of callers to his daytime show. But on this new show from JOE.co.uk he gets a chance to slow the pace down a little and spend an hour or so in conversation with some truly fascinating people from a diverse range of backgrounds. Among the guests to appear on Unfiltered to date are Eric Cantona, Alastair Campbell, Lily Allen and Matt Lucas – all with many interesting stories to tell.
Strong & Stable
And finally, how could we not include one of our own from the year that saw the launch of our Deezer Originals podcasts? Launched back in the spring to provide some comic relief during the general election campaign, this satirical treat saw the likes of David Schneider, Dom Joly and Marcus Brigstocke joined in the studio by figures from the worlds of comedy, politics and journalism to take a sideswipe at the political stories and figure who we making the news this year.
Top it all off with reports from roving reporter Jonathan Pie and impressions by Rory Bremner and Jan Ravens, and it’s almost enough to make you wish for another snap election. Almost. But not quite.