In 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 email@example.com.
If you’ve ever wished that RiffTrax would cleverly skewer the written word the way they do bad movies, then 327 Pages We’ll Never Get Back is right in your wheelhouse. Each week, hosts Conor Lastowka and Michael J. Nelson provide their own commentary on Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, “a book they’re pretty sure they’re going to hate,” according to their website. This week finds the hosts covering chapters 25 through 29 of the novel, riffing on Cline’s overwrought, on-the-nose nods to Blade Runner and Family Ties. The concept of the show might come off as mean-spirited, but the good humor and unique charm of the hosts keeps the show from ever getting nasty. Nelson particularly showcases a magnetism that has endeared him to fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 as well as his RiffTrax output. The show is an enjoyable listen, even if you haven’t read the book yet. [Mike Vanderbilt]
Batman: The Animated Podcast
Mad As A Hatter – Paul Dini
The Fox Kids lineup had some of the best animation on the air in the early ’90s, including Batman: The Animated Series. Some fans even suggest that Kevin Conroy might be the best Batman to grace the big or small screen. The same kids who grew up during that era of television are just the right age to be producing weekly podcasts, so the existence of Batman: The Animated Podcast should come as no surprise. Each week, host and Upright Citizens Brigade alum Justin Michael welcomes fans and creators to discuss the beloved cartoon. This week, series producer and writer Paul Dini drops by to discuss the Mad Hatter origin episode appropriately titled “Mad As A Hatter.” It’s a brisk chat, but Dini sheds some light on the writers’ approach to Jervis Tetch, revealing that there were very honest feelings of rejection in the character’s stalker-like tendencies. Also discussed is the episode’s casting of Loretta Swit, Roddy McDowall, and Twin Peaks favorite Kimmy Robertson, who brought a girlish quality to the character of Alice with her memorable voice. [Mike Vanderbilt]
Beyond Beyond Belief
A Tugboat Going Down
Beyond Belief: Fact Or Fiction was a fin du siècle human-interest anthology program that’s perhaps best described as a lesser Unsolved Mysteries with a twist. Hosted by James “Mr. Barbra Streisand” Brolin for the first season and Jonathan “Number One” Frakes for the next three, the operative gimmick involved placing purely fictional stories among supposedly true tales of supernatural happenings and sweet poetic justice. The viewer was supposed to guess which segments were real and which were fake. The hosts of Beyond Beyond Belief summarize each episode of the show and then make their own guesses prior to watching the reveal. Stories covered this time around involve a primitive email scam, a miraculous death-preventing billboard, paranormal graveyard desecration, a resurrected zombie dog, and a prematurely printed obituary. The five hosts disagree a good deal about the veracity of each story, although they stand in lockstep laughing at the show’s overall cheesiness. And just to make things a little more interesting, their selections are weighed against random chance, as determined by coin flips. [Zach Brooke]
Drink Drank Drunk
You Are the Oprah Of Bulleted Lists
It’s a special time of year for this glamorous, grammar-ous pod now that Merriam-Webster announced the addition of more than 250 new entries to its compendium of words. (What’s the term for that again?) Some additions are welcomed by the hosts, like the newly lowercase “sriracha” (“I hate capitalization. I’m all for stopping it”) and the expanded definition of “troll” to include internet commenters. Other entries are lamented, such as “froyo” (“10 years too late”) and the antebellum evocation of “Saigon cinnamon.” Also discussed is the slightly older news involving Google data on the most misspelled words by state, including “liar,” “twelve,” “college,” “maintenance,” “diarrhea,” and “Wisconsin.” Finally, there’s a spirited discussion on the merits of expertly deployed bullet points; tips include synchronicity, clarity, and bolding the good shit. Try not to overdo it on the bullets, though—it’s an article, not a shopping list. [Zach Brooke]
Good Christian Fun
Jump5 (With Adriana Robles)
On Good Christian Fun, Kevin T. Porter and Caroline Ely tap into the strangely compelling, often hilarious world of Christian pop culture. This week, they’re joined by the lovely Adriana Robles to discuss early-2000s teen group Jump5. Were they even that Christian? Could they ever stop doing backflips? Were they singing about a crush or God? All these questions and more are answered on this truly enjoyable episode. Porter and Ely are wonderful hosts, their enthusiasm and affection for the material endearing in a way that welcomes anyone along for the ride. Robles is a superfan, and her achingly sincere love for the band is palpable as she sings along and tells the story of meeting them as a tween. Their commentary on Jump5’s backflip-heavy videos folds the listener into the good Christian fun, relishing in some sweet nostalgia. Their analysis of performative Christian pop lyrics as they search for the worst Christian song is just the cherry on top. [Rebecca Bulnes]
How Do You Sleep At Night?
The Abortion Clinic Protesters
Hosted by Sarah McVeigh (Triple J’s Hack), How Do You Sleep At Night? asks what it’s like for people to live their life “in the face of judgment” while “exploring the different moral codes we all live by.” From Big Tobacco lobbyists to big game hunters, the podcast speaks to people who are, by all accounts, on the wrong side of history. “The Abortion Clinic Protesters” focuses on the pro-life group Helpers Of God’s Precious Infants. Members can often be found praying in front of abortion clinics and have been accused of harassing vulnerable women seeking medical assistance. Without a doubt, this episode toes the line between (as McVeigh puts it) “trying to understand what this group really believes” and giving them an unnecessary platform. That is remedied as McVeigh continually pushes back, pointing out feeling versus fact during her interviews. It’s clear what McVeigh’s stance is on the subject, though she doesn’t belabor the point. Instead, what’s offered up is a bite-size episode that shares 20 or so minutes of ponder-worthy insight. [Becca James]
Let’s Ruin Our Childhood
Live With The Nostalgic Front At Beast Village!
In this live installment of Toll McGrane and Alex Carter’s Let’s Ruin Our Childhood, the comedians are joined by Patrick Hastie and Brandon Ream of The Nostalgic Front podcast. Recorded at the Beast Village Comedy Festival, this mashup covers a lot of ground, discussing everything from movie theme songs, G.I. Joe, She-Ra, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Mr. T—all while cracking a steady stream of jokes and puns. While Let’s Ruin Our Childhood revisits pop culture from the hosts’ early years, The Nostalgic Front covers the overall experience of growing up in the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s, and since the latter hosts haven’t taken their show on the road before, Hastie and Ream need a little time adjusting to the responsiveness of the crowd. As a group of comedians, the collective of hosts have a lot of fun riffing in front of the live audience, and by pooling their pop culture knowledge, they excel at scratching their listeners’ itch for nostalgia. [Jose Nateras]
Stay Tuned With Preet
Benjamin Wittes’s Guide To Impeaching Trump And Beating Up Putin
The transition from U.S. attorney to podcast host is not a well-trod career path, but what is normal anymore? Preet Bharara’s name became a common refrain in our national conversation after he was relieved of duty as United States attorney for the Southern District Of New York back in March, so it’s not unfathomable that he would wind up with his own podcast eventually; what’s harder to believe is how good he is at it. Stay Tuned is not the most transcendent interview show online, but it’s certainly the best one hosted by a federal employee fired under dubious circumstances. In addition to possessing a smooth, radio-friendly voice, Bharara seems remarkably comfortable in front of the microphone. Here, he talks shop with Lawfare blog’s Benjamin Wittes, and he conducts the conversation like a vet, steering discussion seamlessly from impeachment chatter to the bipartisan nature of #TheResistance to fisticuffs with Vladimir Putin. Wittes is engaging and opinionated, and both men are experts in the legal field, so it’s highly informative on top of all that. [Dennis DiClaudio]
New Vox podcast The Impact promoted itself as a “weekly narrative podcast about the consequences that laws have on real people’s lives.” Episode one delivers: Host Sarah Kliff helps dissect American healthcare prices, weaving together statistics and stories effortlessly as she takes listeners from the tale of a $629 Band-Aid, to the doctors who think this sort of cost is reasonable, to a health economist who’s calling bullshit. Like all other Vox properties, this podcast is well-reported, leaving no glaring unturned stones. It may be best described as the sequel to Schoolhouse Rock!’s “I’m Just A Bill,” taking you beyond the moment a bill is passed and into the realities of its tenure. Even without a catchy musical number, it’s well worth your time. [Becca James]
You might also like Revenge Of The Pod People from Katie Rife (The A.V. Club’s news editor) and Mike Vanderbilt (of Daily Grindhouse), who take on a different genre-film series in each episode. This week’s episode pits two horror classics, John Carpenter’s Halloween and Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street, against each other to determine which reigns supreme.