Julia Child at her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photo: Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images)

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 podmass@avclub.com.



As You Were: A Podcast About Alkaline Trio

My Friend Peter 

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Taking its title from a track off of Alkaline Trio’s 1998 album Goddamnit, As You Were is David Anthony and Tim Crisp’s excuse to discuss one Alkaline Trio song each week until they’ve discussed them all. The approach to the band’s 20-plus years is not chronological. Instead, they are broken into playlists of sorts based mostly on the labels the band was releasing albums on at the time. First up is the Asian Man Records playlist, which brings Anthony and Crisp to “My Friend Peter.” For a song that’s so short, the two truly mine it for gold and present listeners with a thorough take, making this a must-listen for any diehard Alkaline Trio fan. [Becca James]


Drinkers Anonymous

Gorilla Suit

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On Drinkers Anonymous, Chicago-based hosts Rashid Lamarre and Becca Slack discuss the lighter side of being drunk. Up top they’re adamant about presenting their and their listeners’ stories (anonymously submitted) as tales of mild debauchery, urging anyone who feels like they might have a more serious problem with the sauce to seek proper support. From there, they launch into the sort of recollections that are familiar fare among old drinking buddies. This week, the trip down memory lane goes as far back as the beginning, as Lamarre and Slack recount the first time they ever “experienced what indulging in spirits felt like.” The podcast hits a high note with a hilarious story about $20,000 worth of damage to a golf course and the Oscar-winning film American Beauty. What do those two things have in common? Alcohol. Tune in for many more stories about the questionable behavior humans exhibit when under the influence. [Becca James]


Historical Hotties

Chefs

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Each episode of Historical Hotties finds sister duo Whitney and Lindsey Nelsen debating the attractiveness of various figures throughout history. Previous episodes have pitted American novelists Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison against one another, as well as composers Igor Stravinsky, Franz Liszt, and George Gershwin. This week is a three-way, no-holds-barred steel-cage match featuring guest Sam Greszes. The sisters and Greszes debate who’s the hottest chef: Marie-Antoine Carême, Martino Da Como, or Julia Child. (The rules state that the chef could not be among the living, rendering Anthony Bourdain ineligible). The hosts judge the competitors on intellectual attractiveness, physical attractiveness, influence, and that intangible element, je ne sais quoi. The show features a lively debate over who was the original celebrity chef, Da Como or Carême, and the hosts briefly explore Child’s time working as a spy. Historical Hotties moves along at an impressive clip, and it’s a lot of fun listening to the hosts passionately argue for a very silly case. So who is the hottest chef? No spoilers here; you’ll have to listen to for yourself. [Mike Vanderbilt]


InBox

Bullet Points With Elisa Kreisinger 

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As ever, InBox hosts Nicole Drespel and Matt Stroup are joined by a guest who’s willing to grant access to their emails. This week, that’s Elisa Kreisinger of Refinery29. There’s something transgressive about inspecting something we all have (an email account) but that others rarely see. Segments of the podcast such as “Email Roulette” and “UnSubscribe Secrets” offer a fun perspective on how our inboxes reflect various unseen aspects of our lives. “Email Roulette” feels particularly stress-inducing: The hosts draft a goofy email from the guest’s account, and if the guest fails to answer a question correctly, the email actually gets sent to one of their contacts, creating a mounting sense of both drama and absurdity. For Kreisinger, who recently went through a stressful home-buying process, the email composed is a bullet-point list/tone-poem addressed to her realtor. In writing this email, the game managed to offer some interesting insight into gender-based tone policing in emails via “softening” language. InBox definitely leads listeners to think about daily email correspondence in a new and more interesting way. [Jose Nateras]


SHHH, The Secret

Let’s Talk About Chicago 

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In 1982, fantasy author Byron Preiss buried 12 casques around the country as part of a novelty book-selling strategy. The casques held keys that, when found, could be exchanged for gems valued at approximately $1,000. Finding the casques required Preiss’ book, The Secret, which laid out puzzles that led to each casque location when solved. Preiss likely intended all casques to be found in short order, but by the time he died in 2005 only two of the 12 were unearthed, with no additional discoveries since then. And that might have been it, if not for the dawn of the internet, which has enabled a network of treasure hunters to work collaboratively and competitively using search tools only dreamed of by the first generation of seekers—this podcast being a prime example. Hosted by two longtime sleuths, the second episode of the series recaps the discovery of the first casque in 1983 and fuels discussion about resolving the remaining puzzles. While the hosts are perhaps the foremost living experts on The Secret, the extent of their obsession ultimately reveals as much about them as it does the treasure hunt. [Zach Brooke]


Showcase From Radiotopia

Secrets #1 – Discover A Secret

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One of the defining audio trends of 2017 was the rise of the short-run podcast. While not a new concept, the form has broken wide and will only become a bigger facet of the medium this year. One podcast that has demonstrated how to innovate in the space while simultaneously cultivating an audience is Showcase From Radiotopia. Something like the R&D arm of the prominent podcast network, Showcase serves as an ideal mechanism for listeners to continually discover boundary-pushing audio content like last fall’s electric docudrama The Polybius Conspiracy. With this latest outing, Showcase takes a step in a totally different and equally intriguing direction with Secrets, which explores the different ways and reasons that humans conceal. A co-production from Martin Johnson—one half of the Swedish Serial-inspired podcast Spår—and Mohamed El Abed, the show’s main thrust is El Abed’s mission to learn how and why the existence of his own sister was kept a secret from him. Interspersed with his tale is that of former undercover police officer Neil Woods, whose secret double identity went from a personal passion to a source of PTSD. The episode is a thrilling, pulpy journey of deception and discovery. [Ben Cannon]


True Crime Asia

Pakistan’s Mummy - Princess Or Murder Victim?

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There is nothing new under the sun, or so the Bible says, but the truly bizarre crime showcased in this episode lacks little in originality. In 2000, Pakistani authorities caught wind of an alleged mummy shopped around the antiquities black market. It was rumored to come from southwest Pakistan, which was a big fucking deal, since no non-Egyptian mummies were known to exist at that time. Police confiscated the artifact and brought it to both historians and medical experts for inspection. Here, the cover story fell apart: Numerous materials, processes, and drawings on the body and its casket were found to be incompatible with an ancient corpse. Further investigation determined the mummy to be the remains of a woman in her early twenties who died in 1996, and evidence pointed to the likelihood that the deceased was murdered for the express purpose of making her a mummy. The story feeds into a larger discussion about art theft, how artifacts are procured, and who owns or should benefit from priceless cultural treasures. [Zach Brooke]


WTF With Marc Maron

Richard Jenkins

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Richard Jenkins has been a familiar face in films and television since his debut in 1974 (a “that guy,” if you will). While always a working actor, Jenkins has recently been put in the spotlight, particularly with his appearance in The Shape Of Water, which has garnered him a SAG Award nomination for best supporting actor. On this supersized episode of WTF, the engaging Jenkins sheds some light on his youth in DeKalb, Illinois; his days in the theater; and his relationship with his parents, providing inspiration for any aspiring creative type by admitting he wasn’t all that good an actor when he started out. The 70-year-old looks back at his long and varied career with Maron’s stellar-per-usual interview skills driving the bus, and there is a lot to take in. [Mike Vanderbilt]