Dec 17, 2013

Listmania: The Best Podcasts of 2013: #60-79

To know how these lists were compiled, please read the Preamble here.

One of the greatest forms of media currently growing is the podcast format. In recent years especially, it has gone on to encapsulate a lot of our culture. Featuring a mix of commentary, comedy, and information, these shows are indelible sources of enjoyment and makes celebrities out of the common man or personalize the celebrities that exist. The following is a week-long countdown of the Top 100 shows that I feel show the variety of skills that are present in these shows and hopefully will provide you the readers with new forms of entertainment. Enjoy and put your headphones on! They're all free.

It is an annual gathering of film critics Joe Reid, Nathaniel Rogers, Katey Rich and Nick of Nick's Flicks Picks to cover the movie awards season at great lengths. From talking about press screenings to their own personal histories with the Oscars, it is a delightful experience to hear such candid conversations about not only their thoughts on who should win, but also the mechanics that go into marketing movies and the bias that Oscars sometimes have. Still, every topic is discussed with passion and leaves no moment without a sense of interesting, even if it is fleeting. While it only comes out during the awards season, it is a great chronicling show that provides great opinions on the events to come.

One of the great random trivia show currently out there that explores every scientific topic with a candid sense of enthusiasm and penchant for crass humor. More than anything, it is a show that manages to educate as well as entertain and that is no easy feat. Each episode is well constructed and thought out and fills out the time nicely with factoids and banter that makes each topic come to life.

One of the strangest shows to gain popularity in 2013 came from the most unlikely of places: Commonplace Books. The series is a bi-monthly look into the town of Night Vale, which is a morose, strange place full of occurrences that are immediately striking. Done in the form of a news broadcast, the information paints a vivid picture that is somewhat chilling and all the more compelling. Mixed with songs, the show has managed to feel like a community of eeriness and helps to explain why it continually ranks as one of the highest rated shows on iTunes.

63. Radiolab (WNYC)

If there is one show that manages to intersect human interest stories with science better than any other show, it is Radiolab. Ranging in topics, it is listener supported in getting their stories out to the public. They are informative as well as entertaining and is never sparse on content. For those looking for short programming that will leave a memorable residue, Radiolab is a great use of your time.

A weekly gathering of news trivia that is an entertaining engagement of the audience. It turns current events into fun on a weekly basis. Done as a live show, this is a recording that features modern comedians and actors competing in answering questions and having lively banter with the hosts. With familiar segments, it is always a delightful list and one that manages to make quite an impact when compiling thoughts on what happened this past week.

While there are many shows that explore history from the male's perspective, The History Chicks highlights the other sex's contributions to society, whether through culture or action. Usually serving as highlights of varying historical females, the show manages to humanize these people and make them more accessible. While it is not specific to just being about the creator (they did do a mulit-episode Jane Austen book club briefly), it does serve as interesting juxtaposition to everything else out there. With friendly banter and a lot of facts, their tagline stating that "Any resemblance to a boring history class is purely coincidental" is quite the warning. It is always fun and worth checking out for those that want to learn more about their varying subjects.

The show is a brief, philosophical debate on everyday issues. It is an exploration on cultural norms and chooses to go in depth on where their disagreements lie in regards to that. It may not serve as textbook answers to these questions, but with informed opinions, it often provides many sides to an issue that will titillate and provoke the listener to find their own answers. Always an enjoyable listen, it is worth checking out regardless of the issue.

Featuring a rotating cast that includes Michelle Said (Bright Wall Dark Room), Scott Beggs (Broken Projector), Da7e Gonzales and Matt Patches (both co-hosts of Republic City Dispatch), this show was a brief exploration into the realm that was Adventure Time. I am not entirely sure why it disbanded, but based on its brief output, it is a great look not only into the narrative aspects, but the subtext and cultural commentary that is in each episode. It is a captivating listen and a passionate look into one of the best cartoons currently airing. Hopefully one day they'll continue to get through the episodes, as it is doubtful that they'll ever run out of them.

Left to right: Dan Harmon and Jeff Davis
68. Harmontown (Feral Audio)

This was quite a year for Dan Harmon, as it was his first off duty since he gained popularity with Community. The show almost served as his source of ventilation and the ramblings that followed were a mix of insightful musings on his daily life to really crass jokes. Finishing episodes with a game of Dungeons and Dragons, the show has evolved into a community and one of free thinking and thoughts. If the show has only one reason for being on the list, it is that besides going on a American tour, it is the place in which we finally heard Harmon's thoughts on Community season four. They may have been crass, but we fully understand how Harmon feels about everything, and that may be enough to give the show leverage.

69. Bret Easton Ellis Podcast (Podcast One)

The newest show to make it onto the list is this show hosted by the author behind "American Pyscho" and the writer of the Canyons movie. He has a lot to say about the world around him, and it is fascinating to hear what he has to say. With only three guests so far, he manages to dive not necessarily into personal psyche, but a cultural understanding about how entertainers perceive the world and the notions that come with being a public figure. Most of all, he is fascinating because as a writer whose aggressive literature gained him notoriety quickly, he is a voice that is unique in that he has the nuances of a writer with the sensibilities of a host. He almost seems perfect in that way.

70. We Hate Movies

In the growing landscape of bad movies podcasts, this one stands out for being on that mixes popular titles with more obscure gems. Most of all, their passion for skewering these films  produces some of the best mix of impersonations and bits that may at times feel overtly cynical, but comes with the show's title. It is a celebration of bad movies that manages to make their sad experiences worth it just for entertainment value. Episodes such as that on Grown Ups 2 manage to explore beyond the dumb plot and goes into why it is just a poor use of Saturday Night Live alumni. The show has depth and never loses the entertainment value. Whether or not you should choose to watch the films they talk about is debatable, but at least you'll know it was worth it to hear what they had to say.

71. Shut Up, Leonard (Benview)

It is the show that managed to get Dan Harmon's attention and became popular thanks to Community's loyal fan base. While they should be applauded for making it through the maligned season four, the show is attempting to compile episodes on every episode (they just finished season one) during the down time. It is a fascinating landscape where hardcore fans Andrew and Benson dissect the episode and give occasional shout-outs to Ben Wexler. Make sure to check them out and subscribe to hear what they have to say about the new season that is less than a month away. It's going to be great stuff.

One of the most aggressive, profane comics working today finally joined the podcast world with his own collection of stories. Mixing from those involving interviews with strange individuals to episodes on road stories, it is a collection from one of the weirdest voices currently out there. He isn't afraid to say something crass and the way that some episodes go, it almost feels like therapy in progress and presents ideas that could evolve into bits. It is not for the faint of heart, but for those that have enjoyed his albums for years, it is definitely a strong continuation of his personality on a weekly basis.

73. Battleship Pretension (Battleship Pretension Fleet)

Nothing is off limits for this show that manages to push the boundaries of how long an episode can go for. These are passionate film lovers and thus they have been known to talk about varying topics for sometimes over three hours. Along with being engaging hosts, they are never out of topics to talk about and with several guests appearing regularly, some episodes often serve as primers to the topics that are being discussed. It is an engrossing, fun experience and one that will fascinating film fans no matter how long the episodes go for.

Left to right: Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes

It has been quite a year for Jason Mewes. From producing his own cartoon movie based around his iconic character to touring in support of it, he has become quite an eclectic performer and is able to charm the crowds he talks in front of with such ease. While the show is now very much geared towards the familiar SModcast audience, it never is out of material and while performing live may cause some episodes to feel redundant, the overall product remains consistently endearing in making the everyday life of its two hosts into endearing stories that may ramble on from time to time, but never feel out of place.

While majority of film podcasts focus on the directors and actors, very few deal with the skeleton that goes into making the story successful: the writer. Often times the episodes serve as outlines to how each story came to fruition as well as the thoughts that went into the psychology of their characters and scenes. While it is heavily focused on recent releases, there are some episodes exploring panels for older films that also help to make fascinating understandings of how film comes together. While host Jeff Goldsmith isn't always at the center of each interview, each installment is a celebration of the creative process and makes learning about screenwriting a little more engaging than it normally is.

Still the winner of best podcast theme song. If there is anything strange about this year's version of Steven Brody Stevens' show, it is the experimental summer episodes. Where he has always been a fascinating person to listen to, there was a stretch of episodes where it seemed like he had lost his mind. He did push-ups on microphone and experimented with the format. While everything worked out and he remains as vital and intriguing as ever, he is probably too busy with his new Comedy Central show to release regular episodes. Nonetheless, he remains one of the best monologue comedians currently releasing podcasts. 

77. Planet Money (NPR)

An exploration of how economics work in America. The show explores varying fields of how money is spent and how it impacts society. While the average episode is usually brief, it is full of information and will help to give a wider perspective on the world around you. It may not always be the most engaging of shows, but it gets the point across and that is all that matters.

78. Filmspotting (WBEZ)

One of the best radio film shows continues to remain one of the most engaging listens on a weekly basis. The show not only reviews the latest releases, but mixes in countdowns of personal lists based on their main topics as well as other forms of exploration. It may be the most organized show out of the batch and one that comes packed with great banter and criticism. Also, stay tuned for "Massacre Theater" in which they butcher a line reading of famous film scenes. If you can figure out the film, you may just win a prize. There's a lot of depth and coverage to this show and it always makes for a fun listen.

Left to right: Kulap Vilaysack, Harris Wittels, and Howard Kremer
79. Who Charted? (Earwolf)

Somehow over the course of its few years of existences, Who Charted? has become somewhat of an institution for mixing movie and music charts with oddball humor and albums by Howard Kremer's music persona Dragon Boy Suede. It is often absurd and always features two of the loopiest hosts currently working at Earwolf. Probably the show's biggest success remains that it is always able to dissect their guests' lives and careers through talking about charts that may have seemed inconsequential until they actually started talking. The show is always delightful to listen to and while Two Charted doesn't quite have the same appeal as its initial episode, it is an endless source of comedians cracking jokes and just having good times.

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