This year's Listmania kicks off with a countdown of the best podcasts of 2016. It was a year of incredible highs and lows, and the fledgling medium was there to capture and comment on it all. With more shows coming out almost daily, it is impossible to boil it down to only a handful of shows that mattered. So while this is a "Top 20," certain entries were broken down into categories and themes. There's close to 40 between this two day extravaganza, so heat up that subscription button and prepare to have hours and hours of great (and mostly free) entertainment.
11. Storm of Spoilers
In an average year, there is almost too much pop culture to keep track of. How does anyone know what geek property to pay attention to at any given time? That's where Storm of Spoilers comes in. While the show focuses on all things Game of Thrones, the "off season" has come to embody retrospectives of any and all things that fans of the show might also like. It could be Westworld, American Horror Story, Star Wars, Preacher, Luke Cage, the Hamilton musical, Laika movies, or even the various Batman movies that came out this year. What's most impressive is that the three hosts manage to be experts on all of it and turn their weekly series into primers for the entertainment that matters. How they find time for all that research is beyond me, but the show is better for it.
12. Award Shows
Shows: Little Gold Men (Panoply), The Film Experience, Awards Chatter (The Hollywood Reporter)
If you're a movie fan, there are strong odds that awards season is a big deal to you. It becomes difficult to keep up with what films are in and out of the conversation. Each of the shows picked exemplifies a different focal point that is crucial to understanding the conversation. Along with interviews for the various potential nominees, each feature an inside baseball approach that helps the casual listener know the ins and outs on a weekly basis. While Awards Chatter is great in helping listeners get a retrospective of careers, Little Gold Men has had exclusive access to press screenings and even first hand accounts of the Vanity Fair party that followed The Oscars ceremony. Meanwhile The Film Experience is a place for passionate, candid, and sometimes unexpected opinions lead by one of awards season's most passionate fans: Nathaniel Rogers. Whatever the case may be, these three shows will help you better understand the Oscar race and will likely be of great use once the nominations are announced next month.
13. Extra Hot Great (Previously.TV)
The realm of TV podcasts remains largely barren of quality shows dedicated to exploring it as an entire medium. Few shows have done it so intricately and passionately than that of Extra Hot Great, whose average episode manages to hit everything from classic series to reality TV to current hits to off-the-wall nonsense. With excellent production values and a cast of lively hosts, this is a show for anyone who loves talking about TV and finds joy in dissecting its many flaws. If a subject bores you, stick around awhile and check out their Game Time segments; which usually run long and are always the best part. No show has come close to being this embracing of TV as a medium, at least not since Firewall & Iceberg said farewell last year.
14. '80s All Over
There were few series whose novelty premise seemed as promising as '80s All Over. The show would cover every last film released between January 1980 and December 1989. To a casual listener, this would simply mean the silly films with synth pop and neon outfits. However, there's so much more to the decade that could be understood through film. The show is currently still in 1980, but has managed to show how the culture was shifting between old hats doing crazy projects to disgusting schlock to Disney's identity crisis period. If you care at all about movie history, this is a necessary part of your schedule. Not only are Scott Weinberg and Drew McWeeney passionate, they're experts who even have firsthand accounts of why obscure films mattered. There's even great hokey trailers and clips thrown in for context. What's not to love?
15. Movie Music
Shows: Musical Notation (Battleship Pretension), Soundtracking
While there's countless shows that are dedicated to interviewing the actors, writers, and directors of film and TV culture, there's few that are dedicated to something just as important: the movie music. These two shows embody the spectrum of music's potential in film. For Musical Notation, West Anthony studies scores and soundtracks that matter to him throughout history (his recent episodes have focused on the music of Elf, Scrooged, and Ben-Hur). Meanwhile, Soundtracking is an interview-style series that interviews the creators to discover why they chose their music cues. Together they capture the spectrum of what music in film can be and why it's important. One can only hope that this subgenre will be littered with more shows by this time next year.
16. The 2016 Presidential Election Starter Kit
Shows: The Run-Up (New York Times), Code Switch (NPR), Keepin' It 1600, Politically Reactive (Panoply), Slate's Trumpcast (Panoply)
If you were alive for even one minute over the past 365 days in America, it is likely that the presidential election had an overwhelming presence. While the post-election has lead many to question what media they consume for factual information, what was available was nevertheless informative to the climate of America in 2016. The following shows represent a wide array of opinions not only on the election, but of the politics that separate certain portions of the country. Everything you need to know about the past year can be acquired in these series from race relations to breaking news to even the man who will be president in a month's time. There's too much to get into right here, but there's plenty to understand if you give any of these a chance.
17. The McElroy Family Dynasty
Shows: My Brother My Brother and Me, Sawbones, Bunker Buddies, Still Buffering, Shmanners, Trends Like These (All on Maximumfun)
Europe has the Royal Family. Cinema has the Coppolas. Podcasts have the McElroys. For several years now, the family that started podcasting with a satirical advice show has branched out into its own dynasty. In 2016 alone they added two great new series that explored teenage life (Still Buffering) and proper ettiquette (Shmanners). Thankfully the other shows that they produce on an almost weekly basis remain just as entertaining and informative as ever. If you're looking for entertainment as well as an occasional morsel of information, you could do worse than to check out any series with the "McElroy" name attached. You'll learn a lot about medicine (Sawbones), the apocalypse (Bunker Buddies), and even current pop culture (Trends Like These). There may come a day when they control every podcast in existence. Until then, it's best that all of their shows count as one entry here.
18. Retail Nightmares
The concept is simple: tell a story about how awful working retail is. While the hosts have admitted that they're running out of great stories, their guests usually manage to bring a few shocking tidbits on a weekly basis. It is a loving show that occasionally devolves into nonsensical humor, but always is a delight to listen to thanks to the universal theme of dealing with terrible customers. It's a theme that will never get old, especially considering how tragic the average holiday season can be. If this sounds too bleak for a comedy show, just know that every episode ends with a segment dedicated to cute animals. It's something that makes the bummer parts all the more worthwhile.
19. Benview on Spielberg (Benview)
There are few filmmakers as revered as that of Steven Spielberg. With a timeless filmography, it almost seems impossible for anyone to scrutinize it. That is, until Benview on Spielberg came along. Combining an enthusiast with an apatheticist, the show has been slowly working its way through the highs and lows of his career. With arguably the best years behind (they are currently on Minority Report), it's been entertaining to hear them come to terms with the lesser entries. This will only continue to remain true in 2017. For now, one can only enjoy the descent into madness that came with The BFG episode that left one host furious beyond belief. If that's any sign of what's to come, then next year's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will be a 2017 highlight.
20. Classic TV Shows
Shows: Engage:: A Star Trek Podcast (Play.It), West Wing Weekly (Radiotopia), Animanicast (RetroZap)
The one thing that podcasts do better than any other medium is bring fans together. This is especially true of TV series, where audiences can write in and leave comments. It also connects fans with the creators and often makes for some exciting programming. Each of these three shows represent various programs whose fans put a lot of effort into dissecting the stuff they love. With Star Trek turning 50 this year, Engage had a lot of ground to cover and did so effortlessly; creating a must listen show for any Trekkies out there. Meanwhile West Wing Weekly (hosted by the show's Joshua Malina) reviews episodes and interviews cast and crew with fascinating behind the scenes details. Animanicast (dedicated to Animaniacs) may have less hype but is a fascinating and informed look into one of the best children's shows of the 1990's - not to mention with excellent production values. There's a lot of great shows out there, but few have excelled quite like these three over the past year.