We’re gearing up to embrace the full spectrum of delights over this period. We’re heading to the beach every day, drinking mimosas with breakfast, taking naps after lunch and working our way through that reading list that has been growing all year. With a bit of luck, we might get through a few podcast series too.
If you’re also looking for a new podcast to binge over the break, we’ve got 15 recommendations coming your way. There's a deep dive into the rise and fall of a Hollywood madam, a new series from the team behind Sweet Bobby, true food crime, stories of deception and fraud, and a few light pop culture pods for good measure. All the details and where to find them below.
Documented By: @mattrogerstho/Charles Sykes
This show has been around for a while, and although it’s always been a great entertainment catch up it’s also super interesting to see it evolved with its hosts. At the start Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang were pretty unknown comedians, but in recent years they’ve both blown up. It’s nice to see how little they’ve changed personally, although the size of their guests and the depth of their insights have increased.
It’s not surprising that Vulture, everyone’s favourite entertainment site, would have a great pop culture podcast. They made a strong call bringing in Sam Sanders to host. He’s so smart and cool but also cuts all his great takes with a nice dose of gossipy fun which makes it feel like you are just hanging out with a mate.
A deep dive into the rise and fall of Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss. Not only is it an interesting look at the (frustratingly hypocritical) legalities and moralities of sex work, it’s a wild ride through 80s and 90s LA. Fleiss is kind of a Gen X Forest Gump, coming in contact with so many celebrities as well as cultural moments. Beyond sex, the show also has a lot to say about gender, policing, fame, reality TV and even the rise of capsule collections in fashion.
From the team behind Sweet Bobby, Pig Iron is a series investigating the death of 26-year-old war reporter Christopher Allen. Christopher was shot and killed on the frontline in South Sudan in 2017, but as news of the young freelancer’s death spread, claims emerged that he was actually there fighting as a mercenary. Working closely with Christopher’s family, Basia Cummings’s does an excellent job of thoughtfully and compassionately interrogating Chris’s life and trying to get to the bottom of what really happened to him.
Therapy, cultlike gurus, psychedelics, wellness culture, cover ups – if any of these descriptors spark your interest, you’ll probably enjoy this investigative podcast from New York Magazine. Hosted by iO Tillett Wright, the series is a deep dive into the underground world of psychedelic therapy, centering on the experience of Lily Kay Ross, a Harvard student who was abused on an ayahuasca retreat in Mexico and then discouraged by leaders in the movement from speaking out.
Total Reboot with Cameron James and Alexi Toliopoulos
For something a bit lighter, Total Reboot is a great one for movie nerds and enthusiasts. In this weekly film podcast, comedians Cameron James & Alexei Toliopoulos “riff through miniseries assembled around connecting topics and themes in cinema”. We particularly enjoyed ‘MILLENNIUM MINDF*CK’, which featured movies like Vanilla Sky and The Truman Show, ‘AUSTRALIAN PSYCHO’ for its discussion of Animal Kingdom, and ‘ADAM <3 DREW’ because any excuse to revisit The Wedding Singer and that scene with Jon Lovitz.
Documented By: @caseyrosewilson
The Drop is another goodie for pop culture and entertainment lovers. Hosted by Osman Faruqi, who is joined by other culture writers and critics each week, the show has touched on some of the biggest cultural moments and releases of 2022, including The White Lotus, Don’t Worry Darling, The Rings of Power and Taylor Swift’s ‘Midnights’ album. Episode recommendations include ‘Jeremy Allen White on making the best TV show of the year’ and the recent episodes breaking down the best new TV shows and most anticipated movies of the summer.
For the unashamed Bravo heads, this is a great weekly look at everything going on in the House Wives universes. Yes, that is trashy. But hosts Casey Wilson and Danielle Schneider are so joyful and self-aware it never feels like full brain rot.
This American Life (Ends of the Earth episode)
How far would you go for someone you love? Like all This American Life episodes, Ends of the Earth explores one topic in two very different ways. The first story – told by a wife whose husband has Alzheimer’s – is a beautiful but heartbreaking exploration of love. The second is a much lighter story about a mum and professional comedian trying to do the best for her daughter – even if it means deciding her classes at Stanford.
Hosted by YouTuber and comedian Nat’s What I Reckon and his partner, true crime fan Jules, this podcast explores true stories about prison heists, science experiments and poison – that all start with deathly food. They explore the history of crooked olive oil, a lawsuit about tuna and the wine that may have toppled the Roman empire.
The “Fyre Festival of the ballet world”. Fake influencers. A dangerous yoga “guru”. Hosted by writers Scaachi Koul and Sarah Hagi, Scamfluencers tells stories of deception and fraud, and the lengths people will go to for a taste of fame. The stories vary in length but never in outrageousness, so it’s perfect for anything from a morning walk to long road trips. If you loved Inventing Anna and The Dropout, put this one in your queue.
Documented By: @richroll
Ultra-endurance athlete and plant-based nutrition advocate Rich Roll hosts leaders and creatives on his podcast. One great episode is with Johann Hari, who is a journalist and the writer of Stolen Focus, a novel about why people are struggling to focus. Inspired by his own deteriorating attention span, Hari explores why the collective ability to pay attention is declining, and what you can do about it. Throughout the episode, they also talk about how to build a life with greater joy and fulfillment.
How They Made Us Doubt Everything
If you need to maintain a bit of (healthy) rage over the holiday break, we suggest this podcast. It dives into how the world’s most powerful interests made us doubt the connection between smoking and cancer, and how these same tactics were used to make people doubt climate change. It looks at how doubt can be manufactured, how public opinion is shaped and influenced by giant corporations and PR managers and how all of this affected climate action.
5-4 bills itself as "a podcast about how much the Supreme Court sucks". If you like to listen to smart, funny people talk about how truly cooked the power structures that prop up our society are, then this one is for you. The show exposes the deep corruption and vested interests that influence decision-making in America's Supreme Court and the implications for everyday people. It's a fascinating peek behind the curtain of law and politics.
The newie from the team behind Serial and S-Town dives into the moral panic generated by an anonymous letter that detailed an alleged Islamist plan to take over schools in England. It's a challenging and often deeply personal listen, with host Hamza Syed reflecting on how media representation of Muslims has shaped his own life experiences, and no easy answers.