Is podcasting the ultimate virus-proof entertainment? While a handful of narrative series have had to call a halt to production during lockdown, scores more have found ways to continue their output, with hosts and contributors fashioning soundproofed studios out of wardrobes and mountains of bedding. Meanwhile, for the rest of us, audio storytelling has become a crucial balm in a time of crisis, lifting us out of our surroundings and soundtracking our new routines. Below is a selection of new and new-ish podcast series, several created specifically to help listeners through self-isolation.
The second season of the superior US investigative series, hosted by Andrew Jenks, focuses on the National Rifle Association where a war has broken out over accusations of financial misconduct that goes right to the top. As with the first series, which examined the US college admissions scandal, this is an electrifying story deftly told.
From the team behind the excellent You’re Dead To Me, this new BBC podcast sees the writer and historian Greg Jenner hosting bite-sized lessons for self-isolating children aged seven and upwards. The opening episode is an engaging race through the Restoration that put Charles II back on the British throne. Other subjects include the space race, Mary Queen of Scots, Charles Dickens and Pocahontas.
An illuminating new series on the history of recorded music in which the writer James Hall and music industry executive Dave Holley tell the stories of the pioneers who captured sound and turned it into an industry. It begins with Fred Gaisberg arriving in London from Washington in 1898 and opening Britain’s first recording studio before embarking on an expedition in search of new music.
Ever wondered what the super-rich get up to behind closed doors? If so, the “rich adjacent” comedians Aricia Skidmore-Williams and Brooke Siffrin — who first met in Los Angeles, valet parking celebrity-owned cars — are here to dish the dirt. Podcasting’s answer to Succession, Even The Rich basks in the stories of powerful dynasties including the Murdochs, the Carter-Knowles and the British royal family.
This richly detailed mini-series from Radiolab finds producer Latif Nasser chasing down his Moroccan namesake, Abdul Latif Nasser, to Guantánamo Bay where he has been detained since 2002 for alleged terror offences. What follows is an extraordinary tale that upends our preconceptions as it reveals how Nasser came to be imprisoned without trial.
The latest political thriller from Leon Neyfakh (formerly of Slate’s Slow Burn) focuses on the Iran-Contra affair, when the Reagan administration was found to have secretly sold weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages, and siphoned the proceeds to the Nicaraguan Contras. As we’ve come to expect from a Neyfakh production, the series is forensic, atmospheric and effortlessly builds tension.
This hastily thrown-together series in which British comedy duos talk nonsense over Zoom during lockdown has proved unexpectedly funny and charming. Among the contributors are French and Saunders daydreaming about going to the hairdresser; Simon Pegg and Nick Frost talking about films; and Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, of Catastrophe fame, acerbically reflecting on parenting during a pandemic.
The BBC 5 Live journalist Annabel Deas spent a year with a group of schoolchildren and their families in Huddersfield, an area where knife crime figures have skyrocketed. The resulting podcast delves into the stories behind the statistics, providing a moving portrait of children whose lives have been shaped by violence and gang warfare.
Bringing the outdoors indoors, the British producer Eleanor McDowall has invited friends and fellow audio creators to submit al fresco recordings from across the world. The result is an ever-growing and immensely soothing archive of sound which includes a call to prayer in Bangladesh; twilight in Australia’s Corhanwarrabul Wetlands; katydids in North Carolina; and the chatter of teenagers in St John’s Park, Brooklyn.
A powerful and disturbing series from the slow news organisation Tortoise, about the 2017 assassination of the Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, once described as a “one-woman WikiLeaks” for her fearless exposure of corruption. It is written and presented by Galizia’s son, Paul, who returned to Malta last year to investigate.
Get alerts on Arts when a new story is published