The 20 best podcasts of 2021 | Podcasts


Harsh Actuality

Combining a prescient story with unparalleled entry to the individuals at its coronary heart, Wondery and Novel’s co-production was a revelation. Miriam Rivera – the trans lady whose id was the key on the coronary heart of the 2003 actuality sequence There’s One thing About Miriam – is not the article however relatively the topic right here, because the perpetrators and members of the unique, extremely problematic, sequence wrestle with their complicity and naivety.


The Bias Analysis

Does your race actually have an effect on your outcomes within the British medical system? Dr Ivan Beckley investigated the stunning inequalities within the well being system, from situations recognized incorrectly or perilously late, to the racist stereotypes which lead some clinicians to underestimate their sufferers’ ache. With out blood, guts or a touch of sensationalism, this standout sequence painted a horrifying image of prejudice.


Items of Britney

Pieces of Britney was a fortuitously timed looked at Spears’s plight.
A fortuitously timed checked out Spears’s plight … Items of Britney. {Photograph}: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

This fortuitously-timed podcast (it launched in July, days after Spears appeared in courtroom protesting her conservatorship) didn’t merely act as a much-needed explainer for a posh authorized state of affairs – it additionally did an important job of contextualising the popstar’s plight. Amid archive recordings and the dramatisation of key occasions, host Pandora Sykes provided a potted historical past of the disturbing methods 00s movie star tradition preyed on younger feminine stars.


Train Me a Lesson

Bella Mackie and Greg James wrestled with the big issues – and exploding rodents – in their Teach Me a Lesson podcast.
Bella Mackie and Greg James wrestle with the massive points – and exploding rodents … Train Me a Lesson. {Photograph}: BBC

Bella Mackie and Greg James – media personalities, married couple, eager college students – grew a loyal viewers with their sequence about attending to grips with the teachings they didn’t be taught in school. Is love at first sight actual? Are individuals born evil? And, er, did exploding rodents assist Britain win the second world struggle? There was by no means a boring second.


Pricey Me

Hosted by comics Katy Wix and Adam Drake, this mild, meandering journey miniseries returns comic visitors to their childhood properties to commune with their former selves. Liam Williams thoughtfully displays on 00s life in Leeds, the reliably daffy Lou Sanders travels to Broadstairs to shock an previous pal, and Wix’s Stath Lets Flats co-star Kiell Smith-Bynoe takes a visit again to London’s East Ham.


Demise on the Wing

Adam McKay (Vice, The Large Quick, Succession) hosted this take a look at the US basketball stars of the 80s and 90s who shone brightly however whose lives had been reduce brief, tying in particular person tragedies to wider societal points in Reagan’s America. From medicine to gun violence and the pressures of movie star, every chapter neatly weaved the private with the political to devastating impact.


The Line

Apple’s gripping non-fiction sequence explored the controversial struggle crime trial towards former US Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher. Was Gallagher – accused by his colleagues of erratic, aggressive behaviour – chargeable for killing an Iraqi prisoner in Mosul in 2017? And what does the case inform us concerning the battle at massive? Dan Taberski (Lacking Richard Simmons) was our information to this most murky of instances.


Jail Break

The truth about being a ‘prison wife’ ... Josie Bevan’s Prison Break.
The fact about being a ‘jail spouse’ … Josie Bevan’s Jail Break. {Photograph}: Josie Bevan

When Josie Bevan’s husband was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 9 years in jail, jail – beforehand a barely-considered prospect – turned her new obsession. Upon Rob’s launch, Bevan interrogates the very foundations our justice system is based on. Is jail a treatment? A deterrent? A security measure? If not, then what precisely is it for? This considerate, private and empathetic podcast investigates.


The 33 ⅓ Podcast

This companion podcast to the literary sequence of the identical identify – a set of transient, insightful books on era-defining albums – sees producer Prince Paul (best recognized for De La Soul’s seminal debut, 3 Ft Excessive and Rising) dissect the identical data with a roster of musician visitors. Gap’s Patty Schemel examines Metallica’s Metallica, Danny Brown surveys Bowie’s Low, and Victoria Monét celebrates Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope. Nerdy perception and enthusiasm unite in a succession of fascinating deep dives.


The Battersea Poltergeist

In the course of the making of his ghost story podcast Haunted, Danny Robins stumbled upon this extraordinary story of a violent, 12-year haunting in Nineteen Fifties London. Amazingly, the teenage lady at its centre, Shirley Hitchings, is alive to inform the story. Alongside her testimony, re-enacted with the assistance of actors Toby Jones and Alice Lowe, Robins tries his damnedest to supply a rational clarification with the assistance of sceptics and scientists – nevertheless it seems to be no straightforward job.


The Witness

In 2005, Joseph “Joey” O’Callaghan turned the youngest individual to enter witness safety in Eire when his testimony put two gang members behind bars for homicide. He was 19 on the time, and has now spent practically 20 years with a brand new id. This hanging sequence noticed O’Callaghan define his harrowing experiences in Dublin’s legal underworld, which started when he was simply 11 years previous.


Issues Fell Aside

Jon Ronson, cultural oracle and host of the Things Fell Apart podcast.
Cultural oracle … Jon Ronson, host of Issues Fell Aside. {Photograph}: Christopher Lane/The Guardian

Together with his 2015 guide, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson proved himself a cultural oracle, anticipating the best way social media cancellations would quickly grip the general public creativeness. On this usually fascinating present, the documentarian traces some of the basis causes of America’s present internet-based tradition wars: specifically, the person – and infrequently surprisingly arbitrary – protests that turned twisted up with the Christian proper, prompting mass hysteria within the course of.


The Every day

Michael Barbaro and the New York Occasions group saved the bar excessive by one other yr of pandemic drama and ever-changing information agendas. The Every day’s in-depth reporting on everybody from Ghislaine Maxwell to Britney Spears has been spectacular, alongside copious quantities of Covid evaluation – lately evidenced in an episode devoted to the scientific questions provoked by Omicron.

Grounded with Louis Theroux

Louis Theroux was back for a second series of his Zoom-based interview series – and it was revelatory.
Revelatory … Louis Theroux’s Zoom-based interview sequence. {Photograph}: BBC

A number of books, TV exhibits, merch, podcasts: it could possibly generally really feel as if the bespectacled documentary-maker has saturated popular culture on all fronts. However Grounded, his Zoom-conducted interview sequence, proved as soon as once more which you can by no means have an excessive amount of Louis Theroux. This second outing hosted everybody from zeitgeisty cultural figures (Michaela Coel) to previous rivals (Ruby Wax), neglected TV mainstays (Rylan) and members of the family (Justin Theroux), every dialog as revelatory because the final.



In 2019, author and college professor Chris Stedman acquired a scheduled electronic mail from his buddy Alex, informing him that he had killed himself. The message additionally contained a hyperlink to some recordings of a Britney sound-alike Alex had met on one of the popstar’s fan boards. On this extremely transferring sequence, Stedman makes an attempt to uncover the girl’s significance, all of the whereas meditating on grief, friendship, fan tradition and his buddy’s life.

Day X

A loaded gun present in a bathroom in Vienna in 2017 led to the invention of a army officer with a dramatic double life, as informed on this chillingly good present from the New York Occasions. “Franco A” assumed the id of a Syrian refugee, seemingly seeking to place the blame for an upcoming assault on his false persona. How deep into the German army did such far proper influences lengthen?


Gradual Burn

Not one however two sequence of Slate’s acclaimed podcast had been launched in 2021, zooming in as soon as once more on little-known features of main occasions in US historical past. Noreen Malone hosted a wise take a look at the shaky ethical judgments that led to the Iraq struggle, whereas Joel Anderson expertly examined the occasions triggered by Rodney King’s beating by the LAPD in a sequence devoted to the LA riots.


Consolation Consuming with Grace Dent

(*20*)Grace Dent profiled odd celeb food experiments in her charming interview podcast, Comfort Eating.
Charming and weird … Consolation Consuming with Grace Dent. {Photograph}: Ilka & Franz/The Guardian. Meals stylist: Lucy-Ruth Hathaway. Hair and make-up: Sarah Cherry utilizing NARS Cosmetics. Set construct: Misplaced Boys. Meals assistant: Valeria Soledad Russo

In her capability because the Guardian’s restaurant critic and Masterchef visitor decide, Grace Dent is well-versed in cutting-edge cookery – however right here she is confronted with culinary experimentation like by no means earlier than. From Scarlett Moffatt’s Wotsit-sprinkled toast to Laura Whitmore’s uncooked mushroom-and-mayo combo, celebrities’ weird snacking habits show the right conversation-starter on this charming interview podcast, which journeys onwards into (even) extra critical subjects.


Welcome to Your Fantasy

The Chippendales had been an unlikely supply of popular culture inspiration in 2021, with the male strippers inspiring an Amazon docuseries, a Hulu drama (presently in improvement) and this podcast from Pineapple Avenue Studios and Gimlet, hosted by historian Natalia Petrzela. Welcome to Your Fantasy deftly balanced the camp mayhem of this “Disneyland for adults” and its vibrant solid of characters, with the insalubrious true crime story behind all of it.


Candy Bobby

Kirat Assi, the victim of a disturbing example of catfishing, as profiled in the Sweet Bobby podcast.
Kirat Assi, the sufferer of a disturbing instance of catfishing … Candy Bobby. {Photograph}: Andrew Testa/Andrew Testa for Tortoise Media

Catfishing – the act of deceptive someone with a faux web persona – is a widely known phenomenon, however as our lives transfer ever extra on-line, it stays far too little understood. This initially stunning, constantly riveting sequence chronicles one such outrageous deception, wherein a lady genuinely believed herself to be in a decade-long relationship with a non-existent man. As soon as the perpetrator is revealed, host Alexi Mostrous begins conducting his personal investigation into the catfisher’s motivations – in addition to the seemingly lacklustre police response to this disturbing and distinctly fashionable legal exercise.

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