If you are a Milennial like me, you probably already have a mess of podcasts that you're listening to. But if you aren't (or if you're 21 and have never listened to a podcast), let me throw out some suggestions.
I confess that I had never listened to a podcast before Serial came out last year, but they have absolutely changed the way I consume media. I listen to podcasts on long car trips, while I'm cleaning the house, doing laundry, or walking Tom Hanks. So, let me tempt you!
Genre: Well, serial. It's kind of like a mystery story, except it's true. "One story, told week by week."
What's it about? A few different things. Last year's season on Adnan Syed was the most listened-to podcast in the world. Sarah Koenig, the host and a former This American Life correspondent, dug up what she felt was a mis-managed murder trial from the 90's. Her research into Syed, the suspect, and the surrounding case was so thorough and revelatory that now, the court is now granted Syed a hearing - like, literally today, right now - to determine whether his case should be reopened.
This year's season is just as timely, covering the Bowe Bergdahl desertion, capture, and trial. Serial is compelling, fairly unbiased, and the audio equivalent of a reality show - except, you know, REAL. And much better.
What would it be rated? PG-13, sometimes R. The details of the murder in Season 1 are pretty grizzly, and the conditions in which Bergdahl is kept in Season 2 are bone-chilling. Listen without kids around.
Where should I start? Season 1, Episode 1, and let it take you away. I'm telling you, get ready to be hooked for 10 solid hours.
2. This American Life
Genre: Storytelling, nonfiction.
What's it about? This American Life is also one of the most widely listened-to podcasts in the world. Like I said, Koenig (founder and host of Serial) got her start on this show. TAL and its faithful host, Ira Glass, compile weekly stories of regular Americans. Usually there are three an episode, and they're loosely linked in terms of theme. Beside Ira's delightful and oft-imitated voice, you'll be charmed, touched, and sometimes gut-punched by the stories of everyday folks like you and me.
What would it be rated? Ranges from G to PG-13, but Ira always gives a disclaimer if there's an episode with adult material or foul language.
Where should I start? The Problem We All Live With; No Coincidence, No Story!; Doppelgängers, and Cars. I'd recommend starting with these favorites, then just listening to them as they come each week. By the way - "Doppelgängers" may cause you to never eat calamari again. You've been warned.
3. WTF with Marc Maron
What's it about? Incredibly foul comedian and TV star Marc Maron sits down with celebrities and interviews them for an hour. He does a little "bit" at the beginning of each episode, which is always really funny (and usually self-deprecating in a disarming way), but the interviews are poignant, interesting, and (of course) hilarious. You'll learn lots about your favorite actors, authors, and musicians that you didn't know before.
What would it be rated? PG-13 or R. And it's not even because the content is mature, it's because Maron has the such a filthy mouth. I mean, the "f" word is part of his title, for the love.
Where should I start? Interviews with: Will Ferrell, Louis CK, Robin Williams, Amy Poehler, and, you know, PRESIDENT OBAMA.
Note: Lots of Maron's older episodes are archived and only accessible through paid subscription, so I've included links to those protected episodes from YouTube or PRX.
4. Stuff You Should Know
Genre: Informational? Stuff you've always wanted to know, but don't.
What's it about? Josh and Chuck, the hosts of this show, are kind of like the teachers you always wished you had. They can talk about anything and still keep it interesting - and I mean anything. Like polynomials or the mating patterns of reptiles. They have covered over 300 topics - they do their research, then explain their chosen topic from the ground up. You leave this podcast feeling like an expert every time- it's great fodder for making you sound smart at cocktail parties. It's also a sister podcast of How Stuff Works, Stuff You Missed In History Class, and a few others.
What would it be rated? G! This is a great podcast to listen to with the whole fam.
Where should I start? My favorite episodes include How Schizophrenia Works, How Homelessness Works; How Animal Camouflage Works, and The Lowdown on Anonymous. But, as I said, there are literally hundreds to choose from, and you're guaranteed to find something that piques your interest.
5. Jordan Says (ya know I had to - ha!)
Genre: General commentary.
What's it about? A husband and wife (you know, Jordan and me) get kind of drunk and talk about random things. During Bachelor season, we talk about Jordan's opinions on The Bachelor, but post-Bachelor, we plan on continuing. We've already got a couple in the chamber ready to fire after this season, including "Who's The Best Disney Princess?" and "TV Show Roundup: What Should You Be Watching?"
What would it be rated? Usually PG-ish. Unless Jordan is feeling edgy, then PG-13.
DID YOU LIKE THAT SHAMELESS PLUG? No? Well...it happened.
Happy listening, friends! Can't wait to kick off The Bachelor with y'all on Monday.