Podcasting isn't exactly a new art form, but the wild success of true crime podcast Serial has catapulted the podcasting form back into mainstream attention and it's back for a second season. Not every podcast is that compelling, but there are some gems out there you should be listening to. Covering everything from gaming to movies, comics and radio plays, why not have a listen to these 15 geeky podcasts?
Serial Season 2
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The first season of Serial was a podcasting phenomenon that captured the hearts, minds and ears of listeners across the nation, examining the circumstances surrounding the murder of a young woman and the man convicted of killing her, Adnan Syed. Now Serial is back, this time tackling the case of the soldier Bowe Berghdal, his decision to abandon his post, and subsequent capture by the Taliban. Starting with possible reasons for Berghdal's decision and then branching out to a larger view of those it affected, Serial 2 is a big step up in scale and ambition.
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How Stuff Works' Fw:Thinking podcast takes a look at emerging technologies and the latest scientific breakthroughs, from self-driving smart cars to cryptocurrencies and the impact of climate change on hurricane formation. Hosts Jonathan Strickland, Lauren Vogelbaum and Joe McCormick tackle the obvious ramifications new tech, as well as extrapolate less obvious legal, social side effects of new technologies and discoveries. The first season ended with its look at autonomous cars in October, but the new season is just about to kick off, making it a great time to jump in.
Hosted by tech journalist Kara Swisher, Re/code Decode consists of regular interviews of tech industry veterans, emerging entrepreneurs, business leaders and new media darlings. Covering everything from the latest industry developments, Valley gossip, big idea pieces, and new, unusual, and interesting products, Re/code Decode is simultaneously incisive and irreverent and a regular insider look at the tech industry's glitterati.
NPR's Invisibilia covers "invisible things": the unseen and barely felt thoughts, processes and built-in cognitive biases that can have powerful effects on how we think and live our lives. Invisibilia covers a wide range of topics in its first season of six, hour-long episodes, from Fear, mental disorders, synaesthesia and the effects on computers and mobile technology on how we think and use our brains. It's a short run, but with a second season on the way.
These 'highly produced meditations on obscure subjects' air on WNYC public radio, but thanks to podcasting it's found an international audience. RadioLab is a beautifully produced podcast that presents seemingly innocuous subjects then links them with 'big' ideas about science, philosophy and the human experience. Every month the show jumps onto a theme like color or happiness and is made up of several interview segments. Shorter features of 15 to 20 minute length are released to fill in gaps between full-bodied episodes.
Rebel Force Radio
As the hype train for Star Wars goes into full gear, hosts Jason Swank and James "Jimmy Mac" McInerney continue to provide news and commentary on all things Star Wars. Fans with a more sensitive threshold for spoilers should know that with spoiler alerts bookend the 15 minutes reserved for discussion of Episode VII. Rebel Force Radio is inclusive, unapologetic and warmly forgiving over some of the most contentious aspects of Star Wars fandom, such as prequels and the EU. It is also critical and dives deep into the history of the franchise to provide a colorful and storied perspective of the changing state of Star Wars.
The Indoor Kids
Comedian Kumail Nanjiani and writer/producer Emily V. Gordon continue their beloved videogame podcast in between an increasingly busy career in show business. Unlike other podcasts, which consist of a journalist and a developer saying nothing to each other because of NDAs, Kumail and Emily hang out with geek-relevant famous folk like comedians, game developers and voice actors. The language and humor can get a little bit NSFW, but it's all in good fun.
The X-Files Files
Actor and comedian Kumail Nanjiani (HBO's Silicon Valley) is a huge X-Files nut and in this podcast he watches very episode he can with a variety of actor, writer, comedian guests. Along the way he manages to interview various personalities from the show. Dedication like that was rewarded when Kumail was cast in a guest role in a revival of the X-Files opposite stars Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in a miniseries event scheduled for January 2016, proving that dreams do come true.
Welcome to Night Vale
Welcome to Night Vale, a quaint desert town in the middle of nowhere, where the skies are crowded with strange lights and the black helicopters of the World Secret Government, and the news is filled with the weird, the eldritch, and the mundane everyday life of a small town in the middle of much strangeness. The podcast takes the form of the town's local radio show, broadcasting news of runaway angels, announcements from the Sherrif's Secret Police, and advertisements for Big Rico's Pizza. Equally weird and hilarious, Welcome to Night Vale is a joy to listen to.
Freakonomics authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner examine anything and everything with their signature critical eye and insight. From the economics of sleep, the mechanics of suspense, what we can learn from competitive eating, and more, Freakonomics Radio challenges listeners to think like freaks about their lives and the world around them.
Stuff You Should Know
Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant host this podcast from the HowStuffWorks network. Stuff You Should Know is one of the older podcasts on this list and it goes into the minutiae of the kind of topics that will help you start conversations anywhere or at least sound like a total smartass. Episodes range from "That Time Nazis Invaded Florida," to "Why is Venice So Wet." The conversational tone of this podcast makes you feel like you are hanging out with well-informed friends with a real sense of curiosity than a know it all professor lecturing you.
Slate asks Americans from all walks of life on how they do their jobs. From club doormen to matchmakers, customs worker to bail bondsmen, Slate wants to know all about the routine of everyone's working day. The first season featured David Plotz of travel site Atlas Obscura as host. In his words, "All jobs have glamorous parts and dreary parts. I asked my subjects to tell me about everything. Who even knew there was a boring part of being a porn star?" Adam Davidson of NPR's Planet Money serves as host for the second season.
How Did This Get Made
We've all seen a movie so bad that it's almost amazing. But the question we don't frequently ask ourselves is "How did this get made?" Actors Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas rewatch some terrible movies and try to answer this question. But this isn't a podcast about tearing down bad films, instead it's about asking with honesty and sincerity the questions that uncover the perplexing yet entertaining quirks of film making. A great look at how business and art can defy common sense.
The Thrilling Adventure Hour
Performed live, monthly in Hollywood, various talents gather together under the direction of Ben Acker & Ben Blacker to create an original adventure tale in the style of an old-time radio show. The Thrilling Adventure Hour is basically a celebration, not a throwback, of a bygone era when adventure and action was heard and not seen. The performances are earnest and spirited, rather than deprecating. Some of the best running ideas include, 'Sparks Nevada, Marshall of Mars,' 'Desdemona Hughes, Diva Detective' and 'The Cross-Time Adventures of Colonel Tick Tock.'
This podcast is named after that nebulous concept which cineastes like to refer to when describing a definitive list of the greatest films of all time. BadAss Digest's Devin Faraci and LA Weekly's Amy Nicholson take on a broad range of ostensibly great films like "The Rocky Horror Picture Show, " "Goodfellas," "Do The Right Thing" and "Blade Runner" and argue the heck out of them to decide whether these films really do belong in the canon. Plus, they discuss the occasional head-to-head matchups like Alien vs. Aliens.