13 podcasts you can’t afford to miss

Podcasts have become the broadcasting success story of the 21st century Photo: Getty Images

Podcasts have become the broadcasting success story of the 21st century Photo: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

With the rise of digital technology, the spread of smart phones, podcasts have become one of the defining entertainment success stories of the 21st century. We take a look at some of our favourite shows ‘on the net’

Film writer Mark Kermode is one of the busiest and most entertaining podcasters Photo: PA

Film writer Mark Kermode is one of the busiest and most entertaining podcasters Photo: PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Podcasts are an incredibly versatile form of entertainment, imparting information and providing comedy and drama in equal measure. Andrew Clarke, Charlotte Smith-Jarvis, Lucy Buchholz and Emily Cashen share their can't miss shows.

Mark Kermode on Film

Mark Kermode is an ever-present, highly distinctive figure on the British film scene whether as an academic, a critic for The Observer newspaper and BBC News, a writer of film books, as one half of a partnership with radio presenter Simon Mayo or as a member of skiffle band The Dodge Brothers with pianist and silent film musician Neil Brand.

Podcasts can engage people with any subject through the power of voice, good writing and imaginatio

Podcasts can engage people with any subject through the power of voice, good writing and imagination Photo: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Mark Kermode is also responsible for half a dozen film-related podcasts the best of which is Mark Kermode on Film which is more wide-ranging than his BBC show/podcast with Simon Mayo which is much more a back and forth discussion about that week's film releases.

This podcast, which is currently up to 68 episodes, is Mark's weekly exploration of the film landscape which includes a recording of MK3D - the live show he does every month at BFI Southbank including movie guests and questions from the audience, Head to Head with Jack Howard in which they argue about the merits or otherwise of classic and contemporary pictures, 2001 Films You Must See Before You Die, Hell's Video Store plus Movie Time Travel - a visit to a famous film location.

If you need any more Kermode then check out Kermode and Mayo's Film Review. AC

All of Kirsty Young's interviews on Desert Island Discs are now available in the official BBC podcas

All of Kirsty Young's interviews on Desert Island Discs are now available in the official BBC podcast Photo: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

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A haunting, crackled emergency phone call for help. A dogged reporter seeking answers. A trail of mystery, intrigue and perhaps murder?

Debuted in 2015 by Two-Up Productions, this fictional series (reimagined for the screen on Facebook Watch at the end of 2019, featuring Stanley Tucci and Jessica Biel- watch it for free) begins in Tennessee, in the desert and in Limetown - a gated neuroscience community.

Anxious cries come from within the secretive gates, pleading for rescue. After an attempted and failed siege the site is opened...but there's noone there. And, like Willy Wonka's factory, noone went in, noone came out. So what happened? Years later, obsessive radio reporter Lia Haddock is desperate to find out - particularly as her much-loved uncle was living in the compound.

Listen with the lights on. CSJ

No Such Thing As A Fish

My Saturday morning saviour. Released every Friday, this podcast from the QI researchers (known affectionately as the QI Elves) brings together the team's favourite random facts from the week. But this is far from dry. James Harkin, Andrew Hunter Murray, Anna Ptaszynski and Dan Schreiber deliver their material with wit and humour - it's like being down the pub with your (much brainier) mates.

Recent show segments have included how we used to pay for stuff with eels (yes really), how, despite qualifying, Austria had to withdraw from the 1938 World Cup as it no longer existed, and the fact that Foyle's bookshop protected itself from Nazi bombing by covering its roof in copies of Mein Kampf! CSJ

Pilot TV Podcast

From the makers of Empire magazine, The Pilot TV Podcast is a fantastic (spoiler free) guide to the essential new shows dropping each week across satellite, streaming and good old fashioned TV. Created by people who know what they are talking about and delivered in an irreverent style, this makes for light, informed listening, bringing you the latest news and reviews, the occasional interview, and some choice recommendations from years past, so you can catch up with a classic series that may have passed you by.

The tagline for the podcast says it is guaranteed to save countless hours of your life. Because you can't watch 'everything'. AC


If you love irreverent comedy tune in to hairy comedian Joe Wilkinson's quirky podcast alongside David Earl and Poppy Hillstead. Each week the team read out their favourite rumours and tidbits of gossip sent in by listeners. At the end of each episode they choose their favourite and ask Poppy to shout it out of the window. It's pretty darn rude so expect swearing (and more) but totally hilarious. CSJ

Desert Island Discs Podcast

The perfect companion for a long car journey, 75 years of the timeless Radio 4 masterpiece are available free of charge. It has to be said that the current episodes are more revealing than the more respectful years presided over by its creator Roy Plomley, who stepped down in 1985. Michael Parkinson took over for a couple years before handing over the reigns to Sue Lawley, who ruled the island until 2006 when she passed the interviewer's microphone over to Kirstie Young, who then handed it over to Lauren Laverne in 2018.

The idea behind the series is simple but effective, each desert island castaway tells the story of their life through the choice of eight pieces of music, a book and a luxury. The questioning is gentle but can be very revealing and it seems everyone from public life has been cast adrift at some time in their life.

A few people like David Attenborough, Judi Dench and Billy Connolly have been marooned more than once and the different interviews, decades apart, are even more revealing. Classic listening. AC

Dirty John

This could possibly be one of the best crime podcasts made to date - so good it was subject of both a documentary, and a dramatisation by Netflix (featuring Connie Britton and Eric Bana).

The too-good-to-be-true story, told with relish by Christopher Goddard and created by Wondery and the Los Angeles Times zones in on unlucky in love millionaire businesswoman Debra Newall. Stuck in a dating rut, she strikes up an online relationship with dashing anaesthesiologist John Meehan.

But as she and her daughters discover, there is more to John than meets the eye - just being around him could prove deadly.

You will not be able to stop listening. CSJ

In Our Time

This show needs little introduction, having been a mainstay of the BBC airwaves for over 20 years. Every week, presenter Melvyn Bragg sits down with three top-class academics to take a deep dive into a particular topic, covering historical figures, philosophical ideas, literature and science, among other themes. Recent episodes have taken us through the history of coffee, Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment and the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb.

The polite, measured and thoughtful discussions are a very pleasant antidote to the loud and ill-mannered debates that so often dominate our screens. There's not much more to it - it's just 45 minutes of very clever people talking about a subject that they love. And even if the discussions start to go over your head, there's still something very soothing about spending some time with Melvyn and his guests. EC

Mockery Manor

Welcome to Mockery Manor Amusement Park... where the dead don't stay buried. An immersive mystery/thriller podcast by Lindsay Sharman and Laurence Owen. Episodes are released the first Tuesday of the month.

The cast of East Anglian actors features Hayley Evenett, Peter Sowerbutts, Laurence Owen, Lindsay Sharman and Sooz Kempner.

It's the summer of 1989. Mockery Manor amusement park is gearing up to its grand re-opening. The new manager is determined to make it the UK's answer to Disneyland, burying its disturbing history once and for all. Joining the raft of new employees are twin sisters Bette and JJ. Bette just wants to have a good time, for JJ, it's a chance to forget her past and transform into a new version of herself. But the past doesn't go away just because you want it to... Hugely entertaining. AC

The Rialto Report

This is an incredible living history project brought to life through scrubulous research and candid, hugely engaging indepth interviews. This is a podcast for anyone who loves the TV series The Deuce or the Paul Thomas Anderson film Boogie Nights. It is the story of the adult film industry from 1972 to 1984, when it was based in New York, run by independent film-makers, largely performed by trained theatre-actors, and had ambitions to be taken seriously and wanted to break into the mainstream.

Shot on film and distributed in independent cinemas in New York and San Francisco, for a brief decade these adult film-makers had dreams they could change the movie landscape.

Hardcore films like The Devil in Miss Jones, The Opening of Misty Beethoven and Roomates were not only reviewed in respectable publications like Variety and Village Voice but they gained good notices as reviewers were surprised to discover that they had something to say other than presenting sex on screen.

Ashley West, an Englishman in New York, and his wife April Hall have spent more than ten years tracking down writers, directors and performers to be interviewed for this ongoing series - hearing stories of how performers like Jamie Gillis and Eric Edwards were busy all day on set before going off to do Shakespeare in the Park or summer stock at night, while Georgina Spelvin juggled her time with performances in Pyjama Game on Broadway, Terri Hall was a member of the New York Ballet and crew members were going from adult films like Barbara Broadcast to Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets and Woody Allen's Annie Hall. Fascinating. AC

Truth & Movies: A Little White Lies podcast

This is a great little show for movie lovers and film buffs. Run by the team over at Little White Lies magazine, this podcast takes a look at the most exciting new releases hitting the big screen. The hosts rank each film out of 5 for 'anticipation', 'enjoyment' and 'in retrospect', offering a fresh and unique way of reviewing the latest movies.

Each episode concludes with a segment called Film Club, where the hosts take a look at a classic film - often highlighting a movie which links up thematically to one of the new releases. This podcast is a great way to keep up with what's coming to cinemas, and to discover some forgotten gems. EC


Would you be able to recall every little detail about what you did last Wednesday between 10-10.30am? Where you were, who you saw, what conversations you had? Chances are, you'd struggle. Following the murder of Hae Min Lee, police asked Woodlawn High School students to recall their every move from weeks earlier - when ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was found guilty, shockwaves were sent through the community. Serial divides opinions about Adnan's innocents and raises some serious questions about the validity of his conviction - what conclusion will you come to? LB

True Crime Garage

Crack open the beers, sit back and listen while Nic and the Captain dive into the some of the most haunting true crime cases from across the globe. Whether they're discussing unsolved murders, unplanned attacks or abducted children, the pair will compare facts, theories and opinions. They also have an Off The Record podcast, for those who can't get enough and need case updates. LB

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