Firstly, I think I should let you know that I’m now using the Overcast app on my iPhone. It is the best client for podcasts that I’ve used and it leaves the default iPhone app for dead. It takes a little getting used to, but once you become familiar it is great.
I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts so below I am only listing and briefly reviewing those that made an impression this year. I’ll try to let you know how often I listened to them, what they cover and how I’d rate them for content and sound. Yes, sound quality is a biggie for me as some podcasters still don’t seem to have figured out why it is so important in this medium.
Oh, I am not providing links as everyone uses different hosts and they are all very easy to search for and find if you’re that interested. Here we go then, mind the step …
…These Are Their Stories: The Law & Order Podcast. I’m a regular listener, even though I have rarely watched this show on TV. I like the hosts, the regular features and the guests and there are always some laughs. Sound quality is always great. The content is always entertaining. ****
Bad Women: The Ripper Retold & The Blackout Ripper. I’m a regular listener, but it is starting to get a little annoying. I can’t put my finger on it, but it may have something to do with the host and/or her delivery. I’ve tried a few Pushkin podcasts and they all seem to have a similar “flavour”. Sound quality is good and I think the content sometimes strays a little too far from the main theme. I hate their ads. ***
Bone Valley. Spoilers ahead! This podcast really is outstanding, but so sad. I’d put it in the same class as about a handful of US true crime podcasts that deal with wrongful convictions (e.g. Serial, Undisclosed, Accused and In The Dark). Host Gilbert King and his colleagues do a fantastic job investigating the tragic murder of 18-year-old Michelle Schofield in 1987. Sound quality is great and the content is excellent. *****
The Chaser. I like this podcast. They seem to provide a few short episodes each week and they provide a very amusing, but frankly rare and honest take on politics and the news in general. They are very good at calling out the lazy arseholes, liars, grifters and clowns who pollute politics and make it the sewer it is. They record using professional equipment and sound is great. ****
The Coodabeen Champions. Unfortunately the Coodabeens were dropped by ABC Radio and now we have to put up with the lamest ads from their commercial radio host. I’m a regular listener and have been for years. Sometimes the quality of the songs leaves a bit to be desired and I find the show is ALWAYS better when Simon is on, but there are always a few laughs and some good guests. I do love Sam the Sub and the “Talk-Back” callers. Sound quality is great unless they’re on OB in country Victoria! ****
Crime in Sports. Presented by comedians James Pietragallo and Jimmie Whisman, this podcast has been going for a very long time and still presents episodes that are generally around three hours in length. I am very selective with my listening and most of the time I have no idea who they are talking about, but the stories are always amazing. Sound quality is fine and Jimmie’s reading out of the supporters names each episode is always good for a laugh. A good show to have up your sleeve for long drives? ***+
Crimes of the Centuries. Each crime is covered in one episode and they’re all well chosen bu host Amber Hunt, so I am a regular listener. Sound quality is great and the content is always interesting. ****
Crime Writers On … True Crime Review. I’ve listened to them since they started (… On Serial). Sound quality is always great and the content is still interesting. They can sometimes be a little US-centric and dismissive of others on this planet. ***+
The Effortless Swimming Podcast. I’m an occasional and very picky listener as I think that if you listened to everything Brenton Ford has to say about swimming, you’d just end up a confused mess. I listen when a friend I swim with lets me know there’s been a good episode and when the notification I get from Overcast looks interesting. Sound quality is usually good. ***+
The Generation Why Podcast. I guess I am addicted to true crime stories and Aaron & Justin hhave been covering them since 2012. They break down the crimes, the investigations and convictions and the episodes are generally around 60 mins in length. Maybe they are an acquired taste, but I am a regular listener and the sound quality is always good. ***+
Hawks Insiders. This is aimed at Hawthorn FC supporters in the AFL competition here in Australia, so they have a smallish target audience. They mostly have something of value to add, but as “supporters” I thought they became too publicly critical of our players this year, especially our younger players, when they gave some rather stinging post-match ratings early on in the 2022 season. This seemed to have been moderated, possibly after my complaints to them and others via Twitter, and I was grateful for that. What they did not address, however was having consistently awful sound quality for some or all of their panellists, but especially Ash Browne, who sounds like he has 10 seconds to tell you everything he knows with a mouthful of marbles from inside a tin garbage can. Their off-season interviews with HFC Board candidates cleared nothing up for me as none of those they interviewed actually said what they really think. I skipped a few because boring. And if I hear “The Family Club” again without someone actually defining what this means in football these days I will just scream. Some of their best content this year came from the young son of one of the panellists! I hope to hear some improvement in 2023. **+
Hawk Talk Podcast. Another pod aimed at HFC supporters, but I think Nick and Tizz do a much better job with less resources. Their criticisms of our team are much more objective and never insulting or demeaning for the players (with one or two exceptions!). They also know how to entertain and they capitalise on their personalities. I never miss their episodes and thanks to Nick their sound quality is always excellent. ****
Health Report. This is a regular short (30 mins) ABC radio podcast presented by Dr Norman Swan and Tegan Taylor. It is well produced and presented, but I am selective on the subject matter that I download for listening. ***+
Huberman Lab. Dr Andrew Huberman deals with a myriad of health and longevity matters that I find sometimes to be very compelling and others not so much. One issue is that each episode is usually 2-3 hours long. And there is quite a bit of scientific detail provided. I only listen to selected episodes on subjects that I find interesting. One complaint I have is his endorsements. They tend to go on and on and they can be very repetitive. Sorry, but Overcast’s 30 sec advance button does come in handy. He needs someone to tell him how to cut his episodes down to 60-90 mins. As a colleague told me once, “If you want to bore [the audience], leave nothing out.” Sound is fine. ***+
Hunting Seasons – A TV Podcast. Brod and Damask do a great job with this podcast as they binge-watch and then deep-dive on full seasons of (mostly) streaming TV series. I listen to selected episodes when they cover a show I might be interested in watching. Mostly, however, our tastes in shows do not coincide, or I do not subscribe to the same streaming service. I do enjoy their Off Topic/Hot Topic episodes, usually with guests, when they all discuss what they’ve been watching. Sound is good. ***+
Inside with Brett Hawke. See my comments on the Effortless Swimming Podcast above. Some episodes are much better and less self-indulgent than others. ***+
Kermode and Mayo’s Take. I can’t figure out whether K&M dropped the BBC or the BBC dropped them. I stayed with them in any case. I think it is a great mix of two very different personalities and friends who put together a weekly show of about 90 mins that is entertaining and sometimes surprising. The guest interviews are usually quite revealing and always interesting. I’m a regular listener/”church member”. Sound quality is usually good. ****
Lanterne Rouge Cycling Podcast. I listen to these guys around the grand tours, monuments and some UCI road championships. They’re always opinionated and informative. I still find them entertaining and they’re a good break from the awful commentators we have on free-to-air cycling programs in Australia. Their daily stage highlights on Youtube are also good. Sound is no problem ****
Le Monstre. From Tenderfoot, this a pretty gruesome tale of the horrible Marc Dutroux and associates who terrorised Belgium in the 80s and 90s. I think it is pretty well made and I was a regular listener. Sound quality is good. ****
Liar, Liar: Melissa Caddick and the Missing Millions. What an awful person she must have been or still is. A complete grifter obsessed with personal greed at the expense of anyone she was related to, friendly with or had just met. I think I wandered around listening to this with my mouth wide open in disbelief most of the time. The there was that time I saw her competing on Ninja Warrior Australia (with both feet), but that’s another story … I liked the presentation from Kate McClymont and her colleague and the sound quality was always good. ****
The MLK Tapes. This podcast presented some really interesting information about the killing of Dr Martin Luther King. I think it is a gripping story that is really well told and I listened to all of it. ****
Over My Dead Body, Season 3: Fox Lake. This one from Wondery tells the story of a small town cop supposedly gunned down in a swamp in 2015. He quickly became a martyr until his dark and bizarre past was brought to light by a determined investigator. Sound is good ***+
The Peter Attia Drive. This is presented by Peter Attia MD and focuses on optimising performance, health and longevity. Again, I am very selective with the episodes as some subjects just do not interest me. Some episodes can run well over three hours, although a lot of that is Peter talking about Peter, so maybe you could skip all of that. Sound is all good. ***+
The Piketon Massacre. We are now on Season 4 and all seasons have been about the same crime. It was the most notorious mass massacre in Ohio’s history in 2016, but boy do they cover it in some detail. In a recent episode, Mountain of Evidence, covering the trial of one of the accused murderers, one of the podcast’s guests has a jab at the prosecutor taking so much time laying out all the evidence of the murders before getting specific about the defendant on trial. I began thinking about pots calling kettles black. Seriously? Another annoying aspect of this podcast are the awfully annoying adverts. They seem to go for 15-20 mins sometimes. I think clocks go slower when they are on. Sound is good and the subject matter, whilst gruesome is usually interesting. In some episodes they seem to be drawing a very long bow in terms of relevance. ***+
Pod Save America. Presented by four very smart former aides to President Obama, this show analyses the week in US political news, so usually I listen only in the run up to significant elections and the wash-up of same. They provide a unique take that is not tarnished by mainstream media its billionaire owners. Like some other successful podcasts they know how to let the personalities of the hosts add to the production without dominating or sidetracking it. I also enjoy the way they present their own ads/endorsements. ****
The Real Science of Sport Podcast. I really like this podcast, but I am selective about the episodes I listen to as some subjects are just of limited interest to me. Having said that I think Professor Ross Tucker and his sports journalist mate Mike Finch are a good mix of presenters and they do a fantastic job on some quite controversial subjects, such as performance enhancing drugs and gender identity in sports. Some of the episodes I’ve listened to have been excellent. ****
Roy & HG – Bludging on the Blindside. I don’t know how they manage to present such hilarious content about football once a week, although there is a lot of material for them to work with, especially from “rugba league” players. I find myself laughing out loud all the time. Professionally recorded sound quality ****+
Small Town Murder. From James and Jimmie who gave us Crime in Sports, this show takes a comedic spin on horrible tragedies. I am very selective with my downloading of episodes but they are usually pretty entertaining (if somewhat longish). Sound is good. ***+
Sports Bizarre. This is a relatively new offering, from Titus O’Reilly and Mick Molloy. Initially I thought they’d just cover the same material as Crime in Sports, but they have managed to carve out a unique subject area. Titus I suspect does all of the research and 90% of the presenting, so Mick is really just in a foil role and has little of any value to offer. Sound is good. I’m not yet totally convinced but it filled a post-AFL season gap in y listening habits. ***
Stolen: Surviving St. Michael’s. Presented by journalist Connie Walker, I thought this podcast was excellent, but very disturbing. Connie is one of a handful of people who could make me listen to any podcast they make. It tells a story familiar to most Australians of stolen generations of indigenous children (in Canada) who were forcibly subjected to abuse and torment by nuns and priests. Just as in Australia, the abusers all seem to have been able to avoid criminal prosecution. Connie’s late father was one of these children, although she does reveal how he did exact a little revenge. ****+
Tony Martin’s SIZZLETOWN. I thank the podcast gods that content like this is still free. This is a wonderful late-night call-in podcast and it is so well produced. I tell everyone I know with a functioning brain about it. I LOVE the Pikelet Man and I am allergic to 99% of cats. Sound quality is excellent of course with Matt Dower on the Pots n Pans. I laugh so much that I find myself stopping and rewinding all the time so that I don’t miss anything. Thank you, thank you, thank you! ****+
True Crime Obsessed. From what is now the Obsessed Network, Patrick Hinds and Gillian Pensavalle have not lost their unique take on true crime stories after over 270 episodes. They’re still funny together and each show is entertaining, even if sometimes I cannot tell you what the subject matter is. Sound is always great. ****
Will Be Wild. This pod is named for something the big orange baby who used to be the President of the US said when he incited a revolt on the US Capitol in that January 6 insurrection in 2021. The hosts maintain that January 6 was just the beginning of ongoing efforts to damage democracy in the US and they manage to tell it from the perspectives of ALL who were involved. I had no issues with the sound quality. ****
I should add that I did listen to some update episodes of Serial and Undisclosed this year to mark the release from prison of Adnan Syed in September. I also caught up with the trial and verdict of Ryan Duke with Up and Vanished in May.
And so we come to a film that I was not expecting to like, but I did. This is Zach Braff’s second film as director, as well as being this film’s screen writer and producer, and it was largely crowd funded via Kickstarter. It is really a very gentle comedy and a feel-good movie that deals with family relationships, the reality of life as an actor for most actors, love and the coming loss of a father and grandfather. After so much violence, grief and depression in most of the films I’ve seen this festival, Wish I Was Here came as a very welcome break.
I thought all the lead characters were great, including Mandy Patinkin, Kate Hudson, Josh Gad and of course Zach himself as the father of the two kids played by Joey King and Pierce Gagnon. Nobody is annoying or takes themselves too seriously.
The dialogue is cleverly humorous without trying to be too clever and there is also some very funny visual humour. The film is shot beautifully too. And about 10 years after Garden State, Zach Braff again uses some great music in the soundtrack including Bon Iver and Badly Drawn Boy. Zach and Kate even do a (thankfully short) version of James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James in their garage.
JOE proves that you don’t need to shoot a dwarf to succeed in a violent drama. Perhaps shooting a dwarf is the new jumping a shark?
It is set in the US South and it is very Southern-gothic. Joe, played perfectly by Nicholas Cage, has a violent past, but he is trying hard to make a straight go of it without losing his honour. He soon meets 15 year old Gary Jones who is looking for work for himself and his drunken old dad – played brilliantly by non-professional actor Gary Poulter. I know it sounds a little odd, but I think Tye Sheridan brings a little of Billy Elliot into Gary’s character and he does it really well.
Poverty and desperation are woven throughout this film. It is disturbing to see people still living like this, even in so-called developed countries like the US, but it is probably pretty close to the truth. It is a pretty dark film, but I liked that not all hope was lost.
I think Joe succeeded where The Rover failed terribly. 4/5