Updated 17:07 PM PHT Thu, November 17, 2016
Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — There’s more to podcasts than “Serial.” The podcast, produced by “This American Life," brought to light an unsolved murder mystery in its first season and became a surprising international hit. The show’s host Sarah Koenig’s grave cadence, set to the ominous plinking of the background music, was even featured on Netflix’s “BoJack Horseman” as a ringtone.
Podcasts, a portmanteau of “iPod” and “broadcast,” have been around for years but have never seemed to gain the kind of traction that the first season of “Serial” did, at least outside of the circle that already listened to podcasts. By way of cultivating national interest and conducting extraneous investigation, the case that “Serial” looked into was set back in motion, years after it was “closed.”
There is no set format to podcasts, though many of them employ the simple set-up of interviewer-interviewee or host-caller, like most radio shows. However, like in the case of “Serial,” some involve a more intense production scheme, involving weeks of research, scripts, and putting them all together.
Not unlike audiobooks, which are basically just read-aloud versions of books, podcasts are usually episodic audio files, like radio shows, the perfect companion on long drives or your daily commute.
Podcast episodes are downloadable through the the shows’ websites or through podcast apps like Apple iOS’s Podcasts and Android’s Google Play Music, though more robust “podcatcher” apps are on the market. Here are seven podcasts you might want to try, if you’re experiencing “Serial” withdrawal.
The Writers Panel
Nerdist’s “The Writers Panel” is a podcast for writers, with writers, moderated by a writer. Episodes are usually either conversations with one or two writers, or thematic panels — Westerns, “one season wonders,” women showrunners — that gather a group of writers who produce similar work. Each session is moderated by Ben Blacker and spans writing of many kinds with a soft focus on writing for television and screen.
Alternately, try LitHub’s “A Phone Call from Paul,” which features authors on a phone call with NYPL’s Paul Holdengraber. Recent guests have included Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Junot Díaz, Werner Herzog, and John Berger.
You Must Remember This
Produced and narrated by Karina Longworth, “You Must Remember This” is a history lesson on Hollywood’s first century and gossip reel rolled into one. Learn about the classics, the actors, and the behind-the-scenes stories from infidelities to personal breakdowns, and the social and historical framework in which these events occurred.
Dear Sugar Radio
“Dear Sugar Radio” is an expansion of Dear Sugar, the online advice column on the Rumpus. Hosted by authors Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, the original “Sugars,” “Dear Sugar Radio” is your dose of radio call-in advice shows of yore. Listeners can send in their concerns, and the Sugars answer honestly — without candy coating, a seeming betrayal to their name — and sometimes call in other people who have been in the same boat as the distraught letter-sender, who can offer their own experiences for the concern at hand.
Having just wrapped up its second season, NPR’s “Invisibilia” (which is Latin for invisible things) explores science and how it relates to real people and human behavior, each in one-hour chunks. For example, the first episode, “The Secret History of Thoughts,” reveals what our thoughts say about who we are. Co-hosted by Lulu Miller, Hanna Rosin, and Alix Spiegel, “Invisibilia” looks into how “invisible forces” affect our humanity and how we behave and believe.
The Moth Podcast
“The Moth Podcast” celebrates the art of storytelling, with each episode featuring storytellers with true examples of the human experience, based on a theme, with their stories often going in unexpected directions. Founded in 1997, The Moth, whose tagline is “true stories told live,” has told thousands of stories to sold-out rooms and has published an NYT bestseller, “The Moth: 50 True Stories.” It hosts the Peabody Award-winning Moth Radio Hour each week.
Alternately, “The Mortified Podcast,” in the same vein as “The Moth Podcast,” gathers recordings of Mortified live readings, in which people read from their teenage diaries in front of an audience, the high drama often toppling over to uncontrollable laughter. Past readers include Elijah Wood, Alison Brie, and Alanis Morrisette.
“Song Exploder” episodes are usually short (under 30 minutes) and feature a wide variety of musicians — from Mitski to Wilco to Carly Rae Jepsen to Björk — who tell the story of how their songs are made. Artists explain the process of their songwriting and break one down into parts, to reveal what goes into the creation of a song.
Starlee Kine’s “Mystery Show” is a podcast where, quite simply, Kine solves mysteries, one of which was how a friend’s largely unsuccessful book landed in the hands of Britney Spears. Kine is a joyful investigator, injecting humor and curiosities in her investigations. The first season was released and is still hosted on Gimlet, but follow the “Mystery Show” Facebook page for updates on where to listen to the second one when it finds a new home.