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Sean’s Podcast Power Rankings – August 2015

Sean’s Podcast Power Rankings – August 2015

It’s been a while (over a year, actually) so I’ve been thinking about how much my tastes and interests in podcasts have changed in that time. So, I figured it was a good time for a new power ranking.

Basically, I imagine that a new episode of all the podcasts I listen to come out on the same day. Then I determine the order in which I would likely listen to them. A podcast ranking is born.

Here are the previous rankings. Now, let’s find out where things stand in August 2015.

Honorable Mention: Serial, Sklarbro County, Startup Podcast, F This Movie!, SPONTANEANATION, Mystery Show, The Cracked Podcast

Serial, Mystery Show and Startup would probably be on the list if they weren’t on hiatus (though there’s a new Mystery Show episode now!) but I’m readily awaiting the next episodes of those. Like most improv podcasts, SPONTANEANATION is hit & miss (though the hits are really great). I couldn’t give you a strong reason by Sklarbro County has gone from a must-listen to “only if I have nothing else” but here we are. Maybe I just needed to take a break. Same goes for The Cracked Podcast, which is starting to get a little repetitive.

10. Planet MoneySometimes I just want to get in and get out and Planet Money is break podcast for that. Usually no more than 15-20 minutes long, I usually find the topics way more interesting than a podcast about finances and markets has any right to be. On paper, this shouldn’t appeal to me. In reality, I always get something out of it.

Recent Episode Of Note: Why We Work So Much, which explains why we’d much rather work 50 hours a week than 15.

9. DeadcastI was already a fan of Drew Magary so that’s half the battle. The show itself can be a little wonky as he and Tim Marchman are doing it in separate places via Skype (or something like that). So there’s often awkward pauses and talking over one another. But, it’s the kind of refreshingly fun sports talk you’d expect to hear from Deadspin folks. Usually a good length and I like that they focus on 1-2 topics rather than trying to jam a lot of different things in.

Recent Episode Of Note: Tom Brady Lied and Killed Babies With His Lies, the requisite response to this dumb scandal.

8. Comedy Bang Bang - I have a love/hate relationship with CBB. I think it’s because of the length and the sometimes iffy guests/characters. The guests usually determine if I’ll listen to the show. People like James Adomian, Jason Mantzoukas, Ben Schwartz and Paul F. Tompkins are required listens.

Recent Episode Of Note: Bongos vs. Bongos, Zouks, PFT and Andy Daly. That’s about as good a guest trio as you can get.

7. Reply All – The guys who used to host  the TLDR podcast at On The Media came over to Gimlet Media and haven’t missed a beat with their new version. Their focus is The Internet and all of the strange, interesting stories that come about on or because of it. That’s right in my wheelhouse. The show is entertaining, the topics are almost always interesting and the format is a great length for my attention span.

Recent Episode Of NoteThe Reddit Implosion Explainer, a bonus episode that gives you everything you need to know about the recent Reddit scandal.

6. 99% Invisible - Like Planet Money, another podcast that doesn’t sound like it would be up my alley on paper. But it’s the varied topics and the ways that design & architecture reach into aspects of our lives we don’t even think about (hence the title) that fascinate me. Episodes range from the value of a good flag to automated driving systems to how the colored ribbon became the go-to symbol for causes. Each episode feels like such a departure from the previous one that it’s always fresh.

Recent Episode Of Note: Children of the Magenta, part one of a two-part series on the relationship between man and automatic machines. Should we trust machines to drive our cars and planes by themselves or do we need to make sure we continue to have control?

5. We Hate MoviesThere are three keys to a good “bad movie” podcast. Ideally, everyone needs to be in the same place. There’s an energy to it that can’t be done over phones and FaceTime. Two, there has to be great rapport between the hosts. That’s why we really listen. Third, it has to be funny. The people involved have to be funny. That’s not something you can teach. WHM is the rare bad movie podcast that hits all those bases without involving celebrities or popular comedians. Sometimes they seem to find things to hate just for the sake of hating it (in a Best Week Ever kind of way). Usually, though, they have very good reason for their disdain.

Recent Episode Of Note: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which gives the guys a chance to work out their British accents. Always a plus.

4. This American Life - Boring choice? I don’t care. They’re really, really good at what they do and they’ve set the tone for so many radio shows and podcasts that have been created in their wake. One of the few podcasts that can hit you right in the feels and then immediately light up your spirits (and right back the other way). They have a great balance of episodes that feel vitally important and episodes that are just a lot of fun to listen to.

Recent Episode Of Note: NUMMI, which explained why the U.S. auto industry failed so poorly despite having a shining factory right here at home. Amusement Park is also great if only because we get to meet a real-life Michael Scott.


3. NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour - It is the rare Friday morning that I leave the house before downloading the new episode of PCHH. A great collection of hosts and rotating guests who all speak to a different kind of pop culture fandom or geekery. The topics usually include the big pop culture story of the week along with a deep-dive topic that gets to the heart of why we like (or dislike) the things we like (or dislike). And I often get good tips from their Things That Are Making Me Happy at the end of the episode. The mini-episodes are often good but usually depend on the topic.

Recent Episode Of Note: Inside Out and Moms And Dads In Love

2. The Flop House - A tough 2nd-place finish here because they easily could have been No. 1. They do everything right when it comes to a bad movie podcast and the movie is less important than the trio’s banter and how well they know how to riff off of one another. Their catchphrases are legend at this point. I think the reason it’s here is for the times when one of the Original Peaches isn’t there. It always affects the value of the episode. And if Eliot Kalen is missing, it almost always makes the proceedings not anywhere near as fun as they could have been. At full strength, it’s a hard podcast to beat pound-for-pound.

Recent Episode Of Note: Jupiter Ascending, a movie made for this podcast

1. How Did This Get Made - I tried to think of all the times I listened to HDTGM and didn’t enjoy the episode. In the 100+ iterations (of which I’ve listened to all of them), there’s maybe one or two. Another bad movie podcast where the three keys are met. It’s also one where each host brings something very different to the table. Paul Scheer is a great host, Jason Mantzoukas is the engine that drives the comedy and June Diane Raphael is the only one actually trying to answer the question in the title of the podcast…in her own way. Another podcast where the catchphrases and references keep on and on as well. The structure is spot on as well, with the rundown of insane five-star Amazon reviews at the end of each episode one of the highlights.

Recent Episode Of Note: Runaway, a Tom Selleck movie time forgot but I watched 576 times as a kid. 


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