Enough of TAL, I want something else
January 20, 2012 5:49 PM   Subscribe

I've gone off This American Life. What podcasts should I listen to?

I can't quite articulate what put me off This American Life. It started feeling preachy, or something. Everyone who does a story sounds exactly the same, somehow. [insert standard criticism of TAL here, please]

So what do I listen to? Well, right now it's just Football Weekly from the Guardian and Fighting Talk, so that probably doesn't help much. Back when they existed, I listened to Guardian Daily and Islamophonic.

I really hate The Prairie Home Companion. The concept of This American Life appeals to me, but I'm sick of the execution. In some ways, Islamophonic was in the TAL vein, though it was a mix of stories and discussions.

In English or German, please. Or French or Danish if it's exciting enough and easy enough to understand to resurrect my dying French and Danish skills.
posted by hoyland to Computers & Internet (50 answers total) 184 users marked this as a favorite
As you probably know, there's a Metafilter podcast.
posted by box at 5:50 PM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm addicted to In Our Time. And now they have the entire archive in iTunes - so I've been working through dozens of history-themed podcasts.
posted by nightwood at 5:53 PM on January 20, 2012 [8 favorites]

Radiolab is pretty good.
posted by 200burritos at 5:53 PM on January 20, 2012 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh, yeah, meant to mention that I used to listen to Desert Island Discs as well. Not sure why I stopped. Possibly due to lack of time.
posted by hoyland at 5:59 PM on January 20, 2012

There might be other NPR things that you'd like--maybe Storycorps or On the Media or Science Friday or Planet Money?
posted by box at 6:00 PM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I always enjoy the Moth. Which reminds me, I need to be listening to this on my commute.
posted by lilnublet at 6:06 PM on January 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

Radio Lab and The Moth are excellent choices that are similar to radio lab in that, if they were books, you'd call the, nonfiction. Also excellent, WireTap
posted by Patbon at 6:08 PM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've had the opposite experience with This American Life: in my opinion they're getting far better in stretching beyond their old social studies essays.

Their evisceration of Judge Amanda Williams in Georgia was bare-knuckled investigative journalism: I listened in amazement as the mild-mannered Ira Glass turned into Vincent Bugliosi.

My weeklies include: The Moth, Radiolab, Too Beautiful To Live, WTF, and frequent helpings of Car Talk and Wait,Wait, Don't Tell Me.

Warning: The Moth will occasionally throw in a particularly devastating tragedy, and you won't know it until you're looking for a place to pull over and sob.
posted by Kakkerlak at 6:08 PM on January 20, 2012 [10 favorites]

Second radio lab = TAL
posted by Patbon at 6:09 PM on January 20, 2012

The Night Air? It occasionally incorporates content from Radiolab and TAL, but it's more impressionistic, which is what I think radio does better than any other medium.

(I still miss Speechification, which was a wonderful curation of speech radio, and there's plenty in the archives, and the precursor tumblr, that might point you to other sources. Also, PRX is a motherlode that should be more widely known and celebrated.)
posted by holgate at 6:11 PM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you listen to Football Weekly, try the Football Ramble. It is divine. If you want a taste try their Hall of Fame section.
posted by banal evil at 6:13 PM on January 20, 2012

I've just started listening to Snap Judgment. It's an NPR podcast, and it's got a lot in common with TAL.

Funny current events? The Bugle and Friday Night News Quiz.

I listen to a lot of Maximum Fun podcasts, and they're all great. Bullseye has a MeFi connection, and My Brother, My Brother, and Me has endangered my life by making me laugh too hard while driving.

Last of all, a mixture of comedy and sports nerddom, Sklarbro Country.
posted by gladly at 6:13 PM on January 20, 2012

FWIW, I find RadioLab obnoxiously over-produced and too try-hard. It doesn't touch TAL.
posted by InsanePenguin at 6:13 PM on January 20, 2012 [15 favorites]

Moth, Snap Judgement, the Tobolowsky Files.

I freakin' love all three.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 6:14 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Re:Sound from the Third Coast International Audio Festival is similar to TAL in a "stories fitting a theme" format, but gathers up really amazing radio story gems from all over the world. I really love it. Also nthing the Maximum Fun podcasts. Love them all
posted by goggie at 6:22 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Moth mentioned above. If you like that you will probably also enjoy Story Collider which is basically the Moth for science geeks.

Also on my list is Selected Shorts, which is professional actors reading some very fine short stories.
posted by roue at 6:33 PM on January 20, 2012

I also like Radiolab as a similar "series of stories and investigation on a theme" podcast. It does have a different production style that I like, but some people can't stand, with more overt editing that strikes me as somewhat cinematic in style, and with more overt interaction with the co-hosts than TAL.

Also in the "true stories" podcast genre are The Moth and Story Collider, each of which usually features a single, shorter story (occasionally two very short ones), told by the person it happened to. The Moth focuses more on general live storytelling, while Story Collider is all science-related stories.

Other people have recommended the Snap Judgement podcast, but I never really took to their style. YMMV.
posted by JiBB at 6:38 PM on January 20, 2012

You might try The Story. It's just the host talking to random people about stories from their lives, which are sometimes quite compelling. I don't listen to the podcast (I seem to catch it on the air randomly every few weeks) so I can't speak to the signal/noise ratio.
posted by cabingirl at 6:38 PM on January 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

If you like Football Weekly, you might consider The Football Ramble. I would say that's my second favourite football podcast (Football Weekly, primarily for AC Jimbo and Baz) is my first.
posted by kendrak at 6:52 PM on January 20, 2012

Hardcore History. The Fall of the Roman Republic episodes alone are like two days worth of content.

If you like the "make fun of bad movies" genre, there's The Flophouse, How Did This Get Made?, and Read It And Weep (though they do books too - I sponsored the Physick Book of Deliverance Dane episodes as a gift for my wife).
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:08 PM on January 20, 2012

No matter how busy I get WireTap is the one I make sure I listen to every week.
posted by dgeiser13 at 7:33 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

nth-ing RadioLab. It's amazing.
posted by buzzkillington at 7:39 PM on January 20, 2012

posted by shes_ajar at 7:43 PM on January 20, 2012

Seconding several already mentioned:

Leonard Lopate on WNYC. This is a daily arts and culture cast. Lopate has been doing radio forever. He is highly intelligent and does excellent author interviews. He does an occasional feature called "Please Explain" where experts present a broad topic such as Will Power, or tuberculosis, or the UN General Assembly. It's a podcast for grownups.

The Moth. Story-telling for a live audience. Usually quite good.

WTF. Comedian Marc Maron does interviews. The interview subject is usually another comedian. Sometimes they are funny and sometimes they are very deep. Maron's honesty is disarming. He has a natural talent for interviewing. It's worth downloading the past episodes. If you don't like profanity, skip the intro.

Seattle Public Radio's Weekday broadcast has two features worth pulling out of their podcast feed:
-- Wednesday discussion of current events in Canada.
-- Nancy Pearl's book recommendations. Pearl is a super-librarian. She knows everything and her enthusiasm is infectious.

The Long Shot weekly podcast. Four comedians shooting the breeze and trying to best one another. They always crack me up.

TBTL. Seattle-based daily podcast with a very loyal following. It can sometimes be silly and boring. But when it's good it's really good. The hosts at once self-effacing and self-important.
posted by valannc at 7:48 PM on January 20, 2012

Here's The Thing
Let's Be Self Sufficient
posted by FatRabbit at 7:53 PM on January 20, 2012

The highly underrated and under-broadcast To the Best of Our Knowledge.
posted by Miko at 8:02 PM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm getting tired of TAL.
To replace the silence my favorites have been:
RadioLab - definitely overproduced but that's what I love about it--you don't just get fascinating content, you always have a really cool audio experience. The themes have, for the most part, been very entertaining to me (it's mainly science-y).

Freakonomics - I heard an early episode of the podcast when it first started and it didn't appeal to me, but, a friend had me listen again to more recent shows and now I'm a subscriber. It's very similar to TAL though, even the host's voice has a similar sound. If you read the book the podcast generally goes along the same subjects.

The Dinner Party Download - this used to be a quick listen but they recently started producing an hour-long show but always follows the same format. The main premise of the podcast is to give you things to talk about/do/drink/serve at your next dinner party.

The Splendid Table - a food podcast. If you're into food and drinks this is a great listen. I salivate excessively through the whole thing. There's a large variety of segments including a "game" type deal where a caller will give the host 5 ingredients and the host must come up with a dish, they have people call in and ask questions, they share recipes, they interview cookbook authors, etc.

Slate: Culture Gabfest - there are people who really hate this show... but I love it. I think the main reason certain people hate it is because the hosts have extensive vocabularies and lists of obscure/you-would-only-know-this-if-you-read-this-book-in-college references that they aren't afraid to use--I often don't get their jokes but I still find the 3 main hosts hilarious. They have really great chemistry. Basically, it's discussions on somewhat current cultural objects like movies, tv shows, books, and art.

I also love The Moth, but, as some people have mentioned you need to be available to feeling any range of emotion when you're listening. I don't listen in my car anymore because I've cried myself off the road.
posted by simplethings at 8:59 PM on January 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

I would second, third and fourth In Our Time (history, literature, history, science, history).

Ideas from CBC is also excellent - I especially enjoyed the recent documentaries Zionism from within and On Being a Muslim in the West.

Other favourites include The Economist podcast (especially Babbage, their tech podcast) and Planet money.
posted by jb at 9:02 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is also Stuff You Should Know, which is associated with HowStuffWorks.com and The Discovery Channel. (Look it up on Itunes, their own site's a bit of a PiTA.) It's a show that veers wildly from subject to subject, and yet is consistently entertaining because of the laid-back chemistry of the hosts. They'll do everything from the sun to the CIA acid experiments to silly putty --- the hosts are smart, curious, and fascinated by the stuff they find out, but down to earth.
posted by Diablevert at 9:15 PM on January 20, 2012

I'd like to add, I base my love for Snap Judgement and The Tobolowsky Files on three criteria:

- Do I stay in the car mid-podcast after I arrive at my destination, to hear what happens next?
- Do I have at least one HOLY EFF, WTH moment?
- Do I annoy my husband by retelling all the crazy parts of the story in our next conversation?

This happens to me almost every episode for either podcast.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 9:19 PM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

there's a whole world of great stuff for you to discover on radio national: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/

the 360 documentaries might be just what you are looking for:


much to my surprise i also really like counterpoint:


on the surface it seems like a centre-right political/social analysis show, but the story I've been told about it is that it was created by a couple of lefties who wanted something that would challenge their cherished notions in a thoughtful way.
posted by compound eye at 10:23 PM on January 20, 2012

(and although the story i've been told about counterpoint is probably not true, its a good description of the show)
posted by compound eye at 10:24 PM on January 20, 2012

This isn't exactly in the same vein, but lately I've become quite fond of the BBC History Magazine's "History Extra Podcast". Really interesting.
posted by amtho at 10:31 PM on January 20, 2012

Radio4 Documentary of the Week for features
Pop Culture Happy Hour for general fun and great hosts
posted by clerestory at 11:37 PM on January 20, 2012

I like a lot of these already, and some I'm looking forward to sampling.

A cousin to Stuff You Should Know is Stuff You Missed in History Class.
posted by K.P. at 1:27 AM on January 21, 2012

You might like Risk!, its a story-telling show and podcast hosted by Kevin Allison of The State.
posted by anansi at 7:17 AM on January 21, 2012

Peter Day's World of Business is about 200 times more interesting and entertaining than the title would lead you to imagine.
posted by oliverburkeman at 7:20 AM on January 21, 2012

Snap Judgment is great, also check out The State We're In, Radiolab, ... recently discovered Judge John Hodgman (though the format is different from TAL)
posted by l'esprit de l'escalier at 7:54 AM on January 21, 2012

Definitely Not the Opera from CBC is worth looking into
posted by sinical at 10:17 AM on January 21, 2012

I also do not care for TAL and loathe Prairie Home Companion. I generally find Radiolab too precious to listen to, so maybe we have similar taste. As for the podcasts I listen to regularly, most are not explicitly story-ish in the way TAL and Radiolab are, but I feel they allow people to tell their own stories via thoughtful, skilled interviews. As far as the ones I listen to that don't have a story-ish element/feel, perhaps just seeing what someone who may have similar taste listens to would be helpful. Here's the list:

WTF with Marc Maron
Our Hen House
Pop Culture Happy Hour
Pop My Culture
Here's the Thing
Girl on Guy
Slate Culture Gabfest
Slate Political Gabfest
The Afterword
Stuff You Should Know
Third Coast International Audio Festival
Fresh Air
On the Media
Doug Loves Movies
Citizen Radio
Fresh Air
The Dork Forest
posted by Rudy Gerner at 10:46 AM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

StoryCorps might be a decent stand-in for what's missing for you in TAL.
posted by rhizome at 11:22 AM on January 21, 2012

My list right now is:
On the Media
Stuff You Should Know
Stuff You Missed in History Class
American RadioWorks
It's All Politics
Slate's Poliical Gabfest
In Our Time

Thanks for the question - I see a lot of new ones to try!
posted by munichmaiden at 12:44 PM on January 21, 2012

You've been given the advice of Slate's Cultural and Political podcasts and since you listen to the Guardian Football podcast, let me reco Slate's Sports podcast: Hang Up and Listen. It is the antithesis of typical sports talk radio. While the previous weeks sports are discussed they are also more than likely to have conversations with authors and documentarians.

Leonard Lopate can be great when he is engaged with the topic. It can be borderline awful when he is disinterested in something. His station mate Brian Lehrer does as a much better job as interviewer. His show skews more current events/politics but there is a lot of overlap of subject matter. As some one who doesn't live in NYC, you do have to do some curating with their feeds because I'd say about half the time the subjects are hyper-local like interviewing some Congressman from a district in the Bronx which are completely uninteresting to an outsider.
posted by mmascolino at 1:18 PM on January 21, 2012

FWIW, I find RadioLab obnoxiously over-produced and too try-hard. It doesn't touch TAL.

I hate how the interview clips will fade in and out with the hosts' narration. And the "unscripted" scripted-sounding exchanges between the hosts.

I love the idea behind TAL, but it's frustrating when they have an intriguing theme, and only one or two of the stories fit into it like they should.

There's the "How to Do Everything" podcast, as promoted on "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me." As they put it, it's half advice show, half survival guide. But for the life of me I can't figure out how to download new or old episodes, except for this archive of the last few months. (Looks like they recently covered a MeFi classic: "who" vs "whom")
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 5:19 PM on January 21, 2012

*** Essential listening for the recovering This American Life listener ***

Here are some podcasts that I enjoy tremendously. YMMV

Uhh Yeah Dude
Comedy Bang Bang
Sklarbro Country
posted by eddydamascene at 10:36 PM on January 21, 2012

I still listen to TAL, and I also listen to a large percentage of the podcasts rec'ed here. I'll throw A Way With Words into the pot--it's an amusing (though occasionally twee) Q&A show about the origins of words and phrases in English, though there is infrequent discussion of idioms and such from other languages. I love hearing the stories from listeners about the sayings their relatives use and requests to settle linguistic arguments between spouses/lovers/siblings. Ask Metafilter is mentioned somewhat regularly.

The Nerdist Writer's Panel is interesting if you care about stories from behind the scenes of television (and sometimes feature) production. Lots of insider discussion of how tv gets written & made from writers who work on shows like Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Buffy, etc. The "what are you watching & loving" segments make for a decent tv recommendation engine.
posted by xyzzy at 12:47 AM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Little Atoms.
posted by greytape at 12:56 PM on January 22, 2012

I really like The Dinner Party Download, but maybe that's because I like irreverent dilettante-ish trivia about literature, history, whatever. And I love a lot of the cocktail recipes.

And I was a diehard Radiolab fan a few years back, to give you an idea of what kind of taste I have I guess.
posted by ifjuly at 11:41 AM on January 24, 2012

2nding 99% invisible. Just came across it and its A+.

More or less from the BBC. Podcast about stats if thats your thing.

nthing Slate Culture Gabfest. I always find something interesting to check out.

HBR Ideacast. From the Harvard Business Review highlighting a story from the HBR, usually via an interview with an author. Very informative stuff.

nthing Planet Money. It's been consistently great over the past few years.
posted by jourman2 at 10:50 AM on January 28, 2012

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