feed my ears, my eyes are busy
June 24, 2013 11:07 PM   Subscribe

I need recommendations for TV shows, audiodramas and audiobooks that I can really sink my teeth into. I'm asking for both in the same question because I need to be able to listen to the TV and still catch most everything; this is stuff I want to have on while I'm doing stuff with my hands. I'm a fan of fantasy, science fiction, drama and snark. More information and a list of favorite things after the jump.

I do a lot of beadwork, some sketching and some video gaming and I really like listening to things while I do that. Audiobooks and audiodramas are great for this, but I also like the sort of sprawling, long-running TV shows that give you intense amounts of character development. Some paying attention to what's going on on the screen is okay-- I can watch Veronica Mars and play Civ at the same time, for example-- but there are a lot of shows where I lose some context for action when I'm only looking up a couple of times a minute instead of watching constantly.

I'm mostly a sci-fi/fantasy person for books and I watch a lot of TV shows in that vein, but I'm happy to break out of that comfort zone if people have ideas for stuff I might like. I'm particularly interested in ones that have anything interesting going on in them, so bonus points for full casts, singing, music, etc. If you know the book you're recommending has a different narrator in the UK vs the US, let me know which one you liked so I can be sure to get that one.

I prefer both books and TV that have long-term character development, arching plotlines, and an emphasis on romantic subplots. My no-nos are lots of rape or torture scenes and particularly problematic racist or sexist content; I've spent enough time reading social justice stuff that it's really, really hard for me to read/watch/listen to that kind of stuff without it really distracting me from the plot.

Some audiobooks I've enjoyed before:
-Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
-The Old Kingdom by Garth Nix
-His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (the full cast audio on this one is a favorite of mine)
-Leviathan's Wake by James SA Corey
-Kushiel's Legacy by Jaqueline Carey
-The October Daye series by Seanan McGuire
-Swordspoint and The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner
-The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik
-Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
-The Areas of My Expertise and the follow-ups by John Hodgman

Some other audio stuff I've really enjoyed before:
-The Metamor City Podcast
-Podcastle, Escape Pod, Lightspeed Magazine and a handful of other short fiction podcasts
-Mur Lafferty's Afterlife series

Some TV shows I've really enjoyed before:
-Battlestar Galactica (Love this one but it really is too visual-heavy for what I'm talking about)
-All the Joss Whedon stuff (This has a similar problem to BSG)
-Veronica Mars
-Downton Abbey
-Gilmore Girls
-Parks and Recreation
posted by NoraReed to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Allow me to be the first to suggest the Welcome to Nightvale podcast! I love it as knitting listening--it's delightfully creepy and surreal.

I'm in the middle of the recent BBC production of Neverwhere, and am enjoying that quite a bit, as well.

This is a great way to watch Shakespeare adaptations, in my experience. There's often physical comedy, but the story is all in the words, so it doesn't matter so much if you're not looking up all the time. (Obviously this one may push some sexist/racist buttons, depending on the production, but it's worth looking into.)

Slightly out-there suggestion: Archer? It's an animated spy spoof, and despite it's total lack of appropriateness, it somehow manages not to push my sexist/racist buttons. (Like, yes, people say fucked up shit, but it's usually either clear that they're horrible people for saying that and everyone knows it, or they get smacked for doing so. Also, the best-best character is a black woman, and the next-best character is a fat white woman who is also, it turns out, super fucking fierce. So...tentative rec? It's on Netflix; give it an episode or two and if it's grossing you out, stop.)

Also, do you have a list of stuff you've tried and not liked? Because my knee-jerk here was Doctor Who!, but it seems like the kind of thing that you would've seen already, which made me wonder if you didn't like it. Recs might be easier with an "I hate this stuff" list.
posted by MeghanC at 12:29 AM on June 25, 2013

Best answer: I loved-loved-loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Days of Blood and Starlight, by Laini Taylor. The audiobooks are really well-done. (And long! Lots of delightful listening ahead.)
posted by tan_coul at 12:41 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I like the Doctor Who stuff I've seen-- it's all the current series-- but it's way too visual-intensive for me to use as listening material. I know there are a lot of audiodramas and I'd be totally game to try them out but I have no idea where to start on them.

I like Archer alright, it's just too visual for what I'm thinking of.

Stuff I've tried and not liked... I think the biggest one is the Game of Thrones books (though I haven't tried the TV show). There's a lot that I've heard recommended that I liked okay but wasn't super enthralled with-- Palimpest seems like it'd be right up my alley and I adore The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland but though there were parts I liked it didn't really draw me in and keep me. got bored with True Blood a few seasons in. I read the first Dresden Files and found Harry super irritating and didn't really like the style at all; that one seems to get recommended to me a lot because I like October Daye and Iron Druid.

The Shakespeare suggestion is a great one, though! And Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one I've seen around a lot and just haven't checked out yet, so I will definitely give that a try.
posted by NoraReed at 1:08 AM on June 25, 2013

MeghanC beat me to Welcome to Night Vale! I love it; especially now that there is one full year of episodes to enjoy. I enjoyed the Stephen Fry reading of The Hitchhiker's Guide very very much as idle knitting accompaniment. Also, the BBC's recent adaptation of Neverwhere is lovely.

This is somewhat far from the outlined 'scifi, fantasy, drama' but we have somewhat similar tastes and I love Cabin Pressure (hilarious BBC radio comedy) for this purpose. If your sense of humour is somewhere more along the lines of wordplay and situational comedy, this would be right up your alley. Occasional singing and a lovely cast.
posted by undue influence at 1:31 AM on June 25, 2013

The single best audiobook I have had the pleasure to listen to this year is Wolf Hall , by Hilary Mantel. The reader really gets the dry, subtle humor with which she writes so you'll find yourself laughing out loud a surprising amount. Plus it's fascinating and beautiful and utterly engrossing. And there's a sequel (equally well written but, sadly, not as well read).

Wolf Hall:


Sequel - Bring Up the Bodies

posted by janey47 at 2:11 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

The full cast Tenth Anniversary Edition recording of American Gods is absolutely fantastic.

World War Z [also a full cast recording] is really really great too.
posted by xqwzts at 3:07 AM on June 25, 2013

Best answer: ooh yes to american gods and also Anansi Boys is wonderful

and to keep you happily listening for a loooong time, try the audiobooks of Terry Pratchett's discworld series - they are hilarious, satirical, and really well read. Each character has their own voice which really brings the books to life.

More fun - The Hittchhikers guide to the galaxy books, read by Douglas Adams, and the Dirk Gently books.

and, though they are considered YA, the Bartimaeus Series are great fun to listen to
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:23 AM on June 25, 2013

Best answer: Some people mentioned The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy audiobooks, but I'll note that Hitchhiker's Guide was originally a a BBC radio comedy (that was then adapted into the first two books of the series), so has a full cast, sound effects, etc.
posted by t-rex at 5:29 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

You want the Big Finish line of audio dramas, which includes Doctor Who but also tons of other things. For Who, try "Spare Parts" and "Relative Dimensions," and then go into the 8th doctor series if you like them.

Jago & Litefoot is also good (a spin-off featuring two characters from a classic Who story, but no knowledge of it is needed). And I have heard good things about Gallifrey.
posted by jbickers at 5:55 AM on June 25, 2013

You need some Joe Frank.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:01 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

House is pretty optimal TV for following by audio alone.
posted by 256 at 6:54 AM on June 25, 2013

Seconding Big Finish, the first series of Eight and Lucy in particular is nicely self contained and relatively continuity light.

I'd also dip into the BBC Radio archives, there's lots of interesting stuff to stream from 4Extra for free worldwide
posted by brilliantmistake at 7:02 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding Cabin Pressure.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:36 AM on June 25, 2013

I just listened to Serena by Ron Rash and it was excellent. Very well done; I was on the edge of my seat listening while my eyes were glued to my computer or knitting or whatever I was doing.
posted by mibo at 7:37 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Audiobooks: Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant series: Rivers of London (U.K.)/Midnight Riot (US), Moon over Soho, and Whispers Under Ground, with a fourth one coming out next month in the UK and January in the US. Grant is a cop in a multicultural, magical London and is nicely snarky.
posted by telophase at 9:52 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you liked the Old Kingdom books, you might like Tamora Pierce's Beka Cooper books. They happen in her Tortall universe, but there's no need to have read the earlier stuff. The first one is Terrier.

The audiobook for Ready Player One is read by Wil Wheaton and full of awesome.
posted by monopas at 12:58 PM on June 25, 2013

For TV shows, I've found The Closer to be very listenable. Not SciFi, but I was surprised how much I liked it and often put it on for company when I have to do things that require I miss visual stuff. Like you, I just get too into BSG and neglect everything else.

Star Trek Deep Space 9 has low visual commitment for me too. I like to watch it while painting.
posted by monopas at 1:08 PM on June 25, 2013

Nerdist.com has a lot of good podcasts, but you'll want to look for the Thrilling Adventure Hour series. Short (20ish minutes) shows "done in the style of old-time radio!" with many fine actors you have seen on your television. Most of them are recurring series--I especially love Beyond Belief and Sparks Nevada Marshal on Mars.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:25 PM on June 25, 2013

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