What are your favorite podcasts that aren't chatty?
May 2, 2018 5:54 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for podcasts that are more structured and less chatty, what are your faves?

I want to like the Feminist Frequency podcast. I want to like the Feminist Killjoys podcast. I want to like the Jimquisition podcast.

But I can't. I just don't like the format of two or more clever people chatting and riffing off each other. I find a whole lot of them so that format must be really popular, but it doesn't do it for me. I'm looking for something more structured and scripted.

So far I've found You Are Not So Smart, Lexicon Valley, Science Friday, and of course Pod Save America.

But I'm looking for more on just about any topic. Leftist politics? Sure! Science and technology? Yup! Anthropology and sociology? Absolutely! Gaming, music theory, interior design, pop culture, relationships, feminism, medicine, woodworking, knitting? Yes! Topics I know nothing at all about? Please!

So what are your favorite interesting, weird, educational, and insightful podcasts that are on the more structured and scripted end of the spectrum?
posted by sotonohito to Computers & Internet (37 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
Grrr. Not Pod Save America. That's another of the chatty ones I couldn't get into. I meant to type Democracy Now.
posted by sotonohito at 6:26 PM on May 2, 2018

I have very similar tastes in terms of not enjoying rambly podcasts or people talking over each other. Here are some of my favorites: This American Life, RadioLab, More Perfect, Reply All, Presidential, the Mental Illness Happy Hour (not super-structured but usually two people giving each other room to talk), How Stuff Works, Stuff You Missed in History, In Our Time, Intelligence Squared, Serial.

Pop Rocket does involve people talking past each other a bit but it also has structure and features diverse points of view, and the panelists clearly do prep work beforehand.
posted by bunderful at 6:26 PM on May 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

posted by synecdoche at 6:43 PM on May 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

In Our Time, This American Life, and 99% Invisible.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:45 PM on May 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

I liked the early episodes of Stuff You Missed in History Class. The new hosts don't really do it for me, so I turned to The History Chicks, which does have occasional chatty digressions but they are super short.
I also like BBC Women's Hour, Distillations (history of science), CBC Writers & Company, The World in Words. Also really like You Must Remember This ("the secret and/or forgotten history of Golden Age Hollywood"), but I think she's on hiatus.
posted by basalganglia at 6:47 PM on May 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Inquiring Minds
posted by twoplussix at 6:48 PM on May 2, 2018

I share your taste in podcasts and You Must Remember This is my favorite thing I’ve ever found.
posted by ActionPopulated at 6:58 PM on May 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

If you like history, the king of this might be Mike Duncan's The History of Rome. The only non-substantive words spoken on each episode are "Hello, and welcome to the History of Rome." It tells Rome's entire history in a thorough but interesting and engaging way.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:16 PM on May 2, 2018 [9 favorites]

Criminal is pretty great. There's a fair amount of interviewing involved, but it is professionally managed and then edited to fit into the overall structure of the story being reported.
posted by meese at 7:25 PM on May 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sound Matters!!

posted by piamater at 7:36 PM on May 2, 2018

Helen Zaltzman's non-chatty podcast about language: The Allusionist.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:40 PM on May 2, 2018 [6 favorites]

I am exactly like you! I like tightly edited podcasts which deliver a lot of information concisely.

Many of the BBC's podcasts are great for this —
Thinking Allowed: 20 mins, interviewing sociologists about their research
In Our Time: A roundtable of academics discussing a literature, philosophy, or history, or science topic. It's a conversation, but it's very academic, not chatty at all
The Radio 3 Documentary: Documentaries about various arts topics; wonderfully produced
People Fixing the World: Docs about people who are coming up with creative solutions to the world's problems — a mix of documentary and interview

CBC's The Sunday Edition: An hour-long grab bag of very intelligent essays, interviews, and documentaries
99% Invisible: Everyone's heard of this, but it really is one of the best. Concise little documentaries about various architecture and design topics
Vox's The Impact: Narrative/documentary podcast about policy and its impacts.
DDx: This is pretty new — it's a podcast about doctors solving medical emergencies.
posted by fire, water, earth, air at 7:58 PM on May 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

How It Is

I thought I would hate it. Surprisingly, I like it. I've only listened to two episodes and so far so good. Podcast features women's stories/topics. I like podcasts that have a tight format and decent content. This fits the bill.
posted by loveandhappiness at 8:00 PM on May 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Planet money
How I built this
posted by phoenixy at 8:32 PM on May 2, 2018

Not already mentioned: The Modern Mann; Death, Sex, & Money; Science Vs.; Stay Tuned with Preet; Terrible, Thanks for Asking; White Coat, Black Art.
posted by lakeroon at 9:03 PM on May 2, 2018

also, CBC's Ideas with Paul Kennedy
posted by piamater at 9:24 PM on May 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

Going through my podcast list — apologies if any are dupes.

Part Time Genius (my new favorite How Stuff Works show). The Indicator (short daily version of Planet Money, essentially). Stuff to Blow Your Mind. Freakonomics. Hidden Brain. Rediculous History. Ungeniused. Sawbones (Sligtly chatty but still well edited, structured and informative). This Podcast Will Kill You (each episdide digs into a contagious disease but the editing and sound could be better).
posted by cgg at 9:31 PM on May 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Memory Palace.
posted by karizma at 11:13 PM on May 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Philosophy Bites - 15-20min conversations with philosophers about very specific issues/questions. They chat, but strictly about the subject at hand. Absolutely no riffing.

My all-time favourite episode of any podcast ever came from Philosophy Bites - it was this one, with Roger Scruton, of whom I'd previously taken a dim view because of what I perceived as his conservatism - but that episode inspired more genuine moments of enlightenment than I'd ever had in any other 18min period of my life.
posted by rd45 at 12:51 AM on May 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

LSE podcasts website
This is one example of LSE form iTunes LSEIQ -

Academy of Ideas

50 Things that made the Modern Economy

All the above are available on iTunes
posted by wisdomlight at 1:36 AM on May 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I listen to these:

You Must Remember This (“the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century”) Old Hollywood stories. A lot of listeners like the Manson series; potential point of entry?

Cocaine & Rhinestones: similar to YMRT, but for country music. Deep dives on C&W artists and songs. I’m a country music neophyte, but this podcast got me into some artists I’d wanted to check out. The Bobbie Gentry episode was my favorite.

Greater Boston: narrative podcast about the surreality of New England. Similar in tone to Welcome to Night Vale, but has a wider/more collage-y approach. Start with the first episode for the full effect.

Disgraceland: true crime plus music. Less chatty than most true crime podcasts. The Van Morrison ep is a good starting point.

Joe Boyd’s A-Z: the legendary producer takes you on a tour through his record collection and does a deep dive on one song an episode. More fascinating than you may think.

Hit Parade: a Slate podcast that looks at the #1 record in a given week and explains its importance.

As a side note, I should like 99% Invisible. However, the producers use a lot of compression in the mix, and the loudness and crunchier sound can hurt my ears. YMMV.
posted by pxe2000 at 3:47 AM on May 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

Grammar Girl - covers one or two grammar points per episode.

I also listen to a lot of podcasts where people read a poem and discuss it. There's a list here but if you want absolutely no discussion, there's
Poem of the Day

Similarly, the New Yorker has several podcasts where they read the fiction or poetry from their latest magazine.
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:20 AM on May 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

The History of Rome? typepad.com/the_history_of_rome
posted by james33 at 6:26 AM on May 3, 2018

Origin Stories is a podcast by the Leakey Foundation that covers grantees' research in anthropology - usually paleontology, primatology, or other human evolution topics. It's interview-based, with a pretty scripted discussion, or at least prepared questions, from the host.

Story Collider is sort of like the Moth, except for science stories.

Ear Hustle is one of the best podcasts out there, as far as I can tell. It tells stories about the men who are incarcerated in San Quentin Prison. The hosts are excellent - conversational, but semi-scripted, and the stories are also really exceptionally told.

Other podcasts which are conversational but not chatty (to my ears, you may disagree) include Code Switch, Pop Culture Happy Hour, Uncivil, and Embedded.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:00 AM on May 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

The History of English is quite good. I plan to go back and coordinate episodes with Rex Factor where the timelines intersect.
posted by Botanizer at 8:02 AM on May 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I just discovered the ones that Parcast puts out and they are totally scripted and not chatty at all.
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:21 AM on May 3, 2018

Thank you all for the suggestions, now I've got a list of podcasts to try out that should last me at least a month's worth of commuting just to figure out which ones I like!
posted by sotonohito at 8:50 AM on May 3, 2018

As a true crime buff, I am all about Casefile.
As a "boy that's weird" buff, I like Astonishing Legends. Granted, there are two guys talking, but it's not really that chatty; it's more like each of them have lines and information to explain in the script.
If you want a deeeeeep dive into one subject, then go for Chasing Earhart, which is all about all the different aspects and possibilities of the Amelia Earhart mystery.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 9:03 AM on May 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you like 99% Invisible, Roman Mars also does one called Things Trump Taught Us About Con Law (or wtte), which he does with his neighbor, a constitutional law professor at Berkeley.

Oh, and Slate's Slow Burn podcast, only 8 episodes, fabulous deep dive into Watergate.
posted by suelac at 10:21 AM on May 3, 2018

A few that I haven't seen in this thread yet:
Imaginary Worlds (examinations of sci-fi and fantasy storytelling elements)
Song Exploder (musicians break down the writing & recording of a single song)
Twenty Thousand Hertz (stories about sound and sound design)
posted by D.Billy at 4:01 PM on May 3, 2018

Revisionist History - if you're into Malcolm Gladwell
Backstory - if you're into history
Crimetown - if you're into the history of organized crime in Providence, Rhode Island
posted by fso at 5:04 PM on May 3, 2018

My favorites right now:

Caliphate: a 10-episode NYT podcast centered on interviews with a Canadian citizen who moved to Syria to join ISIS & eventually got out.

Death in Ice Valley: A new take on a 48-year-old cold case involving a woman of multiple identities whose burned body was found by hikers Ice Valley, Norway in 1970.

The Habitat: Coverage of the seclusion of 6 volunteers people living 1 year in an imitation Mars habitat in Hawaii, with goal of helping NASA understand what life would be like for the first humans to inhabit the red planet.
posted by rcraniac at 8:35 AM on May 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Both mentioned above, but I really love Planet Money and The Indicator - really interesting and while they’re both sound casual / conversational (in contrast to sounding scripted), they’re tightly edited and not chatty at all.
posted by insectosaurus at 5:41 PM on May 4, 2018

Casefile is probably my favorite true crime podcast. The host is anonymous but is backed by an amazing research team. While it does hit a few of the standard true crime stories there are a lot of cases I wasn't familiar with as they are based in Australia. My episode recommendations are Daniel Morcombe (54) and the Silk Road Series (76).
posted by Torosaurus at 9:33 AM on May 5, 2018

My episode recommendations are Daniel Morcombe (54) and the Silk Road Series (76).

I just finished the Silk Road series last week and it was riveting and well told.
I would be SO RIDICULOUSLY happy if there were a UFO podcast that was done as well as Casefile was done.
They really are my gold standard when it comes to podcasts.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 3:28 PM on May 5, 2018

I second Death, Sex & Money. Anna Sale is an excellent interviewer who knows how to ask and, even more importantly, how to listen. All the episodes are good but, if this show appeals to you, just start with the topics that seem most interesting because for the most part it's not chronological.
posted by smorgasbord at 6:41 AM on May 6, 2018

I'm way late to this answer, but I'd second Slate's Slow Burn, which I think is going to be getting its second season pretty soon now.

On the self-promotion side of things, I run Safe for Democracy, looking at the lesser-known sides of American foreign policy disasters, which is one a surprisingly small number of narrative history casts, once you're done with Mike Duncan and Dan Carlin.

There's also The Fall of Rome and the (ongoing) follow-up Tides of History. They're a serious contrast to Mike Duncan's pretty uncritical standard Roman narrative, turned out by a late-Roman-history PhD who has a much more nuanced and informed take on basically everything (having read, for example, literally every late-Roman and early-Medieval letter we have).
posted by TheProfessor at 2:50 PM on June 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

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