Help me pick some podcast episodes for my mom
August 30, 2018 7:37 PM   Subscribe

My mom has to lie flat and motionless for 4-6 hours tomorrow as part of a medical procedure. I would like to direct her to some pleasant podcast episodes that she can listen to on her phone to pass the time.

Things that probably won't work for this setting:
- Raucous hilarity
- Excessively cheeky hosts
- Politics
- Tear-jerkers
- Anything paranormal, crime-related, or otherwise creepy
- Anything health-related

The pace and tone of a Fresh Air interview is kind of what I'm going for, so I'm looking for either (a) specific interviews you enjoyed that are interesting and not upsetting or (b) specific episodes of really any show that seems to fit the bill. Mom is smart and cerebral, so no need to shy away from content of a more intellectual nature (particularly good history/science, for example).

posted by delight to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The In Our Time Archive (selected for non-politics topics!) was practically invented for situations like this. You can search by topic or look at the top ten. My personal favorites are the episodes on The Mabinogion, Alfred the Great (featuring one of my archaeology lecturers!), Rosa Luxumberg, The Gin Craze, and The Medieval University. (I also found another handful I want to listen to just jogging my memory, so I recommend just roaming the topics.) They are incredibly cerebral and engaging, and somehow everyone has a very pleasant voice, although there's the occasional guest who is clearly quite nervous. The host, Melvyn Bragg, is delightful in every way, while being the exact opposite of cheeky.
posted by kalimac at 7:44 PM on August 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

Dammit, kalimac, that was what I was going to suggest... Some more recent episodes I remember enjoying are the ones on The Gin Craze, The Siege of Malta, Henrik Ibsen, and Roman Slavery. But really, if you have an idea of your mother's interests, you can almost certainly find something related to it in the archives.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:50 PM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Something True or Mystery Show maybe?
posted by juv3nal at 8:21 PM on August 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

So far there are only four episodes at 20 minutes apiece, but Everything is Alive is both thoughtful and hilarious in a non-raucous way. (Previously on the Blue.)
posted by ejs at 8:32 PM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

My favorite podcasts:
The Allusionist is about language and word origins, ex: “hyperbolic numerals” like ‘zillions’.

99% Invible is about architecture & design generally, but is really eclectic in its approach, touching history, sculpture, civics....

Both very engaging and unusual!
posted by TDIpod at 10:57 PM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

99% Invisible is my go-to podcast recommendation for just about any smart person; almost every episode is really interesting if you just like knowing how things work in the world.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:13 AM on August 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

Backstory is an American history podcast hosted by college professors. Each hour-ish episode is a survey of American history on a specific topic.
posted by jeoc at 5:22 AM on August 31, 2018

BBC Radio 4's archive of Desert Island Discs podcasts.
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 5:23 AM on August 31, 2018

The BBC's A History of the World in 100 Objects is one of my all-time favorite podcasts, and it's perfect for this. It's completely absorbing but rarely intense.

The only warning is that, because it covers the full scope of human history, some episodes are inevitably going to deal with the more negative aspects of history. Even then, the approach tends not to dwell on upsetting details. And you can get a pretty clear idea of the subjects discussed from the episode summaries linked above.
posted by yankeefog at 6:52 AM on August 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

If your mom is a New Yorker-reading type with even a vague interest in the writing process, the Longform podcast is really delightful. Some of my favorites have been Rukmini Callimachi, Maggie Haberman, and Helen Rosner. They're engaging and cerebral but rarely raucously funny or tearjerkingly sad.
posted by telegraph at 6:59 AM on August 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

(Does the BBC have an app for its podcasts? If so, could someone please post a link to it? For the life of me I can't find it, and I can only get In Our Time to play on my laptop, not my phone.)
posted by HotToddy at 7:20 AM on August 31, 2018

I really enjoy Philosophize This!
posted by SinAesthetic at 7:43 AM on August 31, 2018

This American Life had a great one a couple weeks ago: The Feather Heist Super interesting and weird, fits all your criteria I think
posted by LKWorking at 8:50 AM on August 31, 2018

Seconding The Allusionist. All the episodes are great, there have been a few about swear words that I enjoyed but ymmv. The host Helen Zaltzman was recently hospitalized for a few weeks (she's better now) and it's been briefly mentioned on some recent episodes, which I suppose could be triggering during a medical procedure. That said, when she came back she did an episode about "what books do you read when you're feeling ill?" that I found delightful.

That Feather Heist episode of TAL is pretty great too.
posted by doift at 6:16 PM on August 31, 2018

The Allusionist is wonderful, if occasionally sweary. It often makes me laugh but it's not raucous, it's just witty and thoughtful.

I love Criminal, which might qualify because it's so unlike any other podcast about crime; it's not prurient or obsessed with disturbing details, it's more about the people caught up in strange crimes, with a care and empathy with the victims they talk to (or their families).

The team behind Criminal produced another wonderful short series called This is Love, which is about to have its second series soon. It's about love in all its forms and it never went where I expected it to, which is one of the things I like about Criminal.

The BBC has some wonderful podcast output. I second the recommendation for In Our Time, but I'd also like to point you in the direction of Great Lives, in which a notable person picks another notable person and they, the presenter and an expert chat. I like the ones about slightly more obscure (to me) figures.

Soul Music is one of my favourites. It's about what one particular piece of music means to people (some famous, some not) and how it's changed their lives. It's half an hour and ranges from Wagner and the Star Spangled Banner to Kraftwerk and Cyndi Lauper.
posted by finisterre at 9:54 AM on September 2, 2018

« Older What's the best browser plugin to manage my...   |   What should we do since our house burned down with... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.