Non-Celebrity, Non-Anything Trump, Non-COVID Podcasts?
May 21, 2020 6:21 PM   Subscribe

Since the pandemic kicked into high gear I’ve become addicted to podcasts like the fabulous In Our Time over on BBC Radio 4 — (which also streams on Spotify).

Please recommend other casts of this ilk— not necessarily just history-oriented but intelligent and engaging discussions without loud clanging commercial breaks.

I’m not interested in story podcasts, anything celebrity or musician or author centric (I’m tired of hearing people talk about themselves). And of course nothing related to Trump, politics or COVID.

Thank you!
posted by zenpop to Society & Culture (25 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
The Partially Examined Life is a thorough, if chatty, podcast about philosophy from a bunch of former academics.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:31 PM on May 21

If you are at all interested in plants, you may enjoy the In Defense of Plants podcast.
posted by Lycaste at 6:41 PM on May 21 [4 favorites]

I really enjoy The Omnibus, with Ken Jennings and John Roderick. Although they can get chatty, especially John.
posted by PussKillian at 6:48 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]

If specifically topical discussion is alright, Twenty Thousand Hertz is both more and less niche than you'd think!
posted by PaulaSchultz at 6:56 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]

The New Books Network puts out a plethora (like, ridiculous) number of podcasts that are interviews with the authors of academic and popular books on a whole range of topics across a whole bunch of disciplines. I got started with New Books in History, but there's way more than that going on.

The only caveat is that there is the occasional episode that has less-than-optimal audio quality, but I've never found one that's been unlistenable (mainly because the ones I pick to listen to are about things I'm highly interested in, so I'll take a bit of glitchy audio if it gives me an interesting discussion).
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:58 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]

Anthropocene Reviewed is a thoughtful podcast by John Green, he of The Fault in Our Stars fame. Green applies the star-rating trope to various aspects of the human experience in many surprising, delightful, and sometimes moving ways.
posted by Quaversalis at 7:13 PM on May 21 [9 favorites]

You're Dead to Me - History podcast where a historian helps a comedian learn about a historical event or person from the BBC.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:16 PM on May 21 [4 favorites]

Damn, this is a fantastic array of options. Thank you Metahive-mind!
posted by zenpop at 7:30 PM on May 21

posted by thebots at 8:20 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]

I love You're Wrong About. The hosts are funny and very smart and they do a ton of research. They recently did two series I found fairly uninteresting (OJ Simpson and the DC snipers) but there's a huge back catalog of one-off episodes of the two of them talking about all kinds of things you remember a little bit about but probably missed a lot of details of if not the entire importance of what happened. Some of the topics are politics but a lot of them are not.
posted by less of course at 9:04 PM on May 21 [6 favorites]

Gastropod - they analyse food through the lens of science, history, and culture. SO good.

Every Little Thing - the host answers listeners' questions about random things with help from experts
posted by Tamanna at 9:06 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]

I’ve just started listening to Wind of Change by the very excellent investigative journalist Patrick Radden Keefe and so far it meets your requirements. He’s investigating a rumour he had heard that the 1990 Scorpions ballad of the same name about the fall of Berlin Wall/end of Cold War was actually written by the CIA.
posted by PorcupineQuills at 9:49 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]

Stuff You Should Know - It's a classic for a reason. It's been going strong for over 10 years running, and they cover every topic under the sun. The two hosts Josh and Chuck clearly have a genuine friendship, and their banter and side tangents make the show a delightful listen, IMHO.
posted by stella1 at 9:49 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]

Seconding Twenty Thousand Hertz, Every Little Thing, and Stuff You Should Know. I've enjoyed The Constant, Sidedoor, and The Long Now podcasts, and Damn Interesting, which are very broad and more or less meet your requirements.

(If you don't mind your history being rather silly, there's also The Dollop. It does include politics, but only 10% of it is directly related to the politics of living people.)
posted by eotvos at 1:18 AM on May 22

Another natural history podcast: on The Field Guides two academics research a topic and take a hike relating the information to the natural phenomena they encounter.
posted by Botanizer at 4:48 AM on May 22

Eric Weinstein's The Portal does all the ads in the first 2 or 3 minutes, then no ads for 2 or 3 hrs. Each episode is one guest, rambling discussion, low production values, lightly edited. Guests are possibly somewhat fringey, but in a sciencey, rational way (if that makes any sense).
posted by at at 6:14 AM on May 22

If you're a Trekky or simple interested in the franchise, then "Rachel Watches Star Trek" is for you. It's a husband and wife team where Rachel is watching Star Trek for the first time. Currently they're on the first season of Next Generation. Previously, TOS, the ST cartoon and the movies.
I found out about "Everything is Alive" here. The host "interviews" various inanimate objects. I really enjoyed the lamppost one.
"Unlocking Bryson's Brain" from CBC. It's the story of a dad (mostly) trying to find a cure for his son's genetic disorder that affects his intellectual functioning.
"The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week" is a lot of fun. Hosted by three women from Popular Science.
Shortwave is a NPR podcast. There are COVID episodes mixed in, but it's obvious in the episode title. It has a good back catalog as well.
Ologies and You're Wrong About as suggested above./
posted by kathrynm at 10:30 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]

Futility Closet "a weekly show featuring forgotten stories from the pages of history. ". There is an ad per episode but it isn't loud/annoyingly obtrusive. Nearly 300 episodes from the last six years.

Under the Influence. "Host and adman Terry O'Reilly explores why we make the shopping decisions we make, and how we are influenced by words, colours and images. He tells stories of the remarkable creativity found at the higher realms of marketing, and analyzes the ads we love to hate."

Revolutions. An extreme deep dive of a few of the revolutions in history. Each of the 10 series so far has a couple dozen 30-45 minute episodes concentrating on one revolution in history. Occasionally flogs the host's history tours (which to be honest sound interesting as hell).

From the BBC:

The Boring Talks. 15-30 minutes talking about some seemingly mundane topic that the speaker is passionate about. EG: pencils, wooden pallets or road markings.

The Compass. "Surprising stories from unusual places. The Compass presents mini-series about the enviroment, politics, culture, and society". Episodes are all over the map topic wise and I've skipped some but overall very good.

Seconding Ologies.

All these are available on Spotify.
posted by Mitheral at 10:55 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]

If you're a fan of In Our Time, Beyond Belief, also from the BBC, is set up almost exactly the same, but the focus is on big ideas and how they intersect with various world faith traditions.
posted by General Malaise at 10:56 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]

We Martians. Gently Canadian space podcast focused on scientific Mars exploration. Often gets good guests. El*n comes up, but not overly so.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 2:56 PM on May 22

Seconding Wind of Change
posted by jeoc at 4:37 PM on May 22

If you liked the show "the wire" than i recommend "down in the hole", 2 episodes per week they are just finishing season 1 on Tuesday. I'm really enjoying it.
posted by askmehow at 6:04 PM on May 22

99 Percent Invisible: nominally a podcast about design, but they can make pretty much anything about design. You do have to survive an ad or two at the start, but they don't interrupt the episodes. 99PI
posted by HaveYouTriedRebooting at 8:01 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]

The BBC is really good for this!

I definitely recommend Great Lives.

Also, A History of the World in 100 Objects.

And if you're up for a "more like this" listing, here's the BBC's list of programs under the Factual: History category - and then your Factual category also has things like Life Stories, Science and Nature (Primates looks pretty interesting), and Arts, Culture, and the Media (ooh, Billy and Us, a documentary exploring the impact of Billy Connolly on Scotland's cultural landscape).

I am such a fan of BBC podcasts.
posted by kristi at 8:31 AM on May 27

« Older Please share some really cool chat bots   |   Banning sound? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments