In Review

Podcasts of the week: on the young, and the not so young

Featuring Grounded, You Don’t Know Me, The Mid-Point, Ologies, and The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry

Listening to You Don’t Know Me, Chloe Combi’s “robust, grown-up” podcast about Generation Z – teenagers and young adults aged up to around 24 – “made me feel about 1,000 years old, and rather relieved about it”, said James Marriott in The Times. Grim but gripping, it gives an alarming insight into life in the internet age. The first episode, Cancel Culture, follows an American teen who became so alienated by her school’s “suffocating” anti-Trump consensus that she turned to right-wing web forums to let off steam. A few years later, a fellow online ranter leaked her messages, and she was expelled from university, her prospects ruined. By the end of episode two, said Marriott, “I’d resolved that if I have kids I’m never letting them have smartphones. Just nice, safe abacuses and spinning tops and things.” 

There are a lot of podcasts about young adults, said Charlotte Runcie in Prospect. So Gabby Logan’s The Mid-Point, which celebrates the joys of midlife while exploring its challenges, is a “refreshing” listen. Logan’s guests are of a similar mid-life vintage, and she draws out interesting disclosures: Piers Morgan admitting to camping up his combative Good Morning Britain persona; Davina McCall discussing her (unfounded) fears that she was developing early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Louis Theroux, in his Grounded podcast, also brings out the best in his guests, said Miranda Sawyer in The Observer. He began it in the first lockdown, and the second series is just as “enthralling”. New listeners should seek out the episodes with Boy George, Lenny Henry and Michaela Coel – all are great. But a more recent one, featuring the singer FKA twigs talking about her experience of domestic abuse, is a really “important listen”.

We may still be grounded, but a return to normal life is edging closer thanks to the scientific triumph of Covid vaccines, said Emma Dibdin in The New York Times. In a spirit of gratitude, here are some podcasts that “celebrate the wonders of science”. Ologies with Alie Ward shines a spotlight on little-known “ologies”, with a host whose “intellectual curiosity is as infectious as her guests’ enthusiasm”. Recent episodes have focused on desairology (the science of mortuary makeup), agnotology (the science of ignorance) and pelicanology (“self-explanatory, but still full of surprises”). Or, if you like your science stories “with a side of Sherlock Holmes-esque intrigue”, try The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry. In this charming BBC series, science sleuths Dr Adam Rutherford and Dr Hannah Fry tackle scientific mysteries great and small. “No matter the subject matter, the hosts’ chemistry and wry rapport makes every episode a delight.”

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