In Review

Podcasts of the week: pensioners, pubs and Hollywood’s underbelly

Featuring Growing Old Disgracefully, The Moon Under Water, Badlands: Hollywoodland and Tech Tech Boom

Audible’s new podcast Growing Old Disgracefully promises “remarkable stories told by remarkable people”. For once, this is “not an exaggerated claim”, said Fiona Sturges in the FT. There’s “gaming grandma” Shirley, who has her own YouTube channel at 85. There’s Ernestine, an octogenarian bodybuilder, and Graham, who rowed across the Atlantic in his 70s. We meet Patrick, 76, enjoying late-blooming success as a gay country-and-western singer. And Sherry, who was abandoned by her husband after 25 years of marriage, and has made ends meet by reinventing herself as a professional dominatrix. “I won’t be touched apart from my feet,” she says. “I love having my feet worshipped.”

The presenter and interviewer is the 80-year-old actress Miriam Margolyes, and her approach is “wonderfully chaotic” and frank. I am generally suspicious of deploying celebrities as interviewers on podcasts, but “Margolyes is a perfect fit – curious, unfiltered, funny, entirely unshockable”.

One of the things many of us have missed most over the past year is the easy companionship of the pub, said Charlotte Runcie in Prospect. For Edinburgh Comedy Award-winner John Robins and Robin Allender, the longing was so strong that they used the long pandemic “lockout” to devise a “fantasy pub podcast”. In The Moon Under Water, which takes its name from George Orwell’s essay about an idealised English boozer, the pair talk to guests about their own perfect pubs – but in a way that is “romantic, impressionistic and literary rather than laddish”.

It’s an odd premise, but it’s highly entertaining, said The Sunday Times, with guests including Nish Kumar, Suzi Ruffell and the real-life publican Jodie Kidd. Start with Sarah Millican, a self-described “carvery aficionado” who, as landlady of The Giggling Dog, would “serve Hooch and Mirage” and “refuse entry to the under-25s”.

Tales of showbiz excess and unsolved mysteries are always fertile ground for podcasts, said Hannah Verdier in The Guardian. Jake Brennan’s excellent Disgraceland series chronicled the exploits of some of rock’n’roll’s most notorious ne’er-do-wells. Now, in Badlands: Hollywoodland, he is turning his gaze to movies, with a compelling mix of history, myth and true crime. There are ten episodes to enjoy, exploring Dennis Hopper’s rise, fall and cocaine habit; Bruce Lee’s connection with the Manson family; and the mystery that still surrounds Marilyn Monroe’s death.

In a different vein, I’d recommend Tech Tech Boom, a new spoof technology podcast that is also “scarily realistic”. Mock the Week’s Olga Koch, “deadpan maestro” Huge Davies and The Mash Report’s Greig Johnson host this “keenly-observed satire”.

The Week Unwrapped: Fuel protest, Danish spying and living to 150

How are oil shareholders changing the climate debate? Is Copenhagen a US stooge? And could we really double human lifespans? Olly Mann and The Week delve behind the headlines and debate what really matters from the past seven days.

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