In Review

The Week’s pick of the best podcasts to listen to in June 2021

Featuring Deepcut, Death at the Wing, Dear Me, Teach Me a Lesson and Sound Heap

Teach Me a Lesson podcast

In the modern history of the British Army, Deepcut is “the wound that has never healed”, said Mick Brown in The Daily Telegraph. Between 1995 and 2002 four recruits – aged between 17 and 20 – were found shot dead at the Deepcut training camp in Surrey. The Army insisted these were suicides, but the families refused to accept that verdict, and a subsequent series of “inquests, investigations and reviews” uncovered a horrific pattern of bullying, physical and sexual abuse and negligence.

The scandal at Deepcut is well documented, said Miranda Sawyer in The Observer. But even if you know the story, Death at Deepcut makes for essential listening. Journalist Jane MacSorley and retired police detective Colin Sutton brilliantly combine forensic detail and clear storytelling with cool anger. A public inquiry into all four deaths – plusafifth case the pair uncovered – is “clearly overdue. I hope this exemplary, enraging podcast is the catalyst.”

Death at the Wing, also about untimely deaths, is one of my podcast picks of the year to date, said Hannah J. Davies in The Guardian. This “fascinating” eight-parter from Adam McKay (who directed The Big Short and Succession) looks at the deaths of several basketball stars in the 1980s, and what “their tragic tales tell us about Reagan’s America”.

For something far lighter, I recommend Dear Me, in which Katy Wix and Adam Drake get comedians and actors to take them on tours of their home towns – and “offer up a message for their younger selves”. It’s a slim premise, but the pair prove “perfect travel companions”.

Similarly enjoyable is Teach Me a Lesson, in which Greg James and his wife Bella Mackie ask tutors to school them in everything from psychology to art. Their “back-and-forth often meanders, but they are so amiable that even their tangents can teach you a thing or two”.

Have we hit “peak podcast” yet? Probably not, but the medium’s remarkable ascendancy does make it “ripe for ridicule”, said Fiona Sturges in the FT. For sharply observed but affectionate “audio skewering” of podcasting, try Sound Heap. It’s billed as “the podcast of too many podcasts”, and is essentially an improv show, presented by the comic John-Luke Roberts, in which assorted actors and comedians lampoon the genre.

Roberts introduces “daft but believable titles” such as That’s Elementary, “where a class of two dozen seven- and eight-year-olds tackle a cold-case murder”; Liza Minnelli Reads from Instruction Manuals, in which Minnelli (played by Sooz Kempner) tells us how to work our fridges; and Here, Kitty!, a podcast about “getting your cat’s attention by making silly squeaking sounds”. Not all of it lands, but there are “far more hits than misses”.

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