In Review

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

Featuring Coming in From The Cold, Edith! starring Rosamund Pike, and Revisionist History

Edith! podcast

Any politician thinking of weighing in on the question of the England football team “taking the knee” should first listen to TalkSport’s Coming in From The Cold, said Patricia Nicol in The Sunday Times. This “moving and informative” series, presented by Jessica Creighton, is a remarkable slice of social and cultural history, which tells the story “of modern England through the prism” of its black professional footballers.

“Booing one of your own players... are you expecting him to play better,” asks the former England striker Emile Heskey, his voice “cracking with exasperated incredulity”. Heskey is referring to Ashley Cole. But, depressingly, he could probably be talking about any of the players profiled here, from the Victorian goalie Arthur Wharton and Walter Tull in the 1910s, to more recent stars such as Clyde Best, John Barnes, Ian Wright and Raheem Sterling. Their stories are “engaging” and “often poignant”, and this “engrossing” series does them proud.

I tend to find audio drama a “struggle”, with its “creaking sound effects” and excess of exposition, said Fiona Sturges in the FT. But Edith!, a comedy-drama about President Woodrow Wilson’s wife, who took over running the White House in 1919 after he suffered a stroke, is a treat. The writing is “fast and fun”, with clear shades of Veep, Armando Iannucci’s TV comedy hit about a fictional US vice-president. And Rosamund Pike is terrific as Edith – “smart, irreverent and sardonic”.

The podcast’s subtitle is The Untold True-ish Story of America’s Secret First Female President. But it is based on fact and, with no creaking sound effects at all, it makes for “compulsive” listening. “I was not the first female president,” says Edith, modestly. “I was a patriot who helped the country stay together while the president took a little nap.”

“No podcast is more interesting, more impishly good fun, more beautifully produced” than Malcolm Gladwell’s ideas-filled show Revisionist History, said James Marriott in The Times. In fact anyone who has not listened to the episodes The King of Tears (on country music), The Hug Heard Round the World (on Sammy Davis Jr. and Richard Nixon), A Good Walk Spoiled (on the evils of golf) and Hallelujah (on the two kinds of genius) is “hereby banned from reading this column” until they have gone away and “done their homework”.

Gladwell’s last series was “the only duff one so far” – but the new series, the sixth, has just begun, and he’s back on top form with an episode on driverless cars. Much of the fun arises from Gladwell “gleefully experimenting” with Google’s self-driving car, Waymo: throwing beach balls at it, racing it, and riding around in it while abusing learner drivers. “It’s good to have him back.”

The Week Unwrapped: Strict schools, swimming caps and the four-day week

Do more rules make for a better education? Is a ban on “Afro caps” a blow to sporting diversity? And will Covid boost calls for a four-day working week? Olly Mann and The Week delve behind the headlines and debate what really matters from the past seven days.

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