In Review

Podcasts of the week: the blood scandal, parenting, and phone sex

Featuring Bed of Lies, Parenting Hell, The Scummy Mummies and Operator

I came late to the second series of The Telegraph’s outstanding investigative podcast Bed of Lies, said Miranda Sawyer in The Observer – “but, hooray, this meant I could binge all seven episodes”.

The first series, about women tricked into long-term relationships by undercover police officers, was a meticulously researched and upsetting listen. The new one, which is just as good, is about the contaminated-blood scandal, as a result of which thousands of people in the UK were infected with HIV and hepatitis C in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Reporter Cara McGoogan and producer Sarah Peters focus on uncovering the facts, while ensuring that the “heartbreaking tales of those who suffered are given time and dignity”. Their podcast’s “dogged humanity” reminded me of The Great Post Office Trial, Nick Wallis’s audio exposé of the Post Office computer scandal, which is also “highly recommended”.

One would expect that the audience for Rob Beckett and Josh Widdicombe’s Parenting Hell would be mostly new dads, said Stuart Heritage in The Guardian. In fact, the comedians’ winning mix of “piss-taking and genuine introspection” has drawn a wide listenership. “If you worked on a desk next to them, there’s a chance that the non-stop banter would drive you up the wall, but in weekly, hour-long chunks it is an absolute delight”. 

The Scummy Mummies is a broadly similar offering from two other comedians, Ellie Gibson and Helen Thorn. They are excellent company; they make you feel “part of their gang”; and their podcast is a “played-for-laughs confessional, dealing with the sort of subject matter that you’d only share with friends you really trust”.

Last, Dr Maryhan Baker’s How Not to Screw Up Your Kids covers a vast range of parenting issues with wit and empathy, and steers well clear of “irritating idealism”. You’re “still going to screw your kids up a bit, but this might provide some damage limitation”.

Operator, a Wondery podcast hosted by former professional dominatrix Tina Horn, may be “one to listen to with your headphones on”, said James Marriott in The Times. A terrific and moreish new series, it follows the birth of the phone-sex industry in the 1990s, and the warning at the beginning – that the podcast “describes a variety of sexual situations in vivid and honest detail” – is not an idle one.

The series reminded me most of Welcome to Your Fantasy, the “marvellously fun” Spotify pod about a true-crime mystery that unfolded in the world of the Chippendales male strippers. Like that show, Operator combines a “sense of fun, bountiful narrative energy, the slickest possible production values and, of course, sex to wonderful effect”.

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