In Review

Podcasts of the week: insights into dating, and more Stephen Fry

Featuring This Is Dating, Doing It Right, Am I Normal? and Stephen Fry’s Inside Your Mind

Podcasts

The new US podcast This Is Dating bills itself as a series of recordings of first dates, but it’s “way more interesting than that”, said Fiona Sturges in the FT. It’s made by the team behind the hit podcast Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel, which listens in on couples’ therapy sessions.

And although This Is Dating “isn’t nearly as brutal” as that – it has a more “fun and hopeful vibe” – it offers the same compelling mix of eavesdropping and analytical insight. There is a “fascinating” gulf between what the listener hears and the participants’ own interpretations of how the dates went; and Logan Ury, a behavioural scientist and dating coach, is on hand to discuss what might be hampering their quests for love.

But it is all very gently done: no one is “hung out to dry” – and “we all emerge a little wiser about the nuances of human relationships”.

In Doing It Right, a podcast spin-off from her bestselling essay collection How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right?, the journalist and broadcaster Pandora Sykes interviews a range of thinkers about the “myths, anxieties and trends of modern life”, said Otegha Uwagba in The Guardian. The most recent season is “especially rich”, covering topics including pornography, hook-up culture and the future of work. 

Am I Normal? with Mona Chalabi brilliantly uses statistics, charts and graphs to explore common questions about how we live our lives: how long it takes to get over a break-up; how many friends one ought to have, and so on. The idea is to extract “meaningful life advice from hard data” – a tricky feat that Chalabi accomplishes with expert help from doctors, psychologists and scientists; there are also “charming interludes” from her own mother, a retired medic.

When I heard about the new Audible podcast Stephen Fry’s Inside Your Mind, it “was hard to avoid the thought that I do not want Stephen Fry inside my mind”, said James Marriott in The Times. The ubiquitous polymath is already “on my TV, on the blurbs of most of the books I own, and on about half the podcasts I review. My mind was one of the last havens unoccupied by Fry.”

What next, I wonder? “Stephen Fry’s Suddenly Turned Up in Your Kitchen? Stephen Fry’s Now Sleeping at the Foot of Your Bed?” Still, the podcast is impressive: it’s an illuminating 12-part exploration of the human brain.

The only trouble is that it is bedevilled by constant, unnecessary, over-elaborate and distracting sound effects. By the time Fry got to the evolution of the brains of cavemen – accompanied by crackling flames and “improbably sonorous subterranean echoes” – I felt as though I were in a game of “sound-effect bingo”.

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