If there’s one thing I get asked a lot – apart from ‘why did Polly have Doctor Who’s hat on at the end of The Underwater Menace‘, ‘what’s the music at the start of Looks Unfamiliar called?’, and random posers pulled from Richard Herring’s Emergency Questions book – it’s ‘what podcasts can you recommend to me?’. Whether it’s someone at the gym wondering what’s so good that it’s making you smirk on the treadmill so much, or friends who’ve run out of things to listen to while doing the ironing, it’s a question that seems to come up quite a lot, and given that there are quite a few that I’d like to help spread the word about, I’ve decided to put together a list of some of my favourites with handy links, which you are all to download and listen to at once. As long as you remember to download and listen to Looks Unfamiliar and It’s Good, Except It Sucks first, of course.
Don’t Let’s Chart
Shows combining ‘facts’ and ‘funny’ seem to be all the rage at the moment, but as far as I’m concerned the combination doesn’t get much better than this; Ben Baker and Phil Catterall work through a series of banal and often seemingly arbitrary lists, trying to work out exactly how one of George Clooney’s practical jokes can be adjudged ‘greater’ than another or how loosely you can stretch the definition of a ‘Favourite Pie’. The baffled delight they take in stumbling across something truly forgotten or truly implausible is about as infectious as it’s possible to get, frankly.
You can find the Don’t Let’s Chart feed here or listen on Spotify here, and follow the show on Twitter at @dontletschart. I particularly recommend this one featuring Marvel’s worst superheroes, the world’s most gratuitously dangerous toys, and a Richard Nixon Quiz.
Don’t Point That Horror At Me
Jill Nolan and Becky Darke make their way through the early nineties Point Horror series of suspense-and-horror-themed teen novels, never failing to get derive amusement from the ludicrous plot points, unrealistic depictions of school life, and patently unattractive traits of the main romantic interests. There’s also a regular spot where Jill takes a look at what was in the charts on the week of each novel’s release, most of which doesn’t quite match up with her impeccable musical taste.
You can find Don’t Point That Horror At Me on Twitter here.
The Zeitgeist Tapes
Emma Burnell and Steve Fielding present a show looking at ‘where politics and pop culture collide’, evaluating literary, cinematic and televisual depictions of political events both real and imagined. I’d particularly recommend the editions on Armando Iannucci and A Very English Scandal, as well as the one on Doctor Who although I would say that because I was a special guest on it. Or the more recent one I was on about the Clangers Election Special which you can find here. Or even the one about The Prisoner which you can find here.
(Music For) The Head Ballet
Paul Abbott is joined by a guest to talk about one of of their favourite novelty singles, with ‘novelty’ being a suitably broad definition taking in every from The Wombles and Anita Dobson to Frank Sidebottom, George Harrison, Stan Ridgway, Sue Wilkinson, the Transformers: The Movie theme single and – on my appearances on the show – Ringing On The Engine Bell by Bernard Cribbins (which you can find here) and I’m Gonna Spend My Christmas With A Dalek by The Go-Go’s (which you can find here).
You can find (Music For The Head Ballet) on Twitter here.
The Big Beatles Sort Out
Speaking of Paul Abbott, he’s joined here by his brother Garry in a quest to finally work out what they collectively think is the best Beatles song of all, using a complicated scoring system and occasional use of the Rutles Klaxon. It’s all done in a very fun and high-spirited way, with their deliberately convoluted links and sheer glee at receiving leftfield listener questions being particular highlights every time.
You can find The Big Beatles Sort Out on Twitter here.
John Rain is your host for an acerbic look at the James Bond series and many tangentially related efforts (some of which it’s almost possible to watch more than around three minutes of without wanting to throw Netflix out of the window), as well as Michael Caine movies and – coming soon – a set of eighties action blockbusters. There are also some live events in the offing…
You can find SMERSH Pod on Twitter here.
Stuart Maconie and Elizabeth Alker join forces for a show based on ‘extraordinary moments from four hundred years of musical history’, with the weird, wonderful, avant-garde and just plain unlistenable from Seventeenth Century composers with a worrying fixation on unhealthy subjects to up and coming acts doing their eccentric thing at local arts centres, and all presented in a compelling, engaging and most importantly accessible manner. There’s also the ‘Notable Exception’ – a regular round-up of things that only happened once in the entire history of popular music – when they’re actually able to find one…
You can find Notable on Twitter here.
The Simpsons and Modern History – together at last! Garreth F. Hirons and Tom Williamson take a look at an episode of The Simpsons and a major historical event from the week that it originally aired, and the often surprising ways in which the two coincide. They’ve started with Series One, so you get some often caustic observations as well as the running gags including their obsession with short-stay Russian premiers, why Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos is called ‘Bongbong’, whether series writer John Swartzwelder actually exists, and Garreth’s exasperation at the poor quality of chart-topping singles in the early nineties.
You can find Retrospecticus on Twitter here or at their website here. And if you’re a nerd, why not send them an eel going ‘ARRR ARRR’. I’d especially recommend Episode 19, Dead Web Page Society, in which Garreth discusses Dead Putting Society, Tom discusses the invention of the World Wide Web, and they both try and fail to explain Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoine to international listeners.
Album To Album
Discussion of every aspect of David Bowie’s back catalogue with Arsalan Mohammad and a series of top drawer guests including Nicholas Pegg (author of The Complete David Bowie), David Quantick, Samira Ahmed and Charlotte Hatherley. This is the best of a number of high profile Bowie podcasts by some considerable distance, and I feel perfectly qualified to make that distinction, thank you very much. Especially as they had me on talking about Bowie’s ‘lost’ 1971 single Holy Holy, whcih you can find here.
You can find Album To Album on Twitter here.
It’s An S Pod Thing!
Sophie Davies has somehow taken it upon herself to revisit every episode of what she calls S Club 7’s ‘insane TV series’, and the guests are no less baffled by this glossy but incoherent mess that seems to have gone on for even longer than anyone who actually watched it realised. Including me, as I got the long-awaited chance to talk about the ridiculous feature-length Russ Meyer-inspired time travel special S Club 7 – Back To The ’50s, which you can find here.
You can find It’s An S Pod Thing! on Twitter here.
I Am The Eggpod
Chris Shaw – of the celebrated Sgt. Pepper Photos project – puts the collected works of The Beatles under the microscope with the help of guests including Iain Lee, Samira Ahmed, Kate Robbins, Rob Manuel, John Rain and David Quantick. Oh and me, on the contentious subject of the Yellow Submarine soundtrack album (which you can find here). As well as considering the music, the main focus is on the guest’s relationship with each record and the circumstances in which they first heard it, and again I’d say this is the best Beatles analysis I’ve found this side of Mark Lewisohn.
You can find I Am The Eggpod on Twitter here.
Grace Dent is joined by a guest for a great big sharing platter of the food they turn to for sheer unbridled selfish pleasure, irrespective of fads, calories and twee rhymes on packaging. Although she did draw the line at my suggestion of Oxo Cube Sandwiches. There are some limits.
You can find Comfort Eating here.
Betamax Video Club
Rich Nelson and a guest cast a critical eye over an eighties video shop favourite, regardless of quality, ‘problematic’ content, or whether it’s even been available in any format from that day to this. If you want to know where to start, I’ve been on talking about Absolute Beginners and Morons From Outer Space.
You can find Betamax Video Club on Twitter here.
Box Of Delights
Julia Raeside invites a guest to talk about a television moment that has meant something to them. Literally just any moment for any reason, so it could be EastEnders‘ ‘Happpy Christmas Ange’ cliffhanger, watching the Good Health Blockaboots episode in the school assembly hall, things going hilariously wrong on Changing Rooms, or Richard Madeley’s glorious recollections of being allowed to stay up to watch the Moon Landing.
You can find Box Of Delights on Twitter here.
Perfect Night In
Neil Perryman’s show – available in video as well as audio form – challenges a guest to put together their ideal evening’s viewing and explain why; the results and responses are actually a lot more varied than you might expect, although I doubt that few were quite as unexpected as my own appearance, taking in The Banana Splits, The Original Peter and Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, which you can watch here.
You can find the Perfect Night In website here.
Confined To Barracks
Mitch Benn and a guest talk about ways to entertain yourself during lockdown, with recommendations for books, movies, television series, podcasts and, well, general hobbies. It’s like an edition of Why Don’t You…? that everyone’s quite happy to see after all. I’ve been a guest on it, but to find out what I chose, you’ll have to click here.
You can find out more about Confined To Barracks here.
The Hammer House Of Podcast
Paul Cornell and Lizbeth Myles follow the Hammer Films catalogue film by film from the very beginning, with often surprising and contrasting opinions and plenty of fascinating facts and theories worked out more or less on the spot. There’s also a Patreon-only series of side podcasts looking at the output of Amicus Films, which is well worth checking out.
You can find the Hammer House Of Podcast website here.
Podcast From The Past
A spinoff from the popular Twitter account Postcard From The Past, with Tom Jackson chatting to guests about the story behind some actual genuine postcards they have received and kept for whatever reason, as well as giving a regular spin to bizarre playable postcards that were apparently massive in Europe at some point for some reason.
You can find the Postcard From The Past website here.
How I Found My Voice
A series in which Samira Ahmed chats to a public figure about how they discovered their ‘voice’ – creative, political or personal – which isn’t afraid to tackle some difficult issues along the way. I particularly recommend the one with Katherine Ryan.
You can find How I Found My Voice on Twitter here.
What We Just Watched
TV Cream’s Chris Hughes, Ian Jones and Graham Kibble-White have a watch of some unlikely and often thrillingly inconsequential television programmes from the past and share their often highly uncomplimentary findings. It’s safe to say they won’t be lobbying for that Beat The Teacher reboot any time soon.
You can find What We Just Watched here.
Also a huge recommendation for the current project TV Cream Stays Indoors, a series in which Graham surprises a guest with a mystery programme to watch and discuss; you can find out more about that here.
Rule Of Three
Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris invite a comedy writer, performer or producer to bring along something that makes them laugh and explain why. What’s particularly enjoyable about this is how often the guests avoid the temptation to chat about something obvious or ‘classic’, and go for something relatively obscure that means a lot for them; this was especially thrilling in the case of Matt Lucas talking about BBC Records And Tapes’ Hoffnung – A Last Encore and Katy Brand on Red Dwarf – Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers.
You can find the Rule Of Three website here.
Round The Archives
Last but by no means least, Lisa Parker and Andrew Trowbridge and a procession of guests with fascinatingly different perspectives take a look at some of the television programmes that never get mentioned in any big lists of The Best TV Shows Ever!!, recently including a chat with me about Chigley which you can find here. and another about Here Come The Double Deckers! which you can find here.
You can find the Round The Archives website here.
Finally, I should also mention David Tennant Does A Podcast (where he does, erm, just that), White Wine Question Time (where Kate Thornton and a mixture of celebrity and everyday guests get sloshed and try to answer the big questions surrounding their lives), Fingers On Buzzers (Lucy Porter and Jenny Ryan take a look at the history and mechanics of Quiz Shows), Minnie Questions (Minnie Driver asks a series of celebrities the same seven questions in strict order), Drunk Women Solving Crime (you won’t get any prizes for ‘solving’ what that involves), and Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast. Though I’d better not promote Stone Clearing in case the Log Dogs come for me.
Buy A Book!
If you haven’t already read it, then you should read my book Can’t Help Thinking About Me, a collection of columns and features with a personal twist, because it’s ace. Can’t Help Thinking About Me is available in paperback here or from the Kindle Store here.
If you’re not already subscribed to Looks Unfamiliar then you can find out more about it here. I should also mention that this post was suggested by Vikki Gregorich, who you can hear on Looks Unfamiliar here. You can also find my new Marvel Cinematic Universe-themed podcast, It’s Good, Except It Sucks, here.
Several of the contributors to the above podcasts have of course guested on Looks Unfamiliar and It’s Good, Except It Sucks, and you can find a handy list of all of their appearances below…
© Tim Worthington.
Please don’t copy this only with more italics and exclamation marks.