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 by Tinder dates – 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 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. There’s also a special they did for Looks Unfamiliar, counting down the top-selling children’s annuals on eBay, which you can find here.
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.
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.
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.
Garreth has been on Looks Unfamiliar twice (here and here), and also joined us for a Christmas Day special looking at Channel 4’s unusual approach to the Festive Season (here). Recently he also took over as the guest host to chat to me about comedy on BBC Radio 3, which you can find here.
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.
You can find Album To Album 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. 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. And look out for Chris on Looks Unfamiliar soon!
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, and you can also hear Looks Unfamiliar guests Jenny Morrill on Three Men And A Baby, Emma Burnell on Trading Places and When Harry Met Sally, Ben Baker on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, and John Rain on Death Wish 3 and Superman II.
You can find Betamax Video Club 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. Quite a few Looks Unfamiliar alumni have also appeared on the show including Steve O’Brien, John Rain, and Steve Berry.
You can find the Perfect Night In website 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.
Paul has also been a guest on Looks Unfamiliar, which you can find 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 new 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.
Samira made a barnstorming appearance on Looks Unfamiliar which you can find 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.
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
And 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.
You can find the Round The Archives website here.
Lisa and Andrew made an hilarious joint appearance on Looks Unfamiliar which you can find here.
Finally, while none of them really need the exposure, 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), and Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast. Though I’d better not promote Stone Clearing in case the Log Dogs come for me.
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.
© Tim Worthington.
Please don’t copy this only with more italics and exclamation marks.