Throughout 2020 I have listened to hundreds if not now thousands of hours worth of podcasts. Have I learned anything useful? Not really. Did it help keep me entertained through the pandemic? Hell yes.
This blog post complements another post I wrote a number of years ago which collected my favourite podcasts over technology, entertainment, and software development. This blog post focuses more on the different types of entertainment that are great for binging through while on a long road trip, while doing some chores, or desiring an escape from the day to day. Here are my reviews for a number of the most noteworthy podcasts that have kept me busy over the last year.
Not Another D&D Podcast
Not Another D&D Podcast paints an incredible adventure through its hundreds of hours of episodes. Dungeon Master Brian Murphy is an expert at storytelling while balancing the randomness of the game of Dungeons and Dragons. His ability to have such a wide array of voices for characters in the story complements the improv of players Jake Hurwitz, Emily Murphy, and Caldwell Tanner. The allure of the podcast is building up an adventure that the listener is highly invested in while joking around enough to not alienate the story.
I haven’t ever played a game of Dungeons and Dragons before, but got introduced to this podcast and the idea of D&D through listening to a hilarious holiday special episode that featured Amir Blumenfeld. I was hooked on this podcast ever since, and have gone so far to subscribe to this podcast’s Patreon primarily for the again-hilarious post-episode commentary.
The Adventure Zone
The McElroy family puts this excellent role-playing games show together. Brothers Justin, Travis, Griffin, and father Clint partake in a handful of sagas across Dungeon and Dragons, and other role-playing games. I particularly find their D&D seasons more entertaining than the rest. Their gameplay takes a bit more of an absurdist comedy approach compared to Not Another D&D Podcast, but the storytelling and character building is still maintained.
Some of the other off-season games they have played haven’t been as interesting to me. The game of D&D brings out more excitement and variety to the storytelling, keeping me on the edge of my seat, compared to the other games which involved a lot less game mechanics and leant more on the story being told.
Black Box Down
Gus and Chris walking through the unbelievable chain of events that go into many air flight incidents leaves you with a new appreciation for the safety of the flying industry. Each episode follows the timeline of events until disaster or rescue and then dives deep into the results of multi-year investigations that most of these flight disasters go through.
Gus is the primarily the one driving the show with storytelling and introducing new information, while Chris adds questions and commentary that many of us layman listeners would wonder about. The show keeps the listener tuned in solely based on what surprising or interesting new information will unfold for the current real-life story.
Some of my favourite episodes are the unbelievable fight between a hijacker and the flight crew aboard a FedEx flight, an interview with a plane crash survivor who believes they benefitted from the incident, and the recent Malaysian Airlines flight 370 which disappeared over the Indian Ocean.
This isn’t for everyone. Some poop jokes, a hint of political incorrectness, and banter about normal life from these three guys is surprisingly entertaining and definitely NSFW. Their day jobs are of streamers – those who play videogames for others to watch online. They convene weekly to catch up and make each other laugh over the mundane experiences they have, whats latest in the news, or the games they play.
To add to the uniqueness, many of the early episodes feature Pyrion’s original short stories of Bodega, a gunslinger in a futuristic galaxy. Scoffee, short for space coffee, is this universe’s version of our own coffee. This, and a handful of other original words add to the fictional world. After enough interest, Pyrion wrote a Bodega novel to connect together many of the storylines originally read during the podcast. I haven’t read it yet, but should eventually pick up a copy for myself.
Whenever I’m in the mood for a good laugh I know I can revisit a couple favourited episodes, or choose a random one if I’m feeling lucky. Some of those favourites are the absurdity of being at kids parties (#25), Pyrion and his sketchy neighbour (#40), and imagining a new and very NSFW gameshow (#89).
Notable mentions from this year
An FBI agent retelling their experiences of going undercover and taking down drug lords? ’nuff said.
The Orange Tree
Not your typical murder mystery, The Orange Tree chronicles the brutal murder of Jennifer Cave, a student at Univeristy of Texas at Austin. The series is hosted by Haley Butler and Tinu Thomas who both attended the same university where the murder happened a decade earlier. They kept hearing about the infamous Orange Tree apartment complex from friends and the murder being in the news, which ultimately led the two to produce this show.
The format of the series consist of multiple interviews, retellings of news clips, court transcripts, and questioning to tell the story. Each episode does a great job at keeping you wanting to listen to the next episode based on a big reveal in the last few minutes of each episode.
Revisionist History and Hardcore History
I’m no history enthusiast, but from listening to the Genghis Kahn series from the Hardcore History podcast helped change my view that history can be intriguing if told the right way. The same goes for a few episodes from Revisionist History’s telling of Curtis LeMay who was a prominent American Air Force General during World War II. I still have a vast amount of episodes to listen to from these two podcasts, but they will likely keep my interest for many hours.
That’s all for now
In the end, I wish there were more hours in the day to listen to more podcasts. Thankfully when I need a break from one, there’s another great podcast to start or pick back up.