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Best podcasts of the week: Gemma Collins joyfully jumps into her specialist subject – herself
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Best podcasts of the week: Gemma Collins joyfully jumps into her specialist subject – herself

Picks of the week

Happily Never After: Dan & Nancy
Wondery+, episodes weekly, then widely available from 3 Jun
Nancy Brophy was a romance mystery writer married to chef Dan. After he was found dead with gunshot wounds in 2018, Nancy was convicted of his murder. In this dark, juicy series, host Heidi Thretheway – who was in Nancy’s writing club – now asks: were the investigating detectives confusing Nancy’s fiction with reality, or had she acted out her novels in real life? Hollie Richardson

What Happened in Alabama?
Widely available, episodes weekly from Wed
Black journalist Lee Hawkins grew up in a predominantly white Minnesota neighbourhood and describes the family “watching our backs on the walk home from school”. At night, his dad would wake up screaming, haunted by his past in Alabama. It’s vital to uncover the lasting impact of slavery and segregation, and Hawkins does it powerfully. Hannah Verdier

Cryptocurrencies in 2021.View image in fullscreen

Chasing Boaz Manor
Audible, all episodes out now
Nobody likes a crypto con merchant, so this tale of hard-working hustler Boaz Manor is particularly delicious. Reacher star Serinda Swan narrates his downfall, from anxious financial whiz-kid to criminal operating under a false name who was pursued by several people, including a high-school enemy and a wronged ex-colleague. HV

Everything I Know About Me: Gemma Collins
Widely available, episodes weekly
From Towie’s glamorous car saleswoman to a stint on I’m a Celebrity, the mighty GC (pictured top) knows how to play the fame game. Returning for a second series, this five-part podcast is designed to squeeze out every detail of her life story and Collins delivers in a way that fans will appreciate, tempering heartache with quotability. HV

Home Sleuth
BBC Sounds, episodes weekly from 16 May
True-crime podcasts aren’t in short supply, but what happens when you remove the host and let the amateur sleuths speak for themselves? In the case of Todd Matthews, you get an immersive story. He’s the man who says he became obsessed with the case known as “Tent Girl” and was determined to investigate the murder case. HV

There’s a podcast for that

Alice Levine, host of British Scandal.View image in fullscreen

This week, Rachel Aroesti chooses five of the best podcasts from master podcasters, from Jon Ronson tackling ideological battles to homegrown scandals with My Dad Wrote a Porno co-creator Alice Levine.

Things Fell Apart
Jon Ronson has been making astounding radio for decades, and his enlightening, slightly left-field approach to huge societal issues means his work has translated seamlessly into podcast form. In 2017, The Butterfly Effect documented the insidious rise of Pornhub in grimly gripping style; now he’s managed to better it with Things Fell Apart, an investigation into how many of our most pernicious culture wars spiralled from unlikely root causes. Ronson is meticulously even-handed host and interviewer, but deceptively audacious, and this show is a necessary corrective to the bad-faith ideological battles – from the anti-abortion movement to vaccine conspiracies – that he reports on.

Search Engine
Nominally a show about the internet, cult podcast Reply All was really just an excuse for presenters Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt to narrate contemporary American culture in impishly entertaining but highly intelligent fashion. In the process, they produced some of the all-time great podcast episodes (the one with the escalating pursuit of a scam caller, the heart-in-mouth quest to verify the existence of a half-remembered song from the 90s). Reply All ended in 2022 amid controversy involving its parent company, but its spirit lives on in Vogt’s other work, which includes the fascinating explainer Crypto Island as well as Search Engine. The latter sees him engage with eclectic questions with complicated answers, like: why are drug dealers killing their clients with fentanyl? And is aeroplane coffee safe?

Partners isn’t Hrishikesh Hirway’s best-known podcast – that would be the colossally successful music analysis show Song Exploder – but it is another example of his ability to come up with simple yet effective formats. Partners sees Hirway interview pairs who work together and/or share their lives romantically. Previous guests include Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger; designer Debbie Millman and writer Roxane Gay, who have been married since 2021; and ice-cream-maker cousins Kim and Tyler Malek. If you want to dive further into Hirway’s back catalogue, try Home Cooking, his award-winning collaboration with Salt Fat Acid Heat author Samin Nosrat.

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The Allusionist
Helen Zaltzman is a podcast pioneer: Answer Me This! was one of the first independent podcasts to gain a significant following in the UK and the very first to be nominated for a Sony award. Running from 2007 to 2021, it saw her and university pal Olly Mann combine two failsafe approaches to the art form: comedy, and answering listener questions. Zaltzman still presents another longrunning show, The Allusionist. It’s a podcast about words, but don’t expect a dry lecture on etymology: instead, our host uses all the irreverence and creativity at her disposal to make her linguistic forays into subjects such as planet-naming, food branding and the name Tiffany as fascinating as possible.

British Scandal
Alice Levine began her career as a TV presenter, but the podcast arena is where she’s really carved out a niche. In 2015, she teamed up with Jamie Morton and James Cooper to make My Dad Wrote a Porno, an uproarious, footnote-riddled reading of an erotic novel by Morton’s father. It soon became one of the biggest podcast sensations of the decade thanks to Levine’s quick wit and, of course, the horrifyingly clunky material provided by the Belinda Blinked books. Levine followed it up with comedy role-playing pod Very Modern Quest and the 41-series strong British Scandal, which retells stranger-than-fiction tales – from the Hatton Garden heist to the death of Brian Jones – from the nation’s chequered past.

Why not try …

  • More entertaining real-life tattle in a new series of Normal Gossip.

  • Former pro Lennox Lewis and pundit Steve Bunce dig into the controversial life of the heavyweight boxing promoter in Powerplay: The House of Don King.

  • The team behind hit news show The Bunker break down US political dramas for a UK audience in American Friction.

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Source: theguardian.com