The best thing about podcasts is that you can listen to them while you’re doing other things: Dishes, going for a run, coloring, and especially, driving. But there are so many podcasts these days that it’s simply impossible to keep up. There are new ones debuting all the time, and it’s hard to know whether they deserve a spot in your feed.
Every week, we highlight new and returning podcasts we couldn’t get enough of. Whether you’re looking for the latest and greatest or you’re just dipping your toes into the vast ocean of podcasts, we’ll find you something worthwhile. This week, we’ve got podcasts about a shady shrink, a con woman, a mischievous Alaskan girl, and unattainable Utopia.
Why should I listen? It’s a good reminder not to put your doctor in your will.
How many episodes are there and how long are they? There are six, each between 36 and 50 minutes.
Describe it in one word: Guileful.
There’s an episode of Seinfeld where Elaine calls her therapist a “Svenjolly,” and Jerry suggests he has a “cheerful mental hold” on her. It aired in 1992, when Marty Markowitz says he was dealing with his own Svengali, his therapist, Dr. Isaac Herschkopf.
In The Shrink Next Door, journalist and host Joe Nocera talks to Herschkopf’s former patients. Nocera owned a Hamptons home next door to the doctor — or so he thought. It actually belonged to Markowitz. The psychiatrist-patient relationship between Herschkopf and Markowitz quickly blurred, and Markowitz said he began to rely on his doctor to make all his decisions, including buying a house, creating a charity, and cutting off contact with his family. It turns out, Markowitz wasn’t the only patient to relinquish control to the doctor.
Why should I listen? It’s a lesson in mythmaking.
How many episodes are there and how long are they? It’s a four-episode series, with each episode running about 25 minutes.
Describe it in one word: Vexing.
Imagine reading a story about someone who faked credentials for their emotional support animal and then deciding it meant that all service animals are scams. It takes a leap to decide that because A is like B, and A equals C, B must also equal C. This sort of association fallacy can lead to all sorts of trouble.
In 2013, Slate’s Josh Levin published a lengthy article about Linda Taylor, a woman the Chicago Tribune dubbed the “welfare queen” in the 1970s. Six years later, Levin has expanded that article into a book, with an accompanying podcast. Taylor wore furs and drove a Cadillac, but she was also a con woman and possible kidnapper and murderer. Ronald Reagan treated her as a symbol of a broken welfare system. The podcast shows Taylor was much more complicated, and that while the system was broken, it wasn’t filled with scammers hoarding cash.
Why should I listen? You’d like someone else to tell your kid a story.
How many episodes are there and how long are they? The eight episodes are around 10 minutes each.
Describe it in one word: Larky.
As the aunt of a toddler, I’m familiar with my share of kids’ shows with annoyingly catchy theme songs. (“Come inside; it’s fun inside.”) Get ready to add Molly of Denali to the list.
The podcast is a prequel to a forthcoming PBS Kids show of the same name. Molly is a spunky Alaska Native living in a remote, fictional town. Native legends are woven into the episodes, as Molly tries to solve mini mysteries, like a missing birthday cake. But damn it if the podcast isn’t set up a like a traditional radio drama. You want to find out what snarling beast is hidden in the trading post general store? You have to listen to the next episode. Mollyyyyy of Denali.
Why should I listen? Because even if things are bad, at least they’re not eat-your-comrades bad?
How many episodes are there and how long are they? The first episode is 38 minutes.
Describe it in one word: Dystopian.
The problem with Utopia is that it’s not for everyone. Building one requires letting in only the ideologically pure, said Margaret Atwood, meaning you have to discard a lot of people to get to your perfect society. Avery Trufelman hosts Nice Try!, and its first season is all about utopias. As she points out in the first episode, by its very definition, it can’t exist. That hasn’t stopped people from trying. The first episode is about Jamestown, Virginia. Trufelman interviews historians Kathleen Donegan and Karen Kupperman, as well as Irene Bedard, who voiced Pocahontas in the Disney animated movie. The real version of history was less Grandmother Willow and painting with all the colors of the wind and more cannibalism and kidnapping. Future episodes will cover Chandigarh, Biosphere 2, and Herland.
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