Anyone who’s ever heard a public radio pledge drive knows that a “driveway moment” is when the show you’re listening to is so good, you'll sit parked in your car until it’s over. Now, with great podcasts flooding the digital airwaves, downloadable stories have spread “driveway moments” all over the world — to gyms, subways, kitchens, and, well, more driveways.
Serial, the weekly podcast that explored the murder of a young Baltimore woman, was the most recent show to capture everyone’s ears. The last episode of Serial's first season dropped Thursday, but there are a lot of other great podcasts worth a listen.
Here are seven podcasts to tide Serial fans over until the show returns for a second season:
Can’t get enough of Serial? Neither could the folks at Slate Magazine, who created a complimentary podcast to discuss and dissect the details of each week’s episode. Designed to be listened to following the corresponding episode of Serial, this show is also weekly, and features hosts David Haglund and Katy Waldman nit-picking over the case’s finer points, as well as how Serial’s producer Sarah Koenig has crafted the narrative. (Warning: Spoilers, obviously).
Part Twilight Zone part A Prairie Home Companion, this fictional, bi-weekly podcast takes the form of radio broadcasts to the Southwestern desert town of Night Vale, where eerie (and often humorous) occurrences pop up all the time. Performed by a central narrator (or news reporter) named Cecil, the show has periodic guest voices, winding, recurring storylines, and — even better, for new listeners — almost 60 episodes under its belt (and counting) to binge on before you get throttled by its first and 15th of the month broadcast schedule.
Digging deep into the areas where the law doesn’t dare tread, this podcast talks to everyone from cooks to coroners in its pursuit of the story. From tales of the mysterious — like the Venus flytrap kidnapping ring — to cold-blooded drive-by shootings, these episodes, which last around 20 minutes each, will keep you on the edge of your seat, while locking you in with masterful, expert-level audio production. It’s true crime at its finest.
This highly entertaining, live recorded podcast evokes the golden age of radio through a variety of segments, including fictional ads, one-off sketches and periodic updates from recurring stories, like the tales of diva detective Desdemona Hughes, the campy adventures of Captain Laserbeam, and the story of a time-traveling Amelia Earhart who faked her death.
Packed with cameos by voices you’d no doubt recognize, like Joe Mantegna, Neil Patrick Harris, and Alison Brie, it’s a great way to see (well, listen to) your favorite actors in a whole new light. But get it while you can — sadly, after 10 years of monthly shows, the Thrilling Adventure Hour will be ending in April 2015.
Unpredictable, dark, and absolutely enthralling, this podcast sets out to explore the unknown and does so with a great staff of radio producers from literally all over the world (one even lives in Antarctica). In its most popular episode, the show follows a woman who, in the wake of losing her daughter, seeks alternative treatment for her extreme grief by taking highly powerful hallucinogens that can only be found in the Amazon rainforest. Other episodes are also strange trips, from explorations of white supremacist churches to covering the ways that crows mourn their dead, they take listeners down unexpected avenues, to places where they’d never venture otherwise.
Arguably the radio show that launched the entire genre of podcasts, this public radio show launched Serial as a spin-off, but had considerable success on its own for more than 15 years. In that time, it’s put out more than 500 episodes and given the world fantastic stories by Ira Glass (the show’s host), David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, Mike Birbiglia, Jon Ronson, and others. Its top-notch audio production has been aped by many podcasts since, but none have ever matched its popularity. In fact, while weekly episodes of This American Life are available for download, past episodes can be accessed through the show’s official app, something few other podcasts can boast.
A bit off topic from the true crime and great story podcasts listed above, this weekly comedy download takes an up-close, highly-critical, and wickedly funny look at terrible flicks that Hollywood pumps out, and rips them to hilarious shreds. Hosted by Paul Scheer and packed full of guests like Adam Scott, Dan Harmon, and Amy Schumer, the host and guests dissect films like Pamela Anderson’s Barb Wire, Miley Cyrus’s LOL, and even Sylvester Stallone’s classic, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. And since there’s no stopping the movie industry from making bombs like these, you can’t expect this podcast, soon to be in its fifth year, to quit any time soon.