Podcasts About Impeachment, Mr. Rogers and a Purring Cat: What’s New
Impeachment news these days is not only dominating cable news headlines and newspaper front pages. It’s also spawned a cottage industry of dedicated podcasts.
News outlets including CNN (“The Daily DC: Impeachment Watch”); NBC News (“Article II: Inside Impeachment”); Vox (“Impeachment, Explained”); The Washington Post (“Impeachment Inquiry”); BuzzFeed (“Impeachment Today”); WNYC (“Impeachment: A Daily Podcast”); and The New York Times (“The Latest,” which debuts on Wednesday) have rushed to churn out explainer podcasts. Crooked Media, the liberal media company behind “Pod Save America,” has one (“Rubicon”); so does the conservative “Never Trumper” John Zeigler (“Individual 1 Podcast”). Steve Bannon has made a radio show about it. And Rudy Giuliani is considering starting one, too.
So try one of those to help untangle the many threads of Washington’s political hell circus. But if you’re looking for counterprogramming to a news-filled subscription queue, here are a few other podcasts that came out this month that are decidedly impeachment-free.
If you can’t wait until the end of November for Tom Hanks’s portrayal of Mister Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” Fatherly, the dad-centric lifestyle brand, will fill that void. Each episode of this 10-part series peels back a layer of the seemingly simple, idyllic world of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Fred Rogers, it turns out, was far more complicated than the cardigan-wearing puppeteer who quietly taught self-love and empathy for 31 seasons on his public television show. Yes, the podcast is a little heavy-handed positioning Rogers as the antithesis of President Trump. But the interviews with the people in Rogers’s neighborhood like Officer François Clemmons will have you in tears by Episode 2.
‘Book of Basketball 2.0’
In 2009, Bill Simmons was still a columnist at ESPN when he wrote his second book, “The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy.” In 2016, Simmons left the helm of ESPN’s Grantland and launched his own sports and culture website: “The Ringer,” which has spawned over 35 podcasts, most notably “The Bill Simmons Podcast,” which consistently lands in the top 50 on the charts. His latest podcast focuses on the N.B.A., incorporating interviews with important players and revisiting top games and moments in the league. The first four episodes dropped at once, and Simmons has indeed updated since 2009 — there’s an awful lot on Steph Curry now, for instance. If you are not like me — an alien who feeds only on audio content and cannot compute athletic culture — and find sports discussion interesting, this in-depth basketball analysis is probably great.
When all the news podcasts clog up your feed and make you feel overwhelmed at the state of the world, why not listen to the musings of a contented cat? If the internet has taught us anything, it is that animal content is a balm within an otherwise hellish digital landscape. And why should that be limited to the visual mediums of cute GIFs, YouTube compilations or Instagram accounts? Enter Bilbo, a large orange cat with a contagious purr and rather large online following (73,000 Twitter followers and counting). His owner, Ellen Murray, records each episode by petting Bilbo on her lap and holding a mic toward the pleased sound her pet is making. There’s not much narrative arc — occasionally she will whisper encouragingly to him or adjust — but you can’t knock a concise concept: “A good boy purring to calm you down.”
‘The Shape of Care’
Finding or providing care — whether for one’s aging spouse, parents or family members —- has become an all-consuming struggle for many Americans. But the United States lacks the infrastructure to support that growing reality as 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day. The host, Mindy Fried, interviews caregivers, experts, activists and the families that turn to them to get help caring for the people they love. “The Shape of Care” illuminates the costs (financial and otherwise) of hiring that assistance, the toll on the caregivers and the need for a rethinking of a widening hole in the infrastructure of American health care.
‘This is California: The Battle of 187’
The first season of “This Is California,” from The Los Angeles Times and Futuro Studios, tells the story of the 1994 anti-immigrant ballot initiative that rocked the state and, it argues, set the stage for California becoming a “resistance” state and Trump becoming president. Gustavo Arellano, the host, layers his reporting with his own experiences as the son, friend and employee of American immigrants, including recounting of being the victim of xenophobic high school bullying during the battle of Proposition 187 grounds this statewide story into the lived experience of the people labeled “illegal” and “undocumented.”
“Smartr” is either a parody or a dystopia set five minutes in the future, depending on your perspective. In this version of the United States, created by Conan O’Brien’s Team Coco for the subscription-based Luminary, the revolution against start-up culture has come, and the insurgents have brought bombs. But the show’s host, a self-proclaimed “victimized” venture capitalist, doesn’t seem too concerned by the attempts on his life. Instead he’s using his podcast as a sort of “Shark Tank” for wannabe tech founders, played by comedic guests like Tim Heidecker and Mamrie Hart. Each episode features a new pitch for an app that shockingly similar to the products coming out of Silicon Valley. (One start-up pitches Autonews, a computer-generated headline app that uses algorithms to construct what people want to see.) Insulated by their exorbitant wealth, the Silicon Valley protagonists seem just mildly perturbed that the proletariat is up in arms over invasions of privacy, manipulative algorithms and underpaying gig jobs. The result is a comic critique of a ruling tech class, and a warning of the inevitable revolt.
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‘Slow Burn Season 3’
After a chart-topping first two seasons about the road to impeachment for Presidents Nixon and Clinton, Slate’s “Slow Burn” returns, not to the impeachment battle everyone else is talking about, but to a bicoastal 1990s rap battle. The new season’s investigation into the lives and murders of Christopher Wallace, known as Notorious B.I.G., and Tupac Shakur delves into the broader cultural battles surrounding these larger-than-life performers: between hip-hop and law enforcement, and black civil rights leaders and rap. But its coverage of Tupac’s sexual assault conviction in the first episode has opened the show to criticism it rarely received during its first two seasons.
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