How To Binge Netflix-Like Shows Without A TV
Now streaming directly to your ears. 🎧
Let’s face it — there’s a lot of TV out there, and you don’t have the time to watch it all.
But imagine if you could catch up on your favorite shows on the go. In this dream world, you could get your binge on while driving or sitting on an underground subway train without any signal. You wouldn’t need a cable package, a Netflix subscription, or stupid Hulu Plus commercials (Yeah, what’s up with that? If I’m paying for this instead of TV, it shouldn’t have commercials).
I have some great news for you: THIS DREAM WORLD EXISTS.
And these shows are called audio dramas.
“Hey, random internet writer, WTF are audio dramas?”
Audio dramas are just like TV, but streamed to your ears. Like a book or an audiobook, audio dramas encourage your imagination to run wild—but they’re not boring talk-show podcasts, either. They’re made by cool people with cool new ideas who don’t need a network or advertising to tell them what they should or shouldn’t create. They aren’t limited by a special-effects budget because your imagination does that part. Audio dramas span genres from scifi to improv comedy to sitcom, so there’s something for everyone.
Audio dramas are changing the game in fiction, and if you aren’t listening, you’re missing out on the best storytelling out there.
Here’s my sampler of some of the best across a few different genres to get you started. Happy listening, and let me (and the creators!) know what you like and don’t like! It happens to be a really fun community, too. You can listen to these in the links provided, on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher or wherever you like to download podcasts. Just remember to start from Episode 1!
For fans of: “Stranger Things”
The premise: The community radio show of a little desert town where every conspiracy theory is real — and completely normal.
Why it’s awesome: It’s strangely calming for a surprisingly creepy and sometimes existential show. The host, Cecil’s, voice is calming whether he’s talking about the traffic report or telling us to ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOUD.
TL;DR: You won’t understand it. You’re not supposed to. But it’ll grow on you, and so will all the citizens of Night Vale. There’s a plot sometimes, and sometimes it’s just a comforting yet vaguely menacing presence. It comes out twice a month, and when it does, it’s the best part of my week. Just remember — no one is allowed in the dog park.
For fans of: Monty Python
The premise: A sitcom about two warring undertakers in a small British island town, from the point of view of a mouse trying to write her memoir.
Why it’s awesome: You might actually be UNABLE to listen to this on the bus, because you’ll be laughing so hard people will think you’re crazy. From the voice actors’ hilarious comedic timing to the classic British humor, this show will quickly become a classic.
TL;DR: The premise for this show is like the beginning of a really corny joke, but it’s taken to crazy funny heights. You’ll fall in love with the running gags, the (literally) morbid humor, and Antigone Funn. Antigone is the definition of #relatable. And Piffling Vale is a TOWN, not a VILLAGE, damnit.
3. Wolf 359
For fans of: “Firefly”
The premise: What REALLY happens on a deep-space mission to find alien life — and all the good, the bad and the ugly of humanity.
Why it’s awesome: Even if you’re not a big scifi fan, this show transcends genre. It’s a combination of nail-biting cliffhangers and House of Cards-esque intrigue that you don’t usually expect from a show about the crew of a space ship. Crew members are all cooped up together on a multiyear mission, and the show becomes an exploration of group dynamics instead of the huge vacuum of space.
TL;DR: The writing and voice acting on this show is so good, you won’t even notice two characters are played by the same guy. You’ll fall in love with HERA, the AI, and then you’ll wonder: Is all this drama really happening because they ran out of toothpaste and can’t stand each other’s breath?
For fans of: “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”
The premise: A completely improvised podcast in which the “game” of the scene (every episode) is that Arnie fell through a portal behind his local Burger King into the fantastical world of Foon. Since he can’t get back, but a weak wifi signal comes through the portal from Burger King and he has his podcasting equipment, he decides to set up shop in the local tavern and interview the residents of Foon about their world.
Why it’s awesome: It makes fun of every fantasy series from “Lord of the Rings” to “Game of Thrones,” with the spontaneous fun of an improv comedy show. You never have to set foot in a comedy club to get that “yes, and” fix. Arnie and his companions, Usidore the Blue (Wizard of the 12th Realm of Ephesius, Master of Light & Shadow, etc. etc.) and Chunt the shapeshifter, tell us about Foon—pretty much as the actors are thinking it up themselves.
TL;DR: It’s funny because it’s improv, but the scene never ends — whatever ridiculous thing they made up in the last episode (a violent talking flower, for instance), is now a permanent part of Foon. They might talk about butts one episode and side quests in another. Passing minstrels will do musical improv and Usidore won’t shut up about his stupid quest to defeat the “Dark Lord.”
For fans of: X-Men
The premise: Dr. Joan Bright’s private recordings of her psychotherapy sessions with her special patients. Why are they special? They have “specialized abilities,” aka superpowers.
Why it’s awesome: You think it’ll be about superpowers, but really it’s about mental illness, therapy and coming to terms with yourself. While Dr. Bright might have other motives (no spoilers!), her patients have to deal with the realities of typical life PLUS the realities of atypical life.
TL;DR: The great writing really shines here. Just when you think the show’s an anthology of disconnected therapy recordings, there’s a plot, a story and characters of all kinds woven together by the mysterious Dr. Bright. It provides the answers to questions superhero movies never address: Namely, who are these people and what is having these powers REALLY like?