The 15 Best Podcasts of 2018
More than any other form of culture or medium or art form, podcasts are deeply ingrained into my life. Television shows will premier new episodes twenty-two times or fewer during the year. Some movie franchises take fifty-four years to produce a sequel. But podcasts are weekly. And you can find the ones that are specifically tailored to your interests. And because they’re readily available on your cell phone, they can come with you anywhere and be a part of your life in a way that movies aren’t. Barring the obvious exceptions, you typically watch movies in one of two places: your living room or your local movie theater. But podcasts can be anywhere. From airports to the Utilidors to the UMass Amherst library to Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C., and eventually Australia and so on and so forth. Podcasts are important to me and these ones colored my year with a faithful, intimate companion no matter where I walked or where I traveled.
Also, shameless plug for my own podcast: Goodbye Mello Brick Road!
15. Comedy Bang! Bang!
This podcast is a perennial installment on this list. The Scott Aukerman-led madcap improv extravaganza never fails to make me smile every Monday morning. With almost a decade’s worth of beloved characters in the repertoire, you may never know what you’ll get, but you always know it will be a fun time. For example, one of my favorite characters of the year was a new one, Daniel Faraway. But my MVP on the year was probably Jon Gabrus’ delightfully Long Island Gino. Long may it live.
14. WTF with Marc Maron
In a world of interview-based podcasts that continuously grow in popularity, WTF remains the best one. Sure, maybe I skip past the first fifteen minutes of chatter, but Marc Maron still manages to get the best out of his guests. Better than, arguably, any other podcast host can do. It’s the kind of podcast that, if it were created today, would be terrible. But it still manages to rise above the pale imitations. Macaulay Culkin, Ted Danson, Bill Simmons, Josh Brolin, Paul Rudd, Rachel Bloom, Tim Blake Nelson, and Jeff Daniels provided the best episodes of the show this year.
13. The Weekly Planet
The Weekly Planet continues to be my first stop for all things about comic book movies. The two hosts, James and Mason, tackle nerdy news with a level of humor and self-awareness that is unparalleled from other podcasts that aim to do something similar. I find myself actively looking forward to their thoughts on the news and trailers and movies that pop up into the culture throughout the year.
12. The Bill Simmons Podcast
As the most downloaded sports podcast, Bill Simmons has a lot to live up to during his three episodes every week. And still he manages to accomplish it. By blending interviews with analysis and pop culture with sports, Simmons positions himself as one of the top voices on American culture. My favorite thing he does is still the weekly “Guess the Lines” podcasts with Jimmy Kimmel Live!’s Cousin Sal. But he also had a slew of top notch interviews this year, including some with Steve Nash, Matt Damon, Greta Gerwig, and Saoirse Ronan.
I won’t write too much about this one because I know the entire podcasting world has gotten to it before I have. But Radiolab is awesome and the episodes on color are chef’s kiss levels of quality.
10. The Good Place: The Podcast
I never thought I could enjoy a specific TV recap podcast the way I enjoy this one, but I guess it helps to also love The Good Place so damn much. What sets this podcast apart is that it does not just so a straightforward recap of the show, but it also goes deep on philosophy (like The Good Place) while also talking about how the episode was made and different elements of its core humor and heart with behind the scenes workers and guest actors, in addition to interviews with the big names like Ted Danson, Kristen Bell, and Michael Schur. It’s also hosted by Marc Evan Jackson, who plays Shawn on The Good Place, which makes it even more of a delight.
9. WDW Radio
In many ways, 2018 will always be defined for me as the year of Disney. So I found myself diving down the rabbit hole and finding even more podcasts about Disney and Walt Disney World from Dishing Disney to Be Our Guest to Unlocking the Magic to Disney News Weekly to Capture the Magic and beyond. But still, my favorite is WDW Radio. Hosted by Lou Mongello, he covers wide ranges of Disney-based topics like attraction history and Disney food and restaurant reviews and food and live park tours and food and did I mention that Mongello loves food? But what I love even more than his rapport with Little Timmy Foster is the fact that he’s not afraid to explore the surrounding topics of Disney World, which came in the forms of a guide to moving to Disney, a preview of Avengers: Infinity War, and a collection of interviews based on Mary Poppins Returns.
8. The Rewatchables
Whenever I would hear Bill Simmons or Juliet Litman or Chris Ryan or Sean Fennessey talk about movies on The Ringer Podcast Network, all I could think was that they deserved a podcast of their own. In 2017, this wish was granted with the amazing and always superb podcast, The Rewatchables. It is undeniably glorious, hilarious, and insightful for casual fans of the movies. These are the cinematic topics I’ve always wanted to hear covered about good and good-bad movies. Literally, they hit out of the park every time. If you’re interested in it, check out some of the best movies they covered in 2018, including: Con Air, All the President’s Men, Step Brothers, Jaws, The Devil Wears Prada, Jurassic Park, The Princess Bride, Get Out, and Good Will Hunting.
7. Section 10
I won’t say too much about this podcast because I’m wary of writing too much praise about something that came out of Barstool Sports. But Section 10 is a must listen for any Red Sox fan and it jumped up the list this year because the Boston Red Sox won the World Series!!!! That made this podcast a hell of a lot more fun to listen to, to be sure.
6. The Poscast
As long as The Poscast exists, it has a spot on this list. This year, Joe Posnanski and Michael Schur continued their discussions on sports and nonsense by expanding their repertory company of podcast guests to include The Ringer’s Mallory Rubin and Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman. Offerman appeared on a draft of Christmas Characters along with Posnanski, Schur, NPR’s Linda Holmes, Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall, The Tonight Show’s Mike DiCenzo, and the MLB’s Brandon McCarthy. It was easily the year’s standout episode!
5. The Big Picture
In addition to The Rewatchables, The Big Picture is the podcast I always wanted from The Ringer. And boy does it deliver! This year, Sean Fennessey finally spun off his podcast, The Big Picture, from The Ringer’s Channel 33 podcast feed to its own feed and it quickly became one of the best movie podcasts out there. The episodes are split into four specific categories, each of which is delightful in its own way. For one, Fennessey interviews filmmakers with new movies out, including John Krasinski (A Quiet Place), David Lowery (The Old Man and the Gun), and Ethan Hawke (First Reformed). For another, he chronicles the Oscars race with Amanda Dobbins by focusing on a different category each week. For third, he revisits older movies and particular subjects through methods like ranking his five favorite westerns of his five favorite Coen Brothers movies. And for last, he reviews new movies either through the lens of an “emergency podcast” or “exit survey,” which he did with Bohemian Rhapsody, among others, or through the lens of a standard review, which he did with Mary Poppins Returns, for example. It’s one of the best film podcasts ever.
4. Binge Mode: Harry Potter
Binge Mode has existed in other forms at The Ringer. It started out as one of the definitive Game of Thrones podcasts before evolving into a culture podcast that covered studios like Pixar or franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe of television shows like The Good Place. But then, over the summer, it turned into Binge Mode: Harry Potter and it’s been on a storm for seven months now as Jason Concepcion and Mallory Rubin break down every chapter from the Harry Potter series and every film from the franchise. It’s a wonderful way to revisit the story and their pieces on the last three books have been utterly devastating and almost as captivating as the books themselves!
3. A Very Fatal Murder
This podcast? I won’t say too much about it. But it’s one of the best true crime podcasts ever created. Maybe even the best. Don’t read about it. Don’t Google it. Just download it, listen, and have your mind blown.
2. The Watch
Sometimes, the hot takes of Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald bother me. Sometimes, the episodes are utterly disengaging. Sometimes, they’re way too over the top. Sometimes, they talk way too much about the Philadelphia Eagles. But The Watch nabs this spot because of something far greater than their content. Every time I’d be in an airport this year (which was very frequent), the first podcast I’d listen to while waiting at my gate would be The Watch. It became a sort of attachment. They talked about Versace. And Anthony Bourdain. And Black Mirror. But it didn’t really matter what they talked about. Because they were in my ears for seminal moments of life transition. It felt like I was in the studio, too. It felt important and it felt like I knew them. I’m grateful for that. It’s stupid, but I am.
- R U Talkin’ R.E.M. RE: Me?
Could it be anything else? This year, this podcast came in like a storm and took over the U Talkin’ U2 2 Me? feed, but it also prompted me to relisten to that delightful podcast, as well. Most of my time spent on the bus to work and in the hallways underneath work were listening to this podcast. I don’t really have anything to say beyond the fact that it’s hilarious and insightful and so, so meaningful. Its existence brings me so much joy. It is unequivocally the defining podcast of the year for me. Thank you, Adam Scott Aukerman.