Each month, Podcast Review’s staff offers recommendations on the best new podcasts to listen to. Here are our favorites for February:
Podcasters love true crime, especially when it involves catfishing on an epic scale, but in her new show Love, Janessa, journalist Hannah Ajala brings a fresh perspective to the increasingly common issue of victims being lured by fake online personas. In this multi-part series produced by Antica Productions and Telltale Industries for the BBC World Service and CBC Podcasts, Ajala tries to track down the real Janessa Brazil, the adult entertainment star whose pictures have been used to launch catfishing scams across the globe. These scams, of course, can have devastating fallout, but in the moments when they’re unsuccessful, they can also be a bit funny, which the show acknowledges with its jaunty sound design and sometimes humorous interview clips. Ajala doesn’t make light of the scams, though, and she’s determined to get to the bottom of them. After just the first two episodes, we’re hooked.
Jody Avirgan, formerly of the 30 for 30 Podcast, set off with TED Audio Collective to create his latest. Good Sport veers from topic to topic under the broad umbrella of critical sports analysis. Avirgan teams with Bomani Jones for the series pilot, which tries to get to the bottom of athletic “hotbeds,” the pockets of the country that produce a disproportionate amount of great athletes. The ride begins with the Cooper Kupps and Wes Welkers of the world (wide receivers from rural, majority white areas) and ends in Milpitas, California, the center of U.S. table tennis for the past decade.
While listening to The Turning: Room of Mirrors, a podcast about the culture inside George Balanchine’s ballet studio, it’s hard not to think of Black Swan. The opening monologue seems deliberately discombobulating, spinning and whirling as it feeds us provocative spoonfuls of setting and character. Indeed, this intro also sounds like an episode of Chef’s Table, with its baroque violin conveying to the audience that they’re in the presence of great art. But the execution is on point: the narration is tight and evocative, and we are quickly pulled into this insular world. Exploring first the legacy of Balanchine’s choreography, Room of Mirrors soon gives way to the stories of his dancers. A strong start to a promising season.
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