Saturday 11 April 2015

PODCAST REVIEW: Life after Serial

Continuing the republication of this year's podcast reviews - this article was originally published in the Weekend section of The Tribune on January 30. For more, visit

SERIAL – a podcast exploring a single criminal case – was very much the springboard last week as we took a first look at the world of podcasts. So this week we kick off with the podcast site that Serial emerged from, This American Life.

If you're into podcasts, you may very well know of This American Life already. It's often the most popular podcast in the US, with about one million people downloading it each week.
It is also a weekly radio show broadcast to about 2.2 million listeners on stations around the country.
Its website is organised brilliantly. They openly say that sometimes it's hard to describe what's going on with the show. They're usually built around a theme, they're often about everyday people, but the site includes a favourites page, handily bookmarked at the top, to give an ideal place to dive in and get a feeling of what it's all about. You can also access it through apps on iPhone or Android. Some of its old stories are even being turned into movies.
It's hard to pigeonhole exactly what they're doing – and that's exactly part of the podcast's charm.

An image from the British Museum's A History of the World in 100 Objects - as well as being available on the BBC website, you can find out more at

A History of the World in 100 Objects
The BBC teamed up with the British Museum for this, a 100-part radio series, each episode lasting about 15 minutes and picking an object that illuminated something of the history of its time. British Museum director Neil MacGregor is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable host, and the objects run all the way from a Stone Age chopping tool to a modern day credit card. Think of it as an audio tour through a museum as big as the world, all helpfully archived on the BBC website at

Diners' Debates
Closer to home, a recent addition to the Bahamian thinkscape has been the Diners' Debates, hosted at Mojo's restaurant and featuring some of the smartest minds on the islands. Each debate takes a different subject, experts present the starting points for the debate and discussion ensues in a relaxed and convivial atmosphere. Nicolette Bethel has been recording and streaming the debates – which have covered subjects such as immigration policy and the effects of climate change – and they are available at Worth noting is that it can be hard at times to make out what's being said but then this is a chance to listen in rather than the event being designed for broadcast. Catch a taste of it online, then head along to the next one to sample the real flavour of it all.
UPDATE: The next debate is on the Federal Republic of The Bahamas: Emancipation from Nassau, and will take place on Thursday, April 16, at 7pm. Find out more about the debates on Facebook at

Welcome To Night Vale
Last time, I briefly mentioned Night Vale, but outraged fans of the podcast picked a bone or two with me since. I'm still not convinced by Night Vale but that's not because it isn't well made. It's a very polished recording and knows exactly what it's doing. It masquerades as a public service radio station reading out notices for the town of Night Vale. However, the town is one of those poor mid-Western towns plagued by everything that could ever go wrong in B-movies. So among the notices for church fairs and pot lucks are mentions of unfortunate cattle abductions by aliens or warnings of weird goings on in the basement of the local crazy professor. This is the land filled with Men In Black, vaults filled with X Files and the place where you'll find the odd socks lost in the laundry. I still think it's odd for the sake of being odd but the brave of heart can find out more at

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