My Top 5 Favorite Podcasts

Not too long ago I jumped on the podcast bandwagon and became an avid listener during my commute to and from work. Since then I’ve tried out a number of different shows (there are soooo many now) and have settled on five (or so) that won’t be leaving my Rio Karma any time soon.

1. Cinecast

This twice-weekly look at the movies is quite simply the best movie review podcast I’ve come across.

The quality of the discussion between the two hosts, Adam Kempenaar and Sam Hallgren, is excellent, and most importantly, they take their time to really talk about a movie in depth.

It’s not uncommon for them to spend 10-12 minutes reviewing a film, which means that they can really get their teeth into it – in complete contrast to the one minute “soundbites” you get from Ebert & Roeper.

In addition, the production quality is excellent. Far too often the sound quality on ‘amateur’ podcasts is pretty poor and really detracts from the listening experience. Not here.

Despite their seemingly low-tech setup (check out their video podcast to see the cables), the sound is really good.

Now 50 shows in, these guys will be around for a long time to come and have a bright future in the movie criticism business.

2. On The Media

NPR/WNYC’s weekly analysis and crticism of the world of the media is a must-listen for anyone interested in the learning more about the people and organizations who provide us with our news and entertainment.

Each episode of On The Media has a wide variety of stories, all very well produced.

The hosts, Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield have years of experience in this field and have a refreshingly skeptical interview technique and a dry sense of humor.

3. Left, Right and Center

For a 30-minute weekly check on the political pulse of the nation, KCRW’s Left, Right & Center provides great discussion between four news analysts – one in the center (moderator and Fortune columnist, Matt Miller), one on the left (LA Times columnist Robert Scheer), one on the right (Tony Blankely, editorial page editor of The Washington Times) and one independent (Arianna Huffington, editor of The Huffington Post).

The conversation is lively and insightful without dissolving into the shouting matches you often see on the cable news channels.

If you need a recap on the news of the week with perspective from the different viewpoints (life would be boring if we only listened to the people we agreed with), this is the place to come.

4. This Week In Tech

Labelling itself “the last word in tech”, TWiT provides news, commentary and analysis on just about any topic in the tech world. The show has a good selection of knowledgeable panelists, with the occasional guest such as Lawrence Lessig of Creative Commons fame.

Leo Laporte does a good job as moderator, keeping the conversation moving along and injecting a healthy dose of humor when someone gets on their soapbox.

I will admit that when I first heard the show I thought that Leo was just too slick to really know what he was talking about, but after a few listens I realized that he really does know his stuff – this guy is a geek!

Sometimes the show gets a little too into tech geekery for my tastes – for example, when they are discussing the merits of one chip over another – but fortunately this is pretty rare.

5=. PC Gamer and GameSpot

I love video games and although I haven’t owned a console since my Dreamcast (PC only now), I like to keep up on what’s going on in the industry.

Both PC Gamer and Gamespot follow the same panel format, discussing (although not reviewing) new games, talking about industry news and generally giving you the lowdown on what’s happening in the biz.

The conversation on each show is sharp and knowledgeable, and often quite funny.

PC Gamer is slightly better in that it includes interviews with luminaries (Sid Meier) and other folk (Valve developers) from the gaming industry, which are always interesting.

Sound quality for both is okay but not great, and it’s worth noting that both podcasts suffer from awful, cliched intro music – or am I just getting old?

7. The Business

If you’re the sort of person that watches the extra features on DVDs to learn more about how the movie was made, then you’ll love The Business.

This half-hour show takes you behind the scenes at Hollywood with stories and interviews on a wide variety of topics about the business of how movies get made.

Recent shows covered subjects such as a school that teaches writers how to pitch their screenplays, what it’s like for both the stars and the press on the red carpet (hint: a nightmare), and how TV shows get cancelled.

Any Others?

I’d be very interested to know what other people are listening to, particularly in the realm of comedy. Please feel free to share your tips here.