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The Best Podcasts I Listened to in 2022

View the rest of my favorites here.


Episode: Alex Goldman, Demon Hunter

Reply All missed its chance at a swan song. 2020’s Raisin d’Or winner was already making its way through a rough patch when it took its fatal stumble. An attempt to document the downfall of online culinary giant Bon Appétit ended up revealing some of the more toxic innards of the show doing the documenting. Among the charges levied were unionbusting by one of the podcast’s hosts and a producer as well as a culture of holding back non-white creators. In the end, Reply All lost its founding co-host, P.J. Vogt, and longtime producer, Sruthi Pinnamaneni.

Some might argue that the decline of Reply All started long before the Bon Appétit episode debacle, that the sudden controversy merely accelerated an already-presaged end. Remaining hosts Alex Goldman and Emmanuel Dzotsi tried to keep the show afloat for a while, but eventually acquiesced to its downfall. I’ll admit that the quality of episodes wasn’t what it used to be; the reveals weren’t as strong, the conclusions not as stunning. But I’m not a doomsayer. Do I wish last year’s episode about the Team Fortress 2 bot epidemic had ended with Goldman masterfully finding a kill switch and curing the game? For sure. Am I more than okay with the real ending being his discovery of a new group of friends and the redemption of his love for the game? Absolutely. Reply All missed its chance to go out with a bang, but it had its moments all the way ’til the end.


Episode: Victoria Coren Mitchell

When I was younger, for a summer in elementary school, I had a tradition of putting the Food Network on in the background as I made myself the most boring sandwiches in world history. Just as the sauces and spices I didn’t use soak in and impart flavor to the ingredients they complement, I found that pairing the better dishes of more talented cooks with my fourth ham and cheese of the week gave my own dish a certain je ne sais quoi.

Off Menu brings me back to those days, having become a podcast that I listen to as I make myself the same egg and toast breakfast I had yesterday. This time, the stage is set a little differently: the voices don’t come from chefs, but from hosts James Acaster, Ed Gamble, and their guests, as they venture through the guest’s conceptualization of their dream restaurant, from appetizer to dessert. The episode I’ve chosen to recommend features writer, presenter, and former poker player Victoria Coren Mitchell, who I find totally unrelatable in terms of personal success but consider a kindred spirit in the realm of culinary talent and exploration.

I was hesitant to jump into a podcast about food. My own tastes have historically been, on a spectrum of exotic on the left to vanilla opposite, ultra-far right. Q-Anon far. As with most content on the BBC-and-Channel 4-tentpoled British TV and radio comedy circuit, it’s less about the subject and more about the people. And I recommend the people. If the most boring breakfast of all time feels a little more filling as a side effect? That’s alright too.

The One-Offs

My list of contenders for Raisin d’Or was shorter than normal this year. In lieu of more rambling paragraphs, I’d like to recommend single episodes I really enjoyed from podcasts I only dipped my toes into this year.


Episode: Matinee Monday: Birdemic

This is the closest I’ve come to giving out a lifetime achievement award. This episode is not new, and it’s not the first time I’ve listened to it. It might be the first time I’ve gone back and re-listened to a podcast episode, though. How Did This Get Made? is an all-time favorite, an aural investigation into some of the worst movies ever made. The hosts, Jason Mantzoukas, Paul Scheer, and June Diane Raphael, do an excellent job of pulling humor from the reels and do so without it feeling like they’re punching down. How Did This Get Made? is an all-time classic. The Birdemic episode is a great place to start (but I recommend watching the movie first; it’s a true masterpiece of cinema).


Episode: The Northern Air Temple

Avatar: The Last Airbender was the first children’s show to make my list of best TV shows. The show itself is more than a decade old, but a pandemic-inspired viewership boost led to a companion podcast hosted by two of the series’s stars. This episode, The Northern Air Temple, investigates one of the first season’s most thought-provoking entries, and co-hosts Janet Varney and Dante Basco elevate it by inviting in fan Jason Mantzoukas, who brings his characteristic energy and a surprising amount of genuine analysis.


Episode: Xbox Underground

I can’t resist a good internet period piece. The first (and so far, only) episode of Darknet Diaries I’ve ever listened to documents its titular group, the Xbox Underground, a collection of gamers and internet dwellers from around the world with a common interest in opening up, examining, and modifying their hardware. Their story starts small but escalates as they take to increasingly risky measures to gain access to Microsoft’s internal network. From there, it takes off. There’s a little bit of everything here for fans of internet drama, from organized hacking and online beef to property theft and letting your mom go to prison for you.


Episode: Saddam Hussein

I knew early on that Behind the Bastards would be this year’s Raisin d’Or winner. Clocking in at just under half of the hours I spent listening to podcasts this year, it’s no surprise. Host, writer, and former war journalist Robert Evans cranks out an insane amount of content about history’s worst people. Episodes tend to be long, multi-part pieces, but the banter between Evans and his guests keep them light. 

The episodes of Behind the Bastards that cover some of the most obvious bad guys (dictators like Saddam Hussein) are some of the best, but those that cover figures newer to our conceptualization of evil (Bezos, the CIA) are interesting for their own reasons. The people with the power to shape the world in their image often brandish the ability to warp their own history for their liking. We have a tendency to lavish the wealthy and powerful with the assumption that they have worked to deserve what they have. We might fall victim to assuming that those among us with the greatest means are those with the greatest abilities and the greatest innate worth. It’s nice to have people like Evans to dig in and tear those ideas apart, to remind us that institutions like the CIA are as corrupt and dumb as they are effective and terrifying, or to uncover the weird and unaspirable lives of billionaires.

The speed with which Evans and his producer tear through content is impressive; reading that many books about the history’s vilest would have me burned out in a month. Then again, reporting on the war in Iraq in Iraq would have me burned out in an hour. I guess I’m glad the world has people with thicker skins than me.

Honorable Mentions

  • Better Call Saul Insider
  • The Prince
  • You’re Wrong About

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