Podcast of the Week: Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!

This week's podcast recommendation is Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!, a radio show from NPR (and WBEZ) -- so, not that new or edgy in the grand scheme of things. But exceedingly well done -- thanks, largely, to host Peter Sagal whose wit is both quick and sharp -- perfect at going exactly as far as he can or should on a public radio program without pulling punches.

Wait Wait seems especially good, to me, in its choice of panelists who offer a varied but funny wiseacre take on the news. And it seems especially good in comparison to other quiz shows on public radio.

But when you need a break from public radio's earnest sincerity, or just want to hear Paula Poundstone or Roy Blount, Jr., getting off some good lines, this will give a solid hour's entertainment. And the show's MC's have been perfect choices, from NPR veteran Karl Kassel to Chicago/A&E newsman Bill Curtis, who may as well have been the model for Troy McClure, the anchor on the Simpsons voiced by the late, great (sob!) Phil Hartman.

Podcast Press:

Even when Serial takes a week off, it still dominates the podcast press. Some examples from this week:

  • Serial's appeal for funds raised enough to pay for a second season. Yay, for radio storytelling and good luck meeting all those raised expectations!
  • The New York Times' David Carr writes a very smart piece about Serial that not only looks at that individual podcast but at how podcasting in general could affect the public radio environment generally and stations in particular.
  • Suddenly the Times can't get enough: Sarah Koenig is the subject of this week's Magazine interview.
  • Smart piece from Vulture (New York Magazine's culture department) about "the strange intimacy of Serial." Written from a place of both admiration and hesitation about why we are all enjoying this so much.
  • Entertainment Weekly gets on the bandwagon.
  • Gawker has a really interesting piece by a racial and economic justice attorney called "What Serial Gets Wrong." Her basic premise is that you can't "solve" the crime by just re-reporting the facts of the case, and that the answer to whether Adnan Syed is really guilty or not more likely lies in the actions of the Baltimore police and prosecutors -- who were unbelievably shorthanded and overwhelmed at the time of this crime. Which I have no doubt believing to be true. However ... the journalist in me feels defensive of Koenig & co. because while they are setting out to try to figure out what happened, they are also setting out to tell a story and that, they are obviously doing very well. And while I accept Duffy's premise I don't know how you would tell that story. Even as fine and determined a journalist as David Simon had to turn to fictional drama to show how messed up those institutions are.

Had enough? Some of these other posts use Serial as their jumping off point but are not focused on that podcast:

Past recommendations: