Podcast of the Week: This American Life

I agree. It's kind of shocking that This American Life hasn't been our podcast of the week yet. Well, now it is.

TAL is the show that's changed everything, public radio and podcasting-wise. It brought a new sensibility to public radio, which you can hear in almost every show out there. It inspired numerous podcasts, including the game-changer Serial, its first spinoff. It introduced us to David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, David Rakoff, Dishwasher Pete and so many more. It lives up to its name, bringing you stories of life in America from the funny to the unexpected to the unbelievably important.

There are too many highlights to imagine in 541 episodes but I'll list a few, mostly recent but a couple from back in the day.

  • Listen to the current episode, Regrets, I've Had a Few. It's got a lot of good pieces but the best, in my admittedly biased opinion, is "Tattoos and memories and dead skin on trial" by Emily Hsiao. She made this story at the Transom story workshop. Which you can apply to right now. Trust me, if you're interested in podcasting or any form of audio storytelling, this is the place to go. If you can't take eight weeks to immerse yourself, stay tuned for other opportunities closer to home.
  • I mentioned this last week but I'll say it again: the TAL episode about Drugs — I Was So High — is really good.
  • Ever think about death? You should. Nancy Updike, one of the founders and most amazing writers/producers from TAL, spent time at a hospice and came out with this piece last spring: Death and Taxes.
  • Speaking of Nancy Updike, check out her reporting from the Green Zone in Iraq (remember that)? I'm From the Private Sector and I'm Here to Help.
  • A couple from the vault: This episode, Fiasco!, is one of my favorites from back in the day. But the one I think about most often might be First Day with its immortal segment, "Squirrel Cop."

Podcast press. As usual, much about Serial.

  • Sarah Koenig was on the Colbert Report! And it turns out Serial's last day and the Colbert Report's last day are the same day, next Thursday. The media universe is re-aligning.
  • Vox, which is one of my favorite news sources these days, asked a legal expert for an analysis of Adnan Syed's case. After this week's episode I am more sure than ever that Serial is going to end without a definitive conclusion. I will be really interested to see the reaction to that.
  • How does Syed's family feel about Serial? This piece in the Guardian lets you know. Generally, they say it's brought them closer together.
  • This is an older piece from the Guardian that I missed at the time but if you're interested in the whole Serial-listeners-on-Reddit phenomenon, it's good. I am torn between sympathy for the Serial producers who are taken aback at the Reddit attention and impatience, as in "what media era did you think we were in?"
  • Best Buy made a Serial joke on Twitter. Um, Best Buy?

A couple non-Serial links, just for form's sake:

Past recommendations: