Best podcasts of the week: the reality show that ridiculed its trans star
Harsh Reality considers how TV has changed, as it celebrates Miriam Rivera’s life rather than mocking her. Plus: how a group of American students ended up at ‘Fake Oxford’
Picks of the week
Harsh Reality: The Story of Miriam Rivera
In 2004, when There’s Something About Miriam was touted as the next big thing, ratings were more important than duty of care in reality TV. This podcast goes beyond the reality show that saw six men competing to win cash and Miriam Rivera’s love – and exploited the trans star’s identity as its “twist”. It recalls Miriam as a superstar on the New York ball scene and celebrates her life as a pioneer, rather than a victim of cruelty.
The Thing About Helen & Olga
From the makers of serial killer podcast The Thing About Pam – currently in development for TV, starring Renée Zellweger – comes another serviceable, if tabloid, true crime tale. This time, our subjects are two nice retired women helping the homeless in Los Angeles – and bumping them off.
Hannah J Davies
Another series of Slate’s podcast, which zooms in on forgotten or little-known events from one year in history (this time it’s 1995). Josh Levin reports on the mind-boggling story of a group of US students hoodwinked into believing they had been accepted into Oxford, the rise of the Macarena and more. HJD
John Grant’s Beautiful Creatures
Grant has a voice made for gentle, witty chat and a bank of high-quality guests, so it’s no surprise that his first venture into podcasting is a real treat. First up is Paul Rudd, with a conversation that meanders through their mutual love of bad horror movies to the genius of yorkshire pudding. Kristin Hersh and Linda Thompson follow. HV
In the Boardroom
It feels as if, in recent years, some of the wider issues surrounding The Beautiful Game have finally started to be addressed. In this series from The Athletic, football broadcaster Jacqui Oatley hears from the men and women at every level of the game who are trying to bring about positive change to their clubs and the wider football community. Her guests so far include Arsenal’s head of women’s football, Clare Wheatley, and the co-founder of the Football Black List, Leon Mann. Hollie Richardson
Producer pick: Uncanny
Chosen by Joleen Goffin
It was around Halloween that I discovered Uncanny on BBC Sounds, so I blame the appeal of a podcast about all things spooky to the time of year, and also perhaps, to my 13-year-old self who spent several nights summoning spirits using an improvised Ouija board. Google wasn’t around yet to explain the inexplicable, so I was left wondering: were we talking to actual ghosts?
In Uncanny, host Danny Robins explores the mysterious world of weird encounters and paranormal sightings, drawing on real-life stories from listeners who got in touch with him following his previous hit series The Battersea Poltergeist. In Uncanny’s first episode a respectable scientist called Ken tells him about how certain sinister sightings in his student bedroom in Belfast 40 years ago, still haunt him today. A panel of experts attempt to explain what may have occurred, but the best part comes when, a few episodes, later Robins returns to the case after listeners – and former room 611 inhabitants – confirm that Ken wasn’t the only witness …
Entertaining if you’re a sceptic – and haunting if you’re a believer.
It’s the terrifying word of mouth hit that brought intrigue and interest to the well-worn true crime podcast genre, and this week Sweet Bobby came to an end with a stunning revelation. Showing that a complicated story doesn’t need an overly sensational treatment, Tortoise Media’s series has been among the most talked about shows of the year, and the most terrifying.
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