Before there was television, radio ruled supreme as the entertainment hub in homes across the country. Now that video and movies are readily available on our computers, television sets, and even our phones, can audio still provide us with good entertainment choices? The answer is a resounding YES! Here are four podcasts that will have you pausing Netflix and turning up your mp3 player.
If you’re a fan of zombie fiction, such as The Walking Dead, World War Z, or Dead Snow, this is the podcast for you. We’re Alive follows the story of a group of survivors, led by three soldiers, as they struggle to stay alive in Los Angeles where the dead once again walk among us. The zombies themselves are formidable opponents in that they are not the slow, shambling ghouls of The Walking Dead or George A. Romero films. Part old-time radio drama, part modern horror tale, the show focuses on the personal lives of the survivors as much as their fight with zombies. While at times the melodrama can get a bit thick, overall it’s an engrossing story with great production quality.
Taking a slightly different approach, Pseudopod is more audiobook than audio drama. Each week, Pseudopod features a new short story read by a narrator. This is a horror podcast, and the stories are often not for the faint-of-heart, but if you’re a fan of the genre, there is no excuse not to give it a listen. While new, often unknown writers provide the bulk of the show’s content, they will occasionally have classic horror tales written by such luminaries as H.P. Lovecraft, M.R. James, and Charles Dickens. The host of the show, Alasdair Stuart, provides insightful commentary on the themes of each story at the end. In fact, if you’re not a fan of horror fiction when you start listening, the great selection of stories and Stuart’s essays will soon have you eagerly awaiting each new episode.
Hosting “strange stories, by strange authors, for strange listeners”, Drabblecast features short stories in a broad range of genres and styles. While often employing a straight narrative reading, like Pseudopod, they will occasionally create a full audio production with effects and multiple readers. The “drabble” of Drabblecast is a 100 word story submitted by listeners and read each episode by the host Norm Sherman. With such a diverse selection of stories, you can find the genre of your choosing, or try out something you’ve never heard before.
Welcome to Night Vale
While the other podcasts we’ve looked at either tell one story continuously, or feature a brand new story each episode, Night Vale falls in-between those two extremes. Modeled as a community radio show for the fictional town of Night Vale, it provides news updates and advertisements for the town’s eccentric residents and businesses. In Night Vale, strange occurrences are commonplace and are presented by the show’s narrator, Cecil Baldwin, much the way traffic or weather updates would be in your hometown. It is consistently one of the most original and hilarious podcasts in recent years.
To close out this list, we have to take a look at the original radio productions that inspired so many creators over the years, and continue to inspire the next generation of radio producers. You can find such classic shows as Suspense, Gunsmoke, Dragnet, and Sherlock Holmes at The Internet Archive.