Top 20 Podcasts of 2020

For my “day” job I work as a medical courier in the Dallas metroplex.   Over the last year of work I’ve become a podcast junkie.  I currently follow nearly 50 podcasts and have listened to hundreds of hours of podcasts in the last few months.  So here is my first post about my favorite podcasts!

This list of the Top/Favorite podcasts of 2020 isn’t just for new shows.  I’ve included some older podcasts that I was introduced this year.  I’ve tried to shy away from posting hit podcasts like Marc Maron, Joe Rogan or the wealth of shows from NPR.  I have some chart toppers but most of them are brand new so I thought it more acceptable.  My criteria was wide open but I have tried to highlight some lesser known or forgotten podcasts.  With each entry I’ve given a recommendation of an episode as a “starter” to help showcase them.  Now some shows are meant to be listened to in order so my “episode” pick is more of one that stood out, but I hope you’ll listen in the correct order when possible.  For listening purposes I have used Spotify as my main hub.  Most, if not all podcasts, are found on multiple listening platforms.  Here is my favorite podcasts you should be listening to!

 

TOP PODCASTS OF 2020:

Honorable Mention:

BOOMTOWN – Texas Monthly and Imperative Entertainment 11-part series that tackles the men and women who make up the wild west oil figures of west Texas.

 

20.

BEHIND THE BASTARDS – Host Robert Evans (fellow DFW kid!) and a few sidekicks tackle the worst of the worst humans in history.  Not for the faint of heart but perfect for you crazy hidden sociopaths out there.

Recommend Episode(s) – Two-part episode from May 26th and 28th, 2020 about JIM BOWIE:  THE WORST TEXAN.

 

19.

RECAPPABLES: WESTWORLD – The Ringer is a major player in the podcast realm.  I tend to honestly stir clear of their work because I think it’s basically just ESPN personalities regurgitating cliched discussion from TV and Radio shows.  BUT Hosts David Shoemaker and Danny Heifetz intelligently tackle one of Television’s most cerebral shows.  They are joined each episode by an additional Ringer staffer who helps bring a fresh viewing of that week’s episode.  I highly recommend also listening to their theories and mailbag episodes as they dive into really fascinating debates about where the show maybe going.  Honestly the podcast’s ideas are sometimes more intriguing than the real shows plot lines!!

Recommend Episode(s) – Season 3 Episode 3 – “The Absence of Field” has a rare highlight (and MAJOR SPOILER) when host David Shoemaker correctly guesses what is going on in the new season!  Sadly the show didn’t fulfill the wealth of interesting ideas the podcast hypothesized.

 

18.

GHIBLIOTHEQUE – A Podcast About Studio Ghibli is hosted by Michael Leader and Jake Cunningham who are two British critiques.  Michael Leader is a long time fan of the Studio’s work while Jake has never seen the films.  The two tackle the incredible catalog of films one by one and occasionally have special guests.  For anyone who is a fan of the Japanese animation giant this is a must listen!

Recommend Episode(s) –  8/30/2018 Only Yesterday (with Robbie Collin) is one of the first episodes and Robbie’s story of interviewing Hayao Miyazaki in his personal studio is amazing.  The discussion on Isao Takahata’s directed film is one of the rare adult-themed plots and a hidden gem for most Studio Ghibli fanatics.

 

17.

MAN IN THE WINDOW – Wondery is another huge player in the podcast world and along with the LA Times this older podcast is still one of the best entries for any newcomer.  The synopsis sells the story – “In Man in the Window, Paige St. John, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter has uncovered never before revealed details about the man who would eventually become one of California’s most deadly serial killers.”

Recommend Episode(s) – Start from the beginning!!

 

16.

BEATLES CITY – Hosts Ellen Kirwin and Laura Davis dive into the origins of the band and introduce us all to the real people and places that impacted the four lads.  So insightful and thorough in detail this young duo captures all the magic that made John, Paul, Ringo and George into the most famous band ever.

Recommend Episode(s) – Dec 16th 2018 – Quarrymen takes us to the place John and Paul first met – is not only a fascinating take on a tale many have already heard about, but the true tale and Laura Davis family connection is really interesting.  The direct connection from the host to the famous band adds such weight to their authority on telling the Beatles story.

 

15.

SON OF A HITMAN – Host Jason Cavanaugh documentary style podcast dives into the mythic figure of Charles Harrelson.  The many twists and turns of this real life assassination story is a conspiracy theorists wet dream of a podcast.  I binged this podcast over a long weekend of work!

Recommend Episode(s) – Start from Beginning but Episode 7 will utterly blow your mind.

 

14.

TEAM DEAKINS – “The Team Deakins podcast is an ongoing conversation between acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins and James Deakins, his collaborator, about cinematography, the film business and whatever other questions are submitted. ”   BUT the show is so much more!  When Roger and James started to interview friends and former collaborators from the industry this show became must listen to.  Each new episode is now an interview as well and really highlights the real beauty behind this revealing look at one of the world’s finest cinematic minds.  If you love or like film this is a must add.

Recommend Episode(s) – Episode 18 Sam Mendes – this isn’t the first interview episode but I personally love the director’s work and found every second of this episode so enlightening.

 

13.

WIND OF CHANGE – An 8-part investigation into one of the most interesting theories ever!  New York writer Patrick Radden Keefe’s journey into the wild spy world will baffle the mind.  Did the CIA write The Scorpions famed song Wind of Change to lead to the end of the Cold War?!?!?!?!  Crazy! True? LISTEN!

Recommend Episode(s) – Meant to be heard in order BUT Ep 5 I Follow The Moskva is the wildest look into a famous concert you’ll ever here.

 

12.

LIFE IS SHORT WITH JUSTIN LONG – Another classic Wondery hit.  Adorable actor Justin Long (and his bro) chat with the who’s who of the entertainment world.  There are TONs of interview style shows.  Dak Sheppard has a great one for instance, but Justin Long’s kind hearted nature makes for such a unique host.  He literally is so lovable to his interviewees that they tell some incredible stories.  It has been around for a while so feel free to jump around to all the great interviews.

Recommend Episode(s) – SAM ROCKWELL – listening to these life long friends chat is pure entertainment.  An early one so Justin is just learning his style while the wacky Rockwell is hilariously bouncing off the walls.

 

11.

SMARTLESS – The trio of Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett interview who ever they fucking want.  Roughly only a month old this is easily one of the funniest shows in the podcast realm.  PURE JOY to listen to.  I dare you not to laugh.  These three are soul brothers who will constantly crack you up.

Recommend Episode(s) – Kamala Harris – they somehow got her on the podcast the DAY before she was announced as Democratic Vice President candidate!  Such a fun chat that humanizes Mrs. Harris so amazingly.

 

10.

FORGOTTEN: WOMEN OF JUAREZ – If there is a podcast that utterly floored me it is this one!  The investigation into the multiple brutal slayings of young women in the city of Juarez is immersed in true evil.  The potential culprits are mind-boggling and the intense fear for our hosts and journalists unearthing this story is heartbreaking.  I found myself weeping throughout this horrific real-life and on-going human tragedy.  Not just informational but utterly important to hear the reality that haunts the women of Juarez.

Recommend Episode(s) – Please start from the beginning.

 

9.

SONG EXPLODER – LA based host and creator Hrishikesh Hirway breaks down songs to there most simplistic elements as told by the musicians and bands themselves.  Short episodes but filled with such knowledge and enjoyment this podcast is a binge lovers new favorite podcast.

Recommend Episode(s) – Your own taste in music should sway you on your journey but Thao & The Get Down Episode 69 from all the way back in April of 2016 is a great start.  A fun breakdown of the song but more importantly Hirway was so connected to Thao Nguyen and her music that she would come on to be guest host for numerous episodes.  BTW – one of Thao’s latest tunes “TEMPLE” is freaking FIRE!

 

8.

DARKNET DIARIES – The Podcast that dives so deep into the darknet you will not emerge the same afterwards.  Host Jack Rhysider produced the first 40 episodes damn near by himself and you immediately will connect with his enthusiastic demeanor.  Like a damn packet of chips you’ll find it hard to only consume only one episode.

Recommend Episode(s) – Jack already beat me to the punch as the site recommends two AMAZING episodes in The Beirut Bank Job and Black Duck Eggs.  Both are INCREDIBLE, but being an Israeli I must also say that episode 28: Unit 8200 is fascinating.

 

7.

AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE OFFICE – A new podcast sensation is Kevin from the office aka Host Brian Baumgartner taking us along the incredible journey of the beloved show.  The amount of gold in this podcast is hard to explain.  The interviews and the behind-the-scenes recollections are just incredible.  From the origin tale to saying goodbye to Michael Scott and Steve Carell this is must listen to.  And to think the show is only 10 episodes in and Brian has unearthed so many amazing stories and memories, WOW!

Recommend Episode(s) – The first one is obvious the best starting point but Ep. 7 I Don’t Care, Fire Me is the most enlightening look into the WGA’s strike.  In this episode there is a story about the kindness of Emmy Award winning Writer, Director and Producer Greg Daniels that will floor you.

 

6.

SMALL TOWN DICKS – A podcast about Crime in Small Town, USA.  Told by famed Simpsons voice talent Yeardly Smith, her best friend Zibby Allen (Seasons 1-3), real life twin detectives Dan and Dave and a guest detective each episode break down their most interesting and unique cases.   If you’re a true crime fan you already know, but if you like quality stories about cops and robberies this is a must!

Recommend Episode(s) – I was introduced to the show by listening to a four-part series that ended the first season.  The episodes are entitled The Sociopath and the Whistleblower and this real life scumbag cop tale is hard to believe and thus so sickening.  BUT Season 3 Ep. 1 – 45 seconds might be the most intense podcast episode of any show I’ve ever heard.  I had to pull over my vehicle on my courier job that night because I couldn’t believe the brutal breakdown of a man stomping his girlfriend to death.  It will haunt you and make you look at abuse in a whole new light.

 

5.

GIRL IN SPACE – Sara Rhea Werner is a magical figure in the podcast realm.  She is a tour de force in that she created, edited, produced, voiced and everything in between for this incredible tale.  The title sums up what the podcast is about but only hints at the universe of enjoyment it’ll bring to your life.  Honestly one of the most intriguing plot driven podcasts out there.  And it a podcast that may inspire teenagers to great grandparents to look to the stars above and dream.

Recommend Episode(s) – From the beginning obviously but the ending of Episode 2 is one of the great cliffhanger moments in all the podcast world.

 

4.

DEAD EYES – Actor/Comedian Connor Ratliff’s true story of the time Tom Hanks fired Connor from Band of Brothers because he had “dead eyes” is one of the most interesting stories ever told.  Another binge lovers treat as it is tough to not just keep on going with this wacky tale.  Funny, sad and even inspirational at times this podcast is a real odyssey of emotions.  Connor also is a QUALITY story teller.

Recommend Episode – Duh start from the first episode.  BUT Ep. 6 about Ryan Johnson and Rian Johnson is surreal.

 

3.

ALL THE SMOKE – NBA bad boy legends Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson deliver the best sports podcast out there.  These two gentleman get more out of famous athletes than anyone ever has!  The knowledge and history of the game discussed is so informative but the wild antics and stories of these famous athletes is pure joy.   And they do this while high as a kite.  Educational about the campaign to legalize Mary Jane and also enlightening into the everyday lives of some of our sports heroes and icons.  Matt and Stephen aren’t afraid to ask whatever pops in their minds and that leads to pure entertainment.

Recommend Episode(s) – The Kobe episode (11) is so heartbreaking with it being so close to his tragic passing.  Also the discussions of fatherhood for all three men is really uplifting to any haters of these men.  KG episode at the Chicago All Star Weekend has been highlighted by everyone.  Ep. 30 with Draymond Green had audio quotes hit ESPN cuz of his open honest talk about Durant!  For my Texans Ep. 31 with Errol Spence Jr. was kickass one but my favorite was episode 38 with Vince Carter.  Half-man Half-Amazing talking about AU ball back in the day is captivating.

 

2.

FALL OF CIVILIZATIONS – Author Paul M.M. Cooper’s PHD level knowledge is something to admire.  The depth in which he dives into the historical falls of humanities great civilizations is the embodiment of learning.  His research and the articulate communication delivery of that material is truly enlightening and educational.  He sets out to answer three pivotal questions about these civilizations – 1. What did they have in common?  2. Why did they fall?  3. And what did it feel like to watch it happen?.   These questions are only the ingredients that make up an unforgettable meal for your mind.  Easily the smartest podcast out there (Revisionist History a close second).

Recommend Episode(s) – Any of them but be warned they are all long.  Episode 2 – The Bronze Age Collapse – Mediterranean Apocalypse is one of history’s greatest mysteries.  In the end, this podcast is one that will make you more intelligent just by listening and that folks is pretty damn cool.

 

1.

FAKE DOCTORS, REAL FRIENDS WITH ZACH AND DONALD –  TV show recap shows are all the rage.  This dive into the hilarious world of SCRUBS with stars Zach Braff and Donald Faison is something special.  These real life best friends have given us an audio journey into their bestie world like no other podcast.  Honestly, I listen just to hear Zach and Donald fight.  You don’t have to follow the show to listen but it sure does make the show that much more incredible.  To hear the reality behind the making of Bill Lawrence’s hit show is freaking awesome.  To hear so many of the cast and crew reminisce is the real joy of the show.  I haven’t heard an episode I didn’t crack up at or enjoyed thoroughly.  Also the best theme song of any podcast, mmhmm!  They now have their own bingo for the show too!

Recommend Episode(s) – ALL OF THEM (it is my #1 for a fucking reason).  Ok If I had to say JUST ONE – Season 2 Ep. 203 My Case Study with Ken Jenkins has the single greatest ending to a podcast EVER!  No joke Ken’s iconic closer is the biggest five finger bitch slap you’ll ever hear.

 

Don’t be afraid to open your minds by listening to something new and unique.

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