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Recommended starter episodes for Radiotopia, a storytelling revolution

Posted on 3 November 2014

Speaking of crowdfunded podcasts, if you are a fan of radio or audio at all, I highly recommend checking out the Radiotopia network. I’m a subscriber and regular listener to all seven shows, and I’ve learned a lot about storytelling simply by listening and reading interviews with the people involved. I made a fair-sized donation that I think is a bargain for the enjoyment and information and received.

They’ve already far surpassed their initial goal, but if they manage to hit 20,000 individual donors they get quite a bit more money from a corporate sponsor. So even if you have just a dollar to give, it’s extremely helpful at this point.

Below, I’ve put together a sampling of my favourite episodes of each of these shows. If you like even one, that should be worth a dollar, right?

99% Invisible

The Sound of Sports” is great. So is “The Modern Moloch“, taking on the myths of car culture. But as an introductory episode, I’m going to go with “In and Out of Love,” an episode about skateboarding that does what this show does so well- make it so you can never look at the world in the same way again. Even if you’re like me and have barely touched a skateboard, after listening to this you’ll be paying attention to the best places to pop an ollie.

Love + Radio

The episode that made me fall in love with this show is “Jack and Ellen” which, to this day, is probably my favourite piece of radio, bar none, ever. But if you’re not ready for experimental, out-there audio, “The Silver Dollar” is a more traditional documentary that is every bit as compelling.

Strangers

You may have heard The Moth Radio Hour when it aired on CBC this past summer. That show was produced by Lea Thau who is now the producer of Strangers, a show that is basically small documentaries about people’s lives. The subject matter can be quite serious, as in “The Long Shadow“, or uplifting, as in my recommended starter episode, “Big Jim and Smokey Joe.”

The Truth

This is a neat one. Every episode is fictional and unfolds as a little radio drama. Hands down my favourite is “That’s Democracy.”

Theory of Everything

This one is tough to characterize. Every week, Benjamin Walker explores a loose theme through first-person narrative, interviews, music, documentary, and fiction, and it’s tough to tell which is which. Each episode is so different it’s tough to say where to start, but I’m going to go with the three-part series “The Clouds” that takes us from Justin Bieber to secret spaces in China to Wikileaks.

Radio Diaries

This is the one that makes me just go “oh my gosh, how do they do that?” The conceit is very simple- tell the stories of regular people- but the execution is just extraordinary. In the Teenage Diaries series the producers sift through hours of tape recorded by teenagers to give us windows into worlds that are unlike anything I’ve heard. Absolutely listen to Josh’s Diary, about a boy with Tourette’s Syndrome,  either the original or the one that revisits him 16 years later. Just incredible work.

Fugitive Waves

Beautiful little vignettes with a focus on sound, radio doesn’t get much better than “Cry Me A River.”

Filed under: radio, reviews

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