What do your favourite podcasters look like? After falling down the audio rabbit hole of the the excellent Three Bean Salad pod’s back catalogue, I recently found myself listening to an episode in which a listener wrote in with theories about the hosts’ facial features, ranging from “like Jimmy Carr” to “looks like someone who joined Curry’s in sixth form and is still there 20 years later … with no promotion chance.” At which point, I realised that I, too, was utterly incapable of picking some of its presenters out of a lineup.
For pod fans, your relationship with presenters is often entirely via their voices. And this week sees the debut of a great podcasting presence, as rock star St Vincent launches a new show chronicling the history of popular music with tones so honeyed that she has what would once have been described as a perfect radio voice. Fans of My Dad Wrote A Porno will also be pleased to hear from someone else who rarely actually communicates with their own voicebox – Rocky Flintstone, the erotic author and dad behind the Belinda tales. His new show features him actually reading his own work aloud for once.
Along with shows looking at a Squid Game-based scam and the history of attacks against the World Trade Center, brace yourself for numerous new hosts to fast become familiar presences in your earphones – even if you have no idea what they look like.
Deputy TV editor
History Listen: Rock
Audible, episodes weekly
St Vincent is your soothing host for this fine music lesson, starting in post-second world war America where jazz and blues merged in a “spilt booze and stale smoke palace”. The characters of the time are compelling subjects, particularly Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, who recorded an early version of Elvis Presley’s Hound Dog and went on to collaborate with Muddy Waters. St Vincent shows how this wasn’t just a man’s world. Hannah Verdier
The Squid Scam: Hunting the NFT Artists
Audible, all episodes out now
When Squid Game became a huge hit, it provided a handy hook for cryptocurrency peddlers to hang their imaginary coins on. Tech journalist Janhoi McGregor tells how the scammers capitalised on the show without Netflix’s permission and convinced investors they were in for a great opportunity. A well-told cautionary tale of risk and fraud. HV
Widely available, episodes weekly
The Twin Towers attack is etched on people’s memories, but this series shows that the World Trade Center was a target for years. It recalls how a bomb was planted in the garage below the North Tower, killing six people and injuring thousands. How did global tensions stop the FBI and NYPD from preventing another attack? HV
Chameleon: Dr Dante
Widely available, episodes weekly
The new season of Chameleon puts the spotlight on Dr Ronald Dante, a hypnotist who toured nightclubs and celebrity parties plying his trade off the back of the self-help boom. Sam Mullins tells the alarming but entertaining story of how the “tall, dark, Vegas-handsome” scammer got rid of his rivals, hypnotised women out of cash and opened a fake university. HV
Rocky Flintstone Unleashed
Widely available, episodes daily
The author of the erotic My Dad Wrote a Porno stories might only have spoken publicly for the first time a few weeks ago in the show’s final episode, but he’s making up for lost time. This new series sees him reading new Belinda-based ribald shenanigans in daily, 10-minute episodes. Alexi Duggins
This week, Hannah Verdier chooses five of the best scandalous podcasts about the rich and famous, from a high society gossip show to a podcast breaking down Hollywood’s messiest break-ups
The Just Enough Family
Fashion designer Liz Lange grew up in a family with a helicopter, a house in the Hamptons and a ski lodge in Aspen. But despite the Steinbergs’ lavish lifestyle and penchant for being massive show-offs, the close family fell on hard times. Lange documents their rise and fall, from jaw-dropping displays of wealth to bankruptcy and the knock of the bailiffs at the door (you know you’re in trouble when you have to sell off more than 50 of your old masters). If you’re a fan of financial schadenfreude, it’s particularly satisfying.
Even the Rich
Gossip queens Brooke Siffrinn and Aricia Skidmore-Williams clearly love the questionable decisions rich people often make, and their podcast documents everything Getty, Versace and Hilton. Some people think it’s tasteless to rake over royal gossip, but fortunately the hosts say a healthy “Hell yeah” to the practice and delight in schooling listeners in Diana and Meghan’s lives. The rags-to-royalty stories give more fuel to the pair’s belief that the rich are “just like us”, with Charles and Diana’s horse riding, cheating and arguing offering a glorious source of scandal.
Gawping at other people’s failed relationships may not be kind, but it can providehours of fun, as hosts Alicia and Stacie prove. The prolific podcasters (and married couple) prod not just celebrity divorces but breakups, too. Celebrities featured are of course rich enough to fill a good divorce lawyer’s bank account, but the hosts also show their human sides. Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton, Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, and Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are all featured with just the right amount of gossip, relish and laughter.
Queen of the Con: The Irish Heiress
When reality TV producer Johnathan Walton met fun-loving Mair Smyth she was just a glamorous heiress waiting for her inheritance. But the reality was much more scandalous. Would a grasping cousin really be able to relieve her of the promised cash? Why was she fired from multiple jobs? Walton lost thousands to his shape-shifting neighbour and as the red flags waved he began to investigate further, discovering she had impersonated Jennifer Aniston, posed as a psychic, and blackmailed married men. A juicy tale, though ultimately a sad one for everyone involved.
The case of Patty Hearst has been well documented over the years, thanks to its intoxicating ingredients, namely a rich heiress and a blundering revolutionary gang. Kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army at 19, the FBI struggled for leads in Hearst’s disappearance – until she was arrested for robbing a bank. Was she brainwashed or just doing what it took to survive? American Scandal examines the evidence in detail, with slightly theatrical dramatisations that put listeners at the heart of the action.
Why not try …
• None More true stories of strip club life as Strippers In The Attic returns for a third season.
• None Smart conversations with writers and artists, co-hosted by author Jessica Andrews, in Tender Buttons.
• None Boris-themed allegations in ITV’s new news podcast, Partygate: The Inside Story.