It’s hard to think of what I can say about This American Life, the podcastiest of all podcasts. It isn’t my favorite podcast, but it’s the one I listen to the most. I find the show to be spot-on nearly every time, in part because it is rather formulaic. The voices have a soothing, if predictable, NPR tone, and the episodes all have the same rhythm, indicated by host Ira Glass’s “each week on our podcast, of course…” And each week’s trappings are the same, down to the music that plays during segments. The segments themselves vary, from interviewing an individual to profiling a town to short stories to a live show of radio dramas, complete with a mini-opera. This is likely a major part of what has kept listeners interested for almost twenty years. There are many years of back episodes in the online archive, which makes it a nice at-home podcast. In the archives, you can choose to listen to only segments that fit a certain tag—teenagers, television, mental health, adoption—and curate your own listening experience. I enjoy listening to episodes from the ’90s in the same way I like looking at old photos. There are moments when everything seems exactly the same, and then I hear Glass’s voice telling me the number to call to buy a cassette of this week’s episode.
Style: Narrative, Interview
If You Like: Radio Diaries, Serial, Fugitive Waves, Radio Ambulante, Re:Sound
Favorite Episode: Episodes 487 and 488, “Harper High School, Part One” and “Harper High School, Part Two”