Podcasts of the week: from football racism to self-driving cars
Any politician who is considering weighing in on the issue of the England football team ‘getting down on their knees’ should listen to TalkSport first. Coming from the coldPatricia Nicol said in The Sunday Times. This “moving and informative” series, presented by Jessica Creighton, is a remarkable slice of social and cultural history, which tells the story of “modern England through the prism” of its black professional footballers.
“Move one of your own players … expect him to play better,” asks former England striker Emile Heskey, his voice “crackling with exasperated disbelief.” Heskey refers to Ashley Cole. But, unfortunately, he could probably be talking about any of the players featured here, from Victorian goalie Arthur Wharton and Walter Tull in the 1910s, to more recent stars such as Clyde Best, John Barnes, Ian Wright and Raheem Sterling. Their stories are “engaging” and “often poignant”, and this “gripping” series makes them proud.
I tend to find audio drama a “struggle,” with its “squeaky sound effects” and excess exposure, Fiona Sturges said in the FT. But Edith!, a comedy-drama about the wife of President Woodrow Wilson, who took over the White House in 1919 after suffering a stroke, is a treat. The writing is “fast and fun”, with clear undertones of Veep, Armando Iannucci’s television comedy about a fictional American vice-president. And Rosamund Pike is great as Edith – “smart, irreverent and sardonic”.
The podcast caption is The Untold True Story of America’s First Secret Woman President. But it is based on facts and, without any cracking noise, it allows for “compulsive” listening. “I was not the first female president,” Edith says modestly. “I was a patriot who helped the country stay united while the president took a nap.”
“No podcast is more interesting, more playful, more beautifully produced” than Malcolm Gladwell’s insightful show Revisionist historyJames Marriott said in The Times. In fact anyone who hasn’t listened to the episodes The king of tears (on country music), The hug heard around the world (on Sammy Davis Jr. and Richard Nixon), A good walk wasted (on the misdeeds of golf) and Alleluia (on both types of genius) is “hereby prohibited from reading this column” until they are gone and “have done their homework”.
Gladwell’s last series was “the only duff to date” – but the new series, the sixth, has just started, and he’s back in great shape with an episode about driverless cars. Much of the fun comes from Gladwell ‘happily experimenting’ with Google’s self-driving car, Waymo: throwing beach balls at it, running and rolling in it while abusing learner drivers. “It’s good to find him. “