Picks of the week
Catfish: The Podcast
The acclaimed US indie doc turned ethical minefield of a TV series is now, as with 99% of existing intellectual property, also a podcast. Rather cheekily, its audio is recycled from previous episodes of the TV show (as an aside, this is, perhaps the future of quick and easy podcasting – old episodes of Oprah are also now available in the same format). However, secondhand as they may be, these tales of online dating deception via stolen pictures and purloined profiles – and the odd improbable success – remain as deeply problematic and regretfully compelling as ever. Hannah J Davies
The Two Shot Podcast
Craig “Dot Cottan from Line of Duty” Parkinson’s podcast proves that actors talking about acting is anything but dull. With guests ranging from Karl Pilkington to Nicole Kidman, there’s a lot in Two Shot’s back catalogue to dip into, as the subjects have expanded to chefs, DJs, musicians and more. This year sees the warm and down-to-earth host chatting to Sheridan Smith and Romesh Ranganathan, with Parkinson’s skill for subtly getting people to open up and chatlike they’re not being recorded as sharp as ever.
Chosen by Nicola Kelly
I came to this podcast with a sense of trepidation. James Le Mesurier, the co-founder of the White Helmets who fell to his death in Istanbul in November 2019, had been my boss – and a uniquely charismatic and charming one. We trained the rambunctious Aleppo Police together; hurtled towards the Syria-Turkey border in tin-can yellow taxis to meet with activists; and spent long, balmy evenings overlooking the Bosphorus, cold beer in hand, deciding what more we could do to support our colleagues and friends in Syria. Hearing his voice back would, I knew, be jarring. I hadn’t expected the intimacy of the format to reel me in, unsettle and disturb me, and bring so many vivid memories flooding back.
Mayday, named after the organisation Le Mesurier founded in 2014, is an 11-part podcast of great ambition and depth. Over the course of a year, journalist Chloe Hadjimatheou forensically examined the evidence of Le Mesurier’s alleged suicide, speaking to those closest to him: his widow, friends, former colleagues and White Helmets. While tenacious and thorough, she never leads us or draws conclusions, but instead sets out the case for the prosecution and the defence as if we, as listeners, are jurors.
“Wars are fought with guns, and bombs … and stories,” says Hadjimatheou. Mayday gives us a moment to pause and consider how we would cope if faced with the same set of circumstances. It asks us to reflect on the impact the Syrian conflict has on those deeply invested and involved in it. And it meticulously unravels the way in which Le Mesurier became a pawn in a disinformation war that ultimately led to his undoing.
Following the success of John Sweeney’s series Hunting Ghislaine, another podcast delves into the insalubrious world of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged accomplice. Power: The Maxwells, hosted by US journalist Tara Palmeri, looks towards the rise and fall of Ghislaine’s media baron father Robert, and will be released on 12 January.