Ear Candy

Ear Candy: Obsessed with…Happy Valley

Obsessed with… Happy Valley podcast (credit: BBC)

As Sally Wainwright’s masterful Yorkshire noir approaches the end of its third and final series – and Sarah Lancashire’s heroic Sergeant Catherine Cawood her long overdue retirement – it’s worth savouring every episode.

Obsessed with... Happy Valley is the BBC’s companion podcast, in which comedians Amy Gledhill and Isy Suttie discuss the drama episode by episode. From the start, Wainwright begins to weave several narrative strands, so there is plenty to pore over.

Ear Candy: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Wake

Kathy Burke (credit: SomethinElse)

In a welcome shake-up of the celebrity-on-celebrity interview format, each episode sees Burke invite a famous friend to bring their best gallows banter and fantasise about their deaths.

She has described it as her “fantasy football” version of death and funeral planning. The likes of James Acaster, Jamali Maddix and Stewart Lee are on the line-up. But the draw is undoubtedly Burke herself, and it’s as sweary and smutty a podcast as you could hope for from her.

Ear Candy: The News Agents

Jon Sopel, Emily Maitlis and Lewis Goodall of The News Agents podcast

In a clear statement of intent, a recording of Maitlis’s headline-making MacTaggart Lecture, in which she decried the BBC’s version of “impartiality”, was published under the title before the launch proper.

In other words, this time it’s partial. Some were sceptical about the appetite listeners would have for the opinions of these erstwhile public service ­journalists but The News Agents has taken up permanent residence around the top of the charts, alongside that other opinionated podcast, Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart’s The Rest Is Politics.

Ear Candy: The Rest Is Politics

Alastair Campbell and  Rory Stewart for The Rest Is Politics  (credit: Acast.com)

Given their respective backgrounds – maverick political high-flyers, each with their own distinctive hinterlands – theirs is a penetrating gaze.  

Campbell, a prolific journalist and writer best known as Tony Blair’s acerbic spin doctor, knows No 10 from the inside. Stewart, Secretary of State for International Development in Theresa May’s Cabinet and an early public critic of Boris Johnson, is also a best-selling author, academic and royal tutor.  

Ear Candy: Unreal: A Critical History of Reality TV

I say this not simply to air my grievances but to recommend a defence against such snobbery. Pandora Sykes and Sirin Kale’s new 10-part podcast, Unreal: A Critical History of Reality TV, makes a thorough case for the genre’s cultural significance, without turning a blind eye to its shaky ethical foundations.  

Ear Candy: Bunk Bed

Bunk Bed (credit: BBC Radio 4)

It probably sounds strange, but there’s no better way to put the brakes on your own racing thoughts than to listen to two grown men lying in a bunk bed, rambling on about life and death and everything in between.

That’s the basis of their podcast, Bunk Bed, which first aired on BBC Radio 4 in 2014 and has just finished its ninth series. There’s no structure, only what they describe as a “stream of semi-consciousness,” which gives rise to any number of random thoughts, often silly but sometimes quite profound.

Ear Candy: Things Fell Apart

Credit: BBC

In Things Fell Apart, he excavates the battlegrounds of the American culture wars to find their origin stories, and explains how, exactly, things fell apart and left the country so fractured and polarised. Abortion, homosexuality, cancel culture, Satanism – he picks the biggest and most violent battles. But the episodes start in such obscure places and take such unexpected turns that each one is a revelatory listen. 

Ear Candy: Storytime with Seth Rogen

Credit: Earwolf

The concept sounds standard enough: actor and comedian Seth Rogen asks famous friends to tell a personal story. But Rogen transforms the stories into breezy “audio documentaries” that are, by turns, wholesome, funny and surprisingly revelatory. 

The first episode, Glorious Basterds, is a definitive rejection of that old adage, “never meet your heroes”, as comedian Quinta Brunson recalls her chance encounter with Paul Rudd at a matinee of Inglourious Basterds, where he inspired her to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses to pursue freely a career in comedy. 

Ear Candy: Still Queer as Folk

(credit: Channel 4)

Twenty years on, Russell T Davies’s storytelling is just as impactful as it was when it first aired on Channel 4.  

Originally a podcast for the US version of the show, which spanned five series and 83 episodes in the early 2000s on Showtime, Still Queer as Folk’s American hosts, Patrick Randall and Matt Dominguez, return to the original UK series to give an unfiltered analysis of each episode.  

Ear candy: Brain cigar

(credit: Ambulenz)

Either way, it doesn’t matter. The podcast picks up where episode six would probably have left off – lost and confused in their realm of glorious nonsense.  

The duo abandon logic and linearity to present a hotchpotch of ludicrous stories with the utmost seriousness. Think Baynham and Chris Morris’s surrealist satires such as The Day Today and Brass Eye.