The problem with podcasts is that there are too many. As impossible as it is to watch every streaming show and movie, there aren’t enough hours in a year, let alone a life, to listen to every podcast.
At last count, there were more than two million of them— or about 48 million individual episodes. And one-third of Americans — or over 100 million people — say they regularly tune into one or more podcasts.
This surfeit of shows can be overwhelming — “Where do I even start?!” Amid the myriad scripted series, self-help, science, history, true-crime, travel, advice, interview, fashion, music, and comedy podcasts, it’s not always easy to separate the wheat from the chaff. But in 2021 alone, there were plenty of high-quality podcasts. (I’m looking at you, “9/12,” “Spectacle: An Unscripted History of Reality TV,” “365 Stories,” and “The Bering.”)
Still, what’s interesting to one person can be a snooze to another. I’m a fan, for example, of “5-4,” a funny, often profane podcast about the shortcomings of the US Supreme Court from a progressive’s point of view, but I know it’s not something everyone would listen to while doing their morning planks. (For them, I might recommend “Ear Hustle,” a podcast with everyday stories about people before, during, and after their incarceration at San Quentin, including an episode about having a pet in prison.
What follows are 16 podcasts due to be released in 2022. Some are new shows and some are new seasons of established shows. My guess is there’s something here that’ll interest, entertain, or infuriate you.
Untitled podcast about the attack on the US Capitol
Former WNYC reporters Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz finished up their duPont Award-winning podcast Trump, Inc. in early January. Now the two are teaming up to investigate the failures that led to the breach of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. The attack was foretold, yet law enforcement somehow didn’t respond to the red alerts. The podcast looks at how the Trump administration played a role in creating the conditions that led not only to the attack but also to the failure to respond to the threat. Early 2022 (Pineapple Street Studios)
The Big Hit Show
Which works of pop culture — film, music, literature, TV — have changed American society? Hosted by the estimable writer/critic Alex Pappademas, each chapter will unpack the genesis and impact of a “new classic” through conversations with the folks who created them and the fans who adore them. “Superbad” better be one! January (Spotify/Higher Ground)
Disgraceland, the music-meets-mayhem podcast created by Boston’s Jake Brennan, returns for its 9th season. An entertaining blend of music history, true crime, and transgressive fiction, Disgraceland tells tales — some well-known, some not so much — of rockers behaving very badly. Among those featured in the new season will be Billie Holiday and Juice WRLD. January (Amazon Music)
As co-hosts, actor Josh Malina, best known for his role on “The West Wing,” and Rabbi Shira Stutman, aim to answer some of life’s thorniest questions — like, how do you fix a broken world? And why is gefilte fish a thing? “Chutzpod!” wants to be a podcast for people of all or no faiths. Malina and Stutman say they’ll do what Jews do best: teach, learn, make jokes, and argue with one another. January (Tim Shovers/PRX)
This new, all-ages scripted podcast is a reimagined sequel to the musical “Annie,” set five years after Annie’s adoption by Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, who’s voiced by actor Lance Reddick (“The Wire”). The podcast’s other notable voices include Tony Award-winner Laura Benanti, who plays Annie’s nemesis Agatha Hannigan, and Alan Ruck of “Succession.” In the series, Annie and her orphan friends have to solve a shocking mystery that threatens to cripple Warbucks’ new company. January (Gen-Z Media/Amazon Music/ Wondery)
The Untold Story: Criminal Injustice
A follow-up to the popular “The Untold Story: Policing,” this series from the women-run Lemonada Media examines the criminal justice system and all the ways it’s stacked against certain groups and people. Hosted by actor Jay Ellis (“Insecure”), this season scrutinizes the flaws in forensics, the way prosecutions disadvantage some defendants, and how the prison system takes advantage of those who get convicted. January/February (Lemonada Media)
Cover Story: Power Trip (Part 2)
Psychedelics are increasingly in vogue. Some US cities have decriminalized them and others are considering it. Microdosing, in other words, is going mainstream. But is that good? Part 2 of this investigative podcast from New York magazine will take an in-depth look at the so-called psychedelic revolution. If you haven’t heard Part 1, give it a listen first. People share their experience of taking — and being treated with — psychedelics, and it gets pretty terrifying. February (Vox)
Well-Read Black Girl
Some of the most compelling BIPOC writers and thinkers working today will sit down for in-depth conversations with host Glory Edim, who founded the popular online book club/platform Well-Read Black Girl. Expect thoughtful discussions of art, politics, writing, and social justice. February (Pushkin)
Idolo: The Ballad of Chalino Sanchez
A dual-language podcast about icons in Latin American pop culture, season 1 will tell the story of Chalino Sanchez, the hard-living Mexican singer/songwriter whose execution-style murder — he died at 31 — remains unsolved. With English- and Spanish-speaking hosts, the series traces Sanchez’s wild life. A pioneer of the musical subgenre known as narcocorridos, or drug ballads, Sanchez didn’t just sing about cartels and shoot-outs — he lived them. (When someone in the audience tried to shoot him onstage in 1992, Sanchez pulled out a gun and returned fire.) The podcast promises “the ultimate ride through the underbelly of the Mexican-American music industry and a murder mystery for the ages.” February (Futuro Media/Sonoro)
Getting Even with Anita Hill
Combining narrative and interviews with artists, activists, and academics, this podcast will focus on justice and equality. Hosted by Hill, the Brandeis professor whose sexual harassment allegations against Supreme Court justice nominee Clarence Thomas sparked a national conversation 30 years ago, the series will explore the ways gender discrimination, racism, harassment, bullying, and media bias manifest themselves in our everyday lives — and how people can navigate and, perhaps, overcome them. March (Pushkin)
In this new true-crime podcast, Sgt. Hubert “John-John” Yancey of the Scott County Sheriff’s Department in Tennessee, dies in a meth lab raid gone bad. The bullet that killed him? Turns out, it came from the gun of sheriff’s deputy, Marty Carson, whose family has run the Scott County sheriff’s department for generations. Yancey’s death is ruled accidental, and his widow is on a quest for answers — and vengeance. Hosted by Sean Flynn, who wrote a lengthy piece about the case for GQ in 2008. March (Campside/Sony)
Untitled Roe v. Wade podcast
With the Supreme Court currently deliberating Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health — a case designed, it seems, to overturn Roe v. Wade — Slate has created a narrative series examining how Roe, the landmark decision protecting a woman’s right to have an abortion, came to be. The series explores the circumstances and motivations of specific people who helped make Roe the law of the land, at least for now. May (Slate)
Last spring, a white socialite who’s friends with one of the most powerful men in Belize — British billionaire Lord Michael Ashcroft — was standing on a dock with a Black police officer when a shot rang out. The officer is later found dead in the water. This true-crime podcast examines the murder and the case against Jasmine Hartin, the socialite who says the officer’s death was just a “terrible accident.” (Hartin’s common-law husband is Lord Ashcroft’s son.) Campside Media is producing this podcast with writer/director Will Gluck (”Easy A”) with an eye toward adapting it for TV. Date to be announced (Campside Media)
This is the Spanish-language spinoff of Hrishikesh Hirway’s terrific podcast (and Netflix series) “Song Exploder,” in which musical artists — Billie Eilish, Deftones, Run the Jewels, and Waxahatchee are just a few of the acts who have been featured — take apart a song they’ve written — verse by verse, chorus by chorus — to explain how they created it. Martina Castro, who founded the media company Adonde Media, hosts, and Hirway is the podcast’s executive producer. Date to be announced (Adonde Media/PRX)
Longtime celebrity journalist Andrew Goldman, a Maine native, has interviewed plenty of famous people. But, as he points out in the intro to this oddly engrossing podcast, most didn’t have much to say. In the first season of “The Originals,” however, Goldman managed to get the glitterati to dish, and some serious tea was spilled. (In separate episodes, writer Joe Eszterhas and writer/director Paul Schrader shared scandalous stories.) Goldman talks too much, but he gets his guests to, too, which makes for a quality listen. Season 2 is on the way in 2022. (Los Angeles Magazine)
There are some decent podcasts hosted by musicians, and this, with Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp and session bassist Guy Pratt, is one of them. The chatty British hosts are well-connected in certain segments of the music world — punk, New Wave, pop, and prog — and they get their talented friends to share amusing, behind-the-scenes stories about how the sausage got made. The episodes with Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott, and guitarist/producer Nile Rodgers are particularly revealing. Season 2 is on the way in 2022. (Gimme Sugar Productions)
And five favorite podcasts from 2021
These narrative podcasts delivered compelling stories and complex characters that made for riveting listening.
Stay Away from Matthew MaGill
It’s been months since I listened to this podcast, and yet I’m still unnerved by the oddball story of the handsome loner who opens an exotic plant nursery in small-town Florida and then creeps everyone out until he dies alone and destitute. Who was he? Where’d he come from? In “Stay Away from Matthew MaGill,” host Eric Mennel tells an interesting story about MaGill and reveals some secrets of his own. (Pineapple Street Studios)
Stolen: The Search for Jermain
Jermain Charlo, a 23-year-old Indigenous woman, went missing in Missoula, Montana in 2018. “Stolen” is the emotional eight-episode podcast about the quest to find her, impeccably reported by Connie Walker, an award-winning journalist who previously hosted the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s stellar “Missing & Murdered” podcast, which investigated the disappearances of several Indigenous women north of the Canadian border. (Gimlet)
Just when you think Jonathan Goldstein, host and producer of the celebrated podcast, “Heavyweight,” has done his finest work, he drops a remarkable two-part episode like “Barbara Shutt” and “Barbara Wilson,” a spooky where-are-they-now story that has to be heard to be believed. (Also excellent is the two-parter that precedes the Barbara episodes: “Justine” and “Stephen.”) (Gimlet)
Dan Taberksi may be the best in the business. His 2017 series, “Missing Richard Simmons,” investigating the fitness guru’s abrupt disappearance from the public eye, remains the gold standard of storytelling in a podcast. This time, Taberski tackles the troubling case of Eddie Gallagher, the ghoulish former Navy SEAL who was charged with war crimes in 2018. “The Line” tells a stunning — and upsetting —story. (Apple Podcasts)
Before listening to “Suspect,” I viewed a DNA match as almost incontrovertible evidence of a defendant’s guilt. After “Suspect,” I’m not so sure. More nuanced than most true-crime podcasts, “Suspect” is a six-episode series about the death of a talented 20-something software engineer, and the Black man charged with her murder — based, primarily, on sketchy DNA evidence. This isn’t a polemic against police and prosecutors. Host Matt Shaer interviews all sides. (Wondery/Campside)