Dear Drexel Community, the time has well come for us to salute and celebrate the world of podcasts. Welcome! This column will serve as a podcast review. What podcasts are you listening to? How do you feel about podcasts? Do you have a podcast that you would like to be reviewed? Let us know your favorites and make your suggestions by emailing [email protected] We look forward to hearing from you!
Originally named Your Radio Playhouse, “This American Life” has aired on public radio since 1995, making it about as old as the average undergraduate student. Hosted by the ubiquitous Ira Glass and produced by WBEZ public radio station in Chicago, “This American Life” is a weekly hour-long program featuring a variety of interviews, documentaries, essays, memoirs, monologues, found text, found tape, short fiction, as well as overheard conversations, all in one show. In case you ever forget what “This American Life” does, Glass dutifully reminds listeners at the top of the show every single week.
Each week, there is a theme and the “This American Life” team “put[s] together different kinds of stories on that theme.” Then, each theme is split into acts, complete with a prologue. The number of acts generally averages three-four per show.
“This American Life” likes to think of their show as movies for the radio — complete with musical interludes and subtle music in the background — and it is up front with listeners, explicitly asserting that they are not a news show, a talk show or running stories about celebrities as conceived by the general public. Instead, “This American Life” tells the stories of a different kind of celebrity — the little known celebrity — by prodding the ordinary and digging at the personal.
Perhaps what is most unique about “This American Life” is the sincerity and heart-felt nature of the programming. The contributors, who come across as extremely likable and genuine, address listeners with an earnest yet playful conviction and deliver an authenticity that is very challenging to capture.
With over 500 episodes broadcasted, there is undoubtedly a show for every interest. Themes are rich and deep and are never quite as they seem because the acts always meander somewhere unexpected. Themes have ranged from “starting from scratch,” to “slow to react,” to “home movies;” while individual topics for acts have ranged from interpersonal relationships, travel, foreign affairs, crime and countless others. “This American Life” keeps listeners on their toes, and they mix and match in ways that are never thought possible.
“This American Life” expends the time to get their stories, spending months at a time on location to paint the fullest picture possible and illustrate what life is like for the people behind the stories, each story adding another piece to the mosaic that is “This American Life.” The audio quality is by and large excellent. “This American Life” can be found under the “society” category of podcasts on iTunes, which more or less is the best way to categorize the show.
Most weeks, “This American Life” ticks in as the most popular podcast on iTunes. If you would like to catch “This American Life” hot off the radio, it plays on WHYY 90.9 on Sundays. “This American Life” can also be found online at www.thisamericanlife.org, and there is also a mobile application available for iPhone, iPad and Android to download.