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Top 5: Podcasts to kill time

If you’re anything like me — early 20s, desk job, 45-minute commute — you’ve probably dipped your toes into the world of the podcast.

And you’ve probably gotten a little sick of being told to listen to Welcome to Nightvale or Serial every time you ask your coworkers for recommendations.

True crime not really your thing? Did the voice of the Nightvale guy give you hives? Maybe one of these will do the trick and help you shake up your morning commute.

After all, you can only re-listen to My Favorite Murder so many times before the paranoia actually starts to get to you.

1. The Penumbra Podcast

The Penumbra is a breathless, bi-weekly production that follows in the tradition of the classic radio drama. It covers an array of genres from mystery to horror to even a western or two.

Although fantasy isn’t my usual cup of tea, I enjoyed Joshua Ilon’s performance as the titular character in the noir detective story “Juno Steel.” You’ll laugh one minute and cry the next, all the while wondering how you ended up so invested in a private detective solving petty crimes in the first human-built city on Mars.

The Penumbra wrapped its second season on February 19, and the finale of “Juno Steel” made me scream out loud in my car. Really.

2. Wooden Overcoats

“Rudyard Funn runs a funeral home in the village of Piffling Vale. It used to be the only one. It isn’t anymore.”

Or so starts each episode of David K. Barnes’s Wooden Overcoats, which quickly became one of my favourite pieces of media in 2018. Its strengths lie in its vivid characters, from the hilariously morose twins, Antigone and Rudyard Funn, and their infuriatingly cheerful rival, Eric Chapman, to a diverse supporting cast whose stories gain importance as the series goes on.

The acting and production are probably the best of any audio drama I’ve ever listened to. Seriously. If you listen to anything on this list, please let it be this.

3. Elwood City Limits

I’m absolutely infuriated that I didn’t think of this idea first. Co-hosts Lucas and Will are self-described Arthur super-fans — yes, that Arthur.

Each episode of Elwood City Limits sees them critically analyzing an episode of the acclaimed children’s series over the course of an hour.

That may seem like a lot, but their analysis is so insightful and witty that you’ll find yourself unable to stop listening — even if you do snort-laugh on the bus and scare the person sleeping next to you.

4. The Bright Sessions

Ever wondered what would happen if, instead of saving the world, your favourite superheroes went to therapy?

Each episode of Lauren Shippen’s The Bright Sessions features a snippet of a therapy session between psychologist Dr. Bright and one of her “atypical” patients, all of whom have some sort of special ability.

The intimacy of Dr. Bright’s office makes for some touching, grounded moments, even through some very out-of-this-world circumstances. It’s finished its series run, which makes it the perfect show to binge in a weekend. Which I definitely didn’t do. Because I have a life.

5. The Dream

The Dream is an 11-part investigative series from journalist Jane Marie that covers the history of multi-level marketing in the United States, or, as you probably know them, pyramid schemes.

It frames MLM models and scams like them as a feminist issue, interviewing a diverse array of people who are or have been involved with MLMs.

It’s informative, insightful, and beautifully edited, showing how selling cheap handbags or shampoo on Facebook is much more insidious than a simple get-rich-quick scheme.

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