From a big conversation around race to a bonus episode of a true crime series and the opening chapter of a fictional erotica, here are 18 of the best podcast episodes that you might have missed in 2020.
Podcasts have been the companions we didn’t know we needed during a pandemic. True crime series have provided the ultimate distraction. Dating podcasts have helped us navigate our romantic lives. Candid conversations between hosts and guests have comforted and reassured us. And then there are the very funny podcasts that have, somehow, made us stop to laugh our socks off.
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Whether plugging in while baking a batch of banana bread, stepping out for those daily walks or taking a long, hot bath in the evening, there have been plenty of great options to see us through. But, just in case you missed out on some of the very best episodes, we’ve rounded them up so that you can catch up with them before the year’s out….
The best podcast episodes of 2020
Some will make you laugh, others will make you ugly cry and a few might even make you reflect on the “big” things in life. The one thing they all have in common? They were much needed in 202O.
Grounded With Louis Theroux, Michaela Coel
I May Destroy You creator Michaela Coel is one heck of a fascinating woman. Coel chats to Theroux about everything from religion to dealing with success and the importance of talking honestly about race. She also opens up about growing up with separated parents and how that influenced her writing.
Table Manners, Dawn French
Jessie and Lennie Ware always provide the laughs (and food!) on the hugely successful Table Manners podcast. The episode that really got the Stylist team talking this year was Dawn French’s. The comedian and actor talked about being a “functional introvert” and many of us massively related to her words.
Desert Island Discs, Samantha Morton
Samantha Morton’s Desert Island Discs isn’t an easy listen, but it’s an incredibly brave one. The actor reflects on growing up in and out of the care system, and she uses the opportunity to apologise to the girl she violently threatened in her younger years.
The Michelle Obama Podcast, Talking Marriage with Conan O’Brien
Michelle Obama pretty much broke the internet when she announced a Spotify podcast series. We were particularly into her conversation on marriage in this episode. Obama, who has been married to former US President Barack for 30 years, gave some powerful advice for anyone going through a rough patch in their relationship.
White Wine Question Time, Laura Whitmore
The death of Caroline Flack shocked and saddened the nation at the start of the year. In this conversation with host Kate Thornton, Laura Whitmore (who was friends with Flack) reminded listeners that we are all allowed to grieve in our own way. It was an important listen that would become too relatable for so many of us during a year of collective grief.
The Adam Buxton Podcast, Zadie Smith
During lockdown, Zadie Smith wrote an incredible collection of essays, Intimations, about living in the pandemic. Discussing them with Adam Buxton, she made listeners stop and think when talking about why we should never dismiss other people’s pain.
Dirty Diana, Liz
Demi Moore’s Dirty Diana podcast is a wild ride that you need to jump on. It’s a six-part drama series that tells erotic tales from the female lens. And where better to start than episode one?
How To Fail, Gloria Steinem
Elizabeth Day’s How To Fail podcast has been a guiding light during the pandemic. Her conversation with the iconic activist Gloria Steinem will leave you feeling inspired and satisfied. And her words around being childfree will be of reassurance to many listeners.
This American Life, One Last Thing Before I Go
The One Last Thing Before I Go podcast, about how people process grief and say goodbye, had Stylist writer Anna Brech bawling her eyes out. This episode tells the stories of nurses who cared for patients they didn’t know in a Covid ward in New York, making observations about how their hair looked or the colour of their nail polish, and writing them down in a journal for the patients’ loved ones.
David Tennant Does A Podcast With.. Dame Judi Dench
Judi Dench has been an absolute hero during the pandemic. From being a leading voice in the fight for saving the arts to becoming TikTok famous with her dance routines, we’ve become a little bit obsessed with the Dame. That’s why we were all ears when she was interviewed on David Tennant Does A Podcast. Be warned: you might need to grab a tissue when she talks about how how the grief over her husband changed who she is.
Anthems Pride, Asifa Lahore
Anthems Pride was an innovative series, giving an essential platform to LGBTQ+ voices. The series featured guests who shared short monologues based on their chosen theme. Some of our favourites included Black Pride co-founder Phyll Opoku-Gyimah’s exploration of “solidarity”, drag king performer Isabel Adomakoh Young’s essay on the word “give” and Britain’s first out Muslim drag queen Asifa Lahore discussing “reconciliation”.
The Joe Wicks Podcast, Louis Theroux
OK, The Joe Wicks Podcast might not be your first port of call for hard-hitting interviews and controversial opinion. But it’s exactly to thing to plug into when you just want a bit of lighthearted positivity, and the episode with Lous Theroux is one of the purest things you will listen to. The pair mostly talk about how much they love each other’s work and Wicks clearly can’t believe he’s on the interviewing side. It’s a small pandemic pleasure.
How To Fail, Bernardine Evaristo
We could listen to Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo talking all day long. The Girl, Woman, Other author has led a remarkable life and she talks about it so honestly and with good humour. In the How To Fail podcast, Evaristo gets real about the ageism pressures women face and what it’s like to start getting proper recognition for your work at the age of 60.
The Missing Cryptoqueen, Follow the Money
Oh how we love playing armchair detective with a good true crime series. We were gripped to The Missing Cryptoqueen in 2019, an investigative series that followed the real story of Dr Ruja Ignatova and her unexplained disappearance in 2017. This bonus episode was released earlier this year, updating fans on new information about Dr Ruja’s whereabouts.
Black Girls Living, When Will It Stop?
It’s not just the pandemic that changed the world this year. Following the murder of George Floyd in the summer, the Black Lives Matter conversation was amplified around the world. It’s so important to help ensure this is a movement, not just a moment, and conversations like this one on Black Gals Livin’ (co-hosted by Stylist contributor Vic Sanusi and recorded in the days after Floyd’s death) will always be well worth going back and listening to.
Working From Home With Stylist, episode 7
It was also the year where many of us suddenly found ourselves turning our homes into offices. The Working From Home With Stylist podcast was launched to bring you expert advice on careers, wellbeing and mental health, with a bit of entertainment chat thrown in there. Its aim was to fill the watercooler chat we’ve all been missing. In this episode, campaigner Anna Whitehouse (aka: Mother Pukka) discussed the future of flexible working and the legal issues around it – something that we’re all going to continue to ask about in 2021.
One for the bookworms out there, Typecast was a newcomer to the podcast world in 2020. In each episode, the three hosts cast their favourite books into film. It’s funny, smart and you will find yourself arguing with their choices for who they think should play the likes of Queenie, Mr Rochester and Mrs Danvers. One particularly fun episode is the one where they cast Jilly Cooper’s Riders.
Desert Island Discs, Helen Fielding
Desert Island Discs with Helen Fielding is essential listening for any Bridget Jones’s Diary fan. As well as confirming whether or not Mark Darcy was based on Keir Starmer, Fielding talks about her career and the reality of what being a single 30-something woman means today.
Top images: BBC
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