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Recommendation Engine

Recommendation Engine: The week in podcast reviews

This week's reviews tackle the latest "frenemies" offering, Ed Balls and George Osborne's Political Currency.

9:00 AM GMT+1 on September 20, 2023

Welcome to this week’s Recommendation Engine from Podcast Rex, rounding up the week in podcast reviews. Get this in an email each week by signing up to be a supporter of Podcast Rex from £3.99.

Apple Podcasts New & Noteworthy:

Spotify New & 🔥

The landmark release of the week is the long-trailed Political Currency, George Osborne & Ed Balls’ “enemies-to-friends” political economics podcast from Persephonica:

  • James Marriott in the Times - “Balls and Osborne come over as a double act composed of two straight men. When the jokes do arrive they feel forced.”
  • Fiona Sturges in the FT - “On pensions and HS2, Osborne spends a lot of time trying to burnish his legacy and highlight decisions made when he was in government. Rather than challenge him, Balls just lets him blather on.”
  • Rachel Cunliffe in the New Statesman - “A howl of nostalgia for a bygone era: backseat driving from two men whose political careers ended dramatically far sooner than they expected and who are now searching for relevance wherever it may come from.
  • Scott Bryan in Great British Podcasts - “The challenge with this series is that it is debuting in a rather saturated market.”
  • Miranda Sawyer in the Observer - “With topics this dry, the most important element in Political Currency will be its chemistry, both between the hosts, and between the hosts and the audience. Balls will be fine, but Osborne has a big likeability gap to cross.”

Miranda Sawyer continues

  • When It Hits The Fan - “Oh dear, this too is dry stuff. These podcasts only work if there’s some life in them: some jokes, or warmth, or intimacy, a little sparkle in the relationship that means you want to spend time with these people. The production here doesn’t let us get anywhere near these two, so their insights don’t land. And the insights weren’t all that.”
  • Newscast - “There’s a briskness and jollity here that means you can’t get bored. Plus, of course, everyone on the show has the advantage of actually still being involved in the areas they’re talking about.”

The Guardian’s Hear Here column recommends

  • The Happiness Lab x Sesame Street - “Abby Cadabby, Big Bird and Grover tackle problems with sparkly socks, the ups and downs of a typical day and the magic of gratitude”
  • Pop Culture with Chanté Joseph - “The collaboration that has rocked the fashion world is the topic being unpicked by Chanté Joseph in the return of this pop culture podcast.”
  • Magnificent Jerk - “In this series, Maya Lin Sugarman tells us the true story – the one that “Hollywood didn’t want” – which turns out to be surprisingly moving.”

Also in Hear Here, Hannah Verdier looks at a number of surprise hits

  • This Is Gay - “A low-key but very funny audio hit about the intricacies of contemporary gay life.”
  • Who Shat on the Floor at My Wedding? - “‘Detective’ Lauren Kilby helps the pair drive the case, exploring motives, timing and whether the deed was a dirty protest or a crime of passion.”
  • Millennial - “Relatable tales of navigating life.”
  • They Walk Among Us - “No Hollywood stars, no glossy production and no catchy theme tune here: just sinister stories.”
  • Dead Eyes - “A real slow burner and a strange comfort to anyone who’d recently experienced rejection.”

Also mentioned: Unreformed, This Is Not What I Asked For, Mugshots.

Radio Times reviews

  • The Rest Is Money - “[It] operates on the sound assumption that the world of money affects us all.”
  • Folk on Foot - “It’s lovely stuff.”
  • Pig Iron - “A labyrinthine and unsettling series.”
  • The Silver King’s War - “The exploits are stirring, the memories are vivid, but after a while one longs for an actor to add some colour.”
  • Strike Force Five - “What would happen if five of America’s talk-show hosts ‘all talked on top of each other for an hour?’”
  • Human Resources - “Please hear them out.”

Scott Bryan in Great British Podcasts

  • Good Bad Billionaire - “There are some rather sobering facts mentioned throughout, such as that 81 billionaires have the same collective wealth as the poorest 4.5 billion.”
  • Rosebud with Gyles Brandreth - “He has a knack in attracting some rather big names in just a few weeks.”
  • Vital Signs - “Liz Whitaker digs a little deeper into the activities of the hospital beyond the emergency ward.”

In PodPod’s Earworms column:

  • Hanna Adan, Gabay Productions: The Girlfriends - “A nine-part series about a woman that was murdered by her husband.”
  • Mary Mandefield, Noted: I’ve Had It - “ I just like that they are unashamedly negative about things.”
  • Manuela Bedoya, Sounds Profitable: Velshi Banned Book Club - “It’s an important issue that all Americans need to pay attention to right now.”
  • Bea Duncan, Broccoli Productions: The Dream - “Thoughtful balance and sharp writing.”
  • Peter Houston, Media Voices: Classic Scottish Albums - “This is a classic scottish podcast.”

In “Freshly Dropped” they mention The Moon Under Water, Political Currency, Dish, The Tommy, Hector & Laurita Podcast, and Science Vs.

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