As the holiday season draws back and the long length of the winter months approaches, you can fight the mood or embrace it. Here is a playlist of cold weather podcasts, some fiction, some nonfiction, all of which are well told and produced, and all lying in the snow.
For music theater nerds:
Audio dramas – podcasting parlance for fictional podcasts – can sometimes get into trouble if a show is done too well. If a fiction presented in true crime style is too perfect in its imitation, the audience can feel betrayed (see: the angry reviewers of “Heads of the Sierra Blanca”). While “In Strange Woods” begins with your standard reporter ‘s tale of a teenager disappearing in the snowy woods of Minnesota, any matter of verité is completely resolved in minutes when the characters break into a song. If you don’t love musical theater then you can skip it. But the vocal performances are beautiful; The songs add drama in a way that manages don’t be annoying; and the protagonist of the series, a little sister mourning her brother, makes for an exciting story that is still unfolding – so far, three “chapters” of the limited series with five episodes have been published.
The magic of live storytelling podcasts like “The Moth” and “Snap Judgment” lies in the way they break down the space between your headphones and the speaker on stage. Dark Winter Nights began in 2014 with the aim of making Alaskan stories accessible to anyone who wants to listen. These live event recordings are intended to transport you into “the stories we tell here in Alaska on dark winter nights,” according to presenter and creator Robert Prince, professor of documentary film at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. Stories range from great to worldly, like a blind Alaskan woman who finally “sees” a whale on a trip with her family, or someone else who runs away from unusually alert bears.
For sports fans:
When it comes to cold weather athletics and a beautiful sounding story, most podheads probably think of Rose Eveleth’s “On the Ice” episode for the ESPN podcast series “30 for 30”. In this classic piece of sports journalism, Eveleth tells the story of the women who led the first all-female trek to the North Pole in 1997 (“no expedition experience required”, read the classified ad she drew). While the challenge at the center of the story seems to be the cruel conditions of the Arctic, the beauty in it comes not only from the women’s journey to the top of the world, but also from the life they left behind. If you miss the Winter Olympics and the stories of women athletes triumphing against impossible odds, try Bonnie Ford’s episode “Out of the Woods” about the 1984 kidnapping of Olympic biathlete Kari Swenson.
For true criminal freaks:
Wondery went on to become a great podcast player by producing lively and bingeable series, and one thing is clear: true crime. And as all good true crime fans know, there’s nothing more tempting than breaking a cold case. With Wondery as a partner, Salt Lake TV station KSL did just that in the case of Susan Powell, a mother of two from Utah, who disappeared on a stormy evening in December 2009. After her husband, Josh, the main suspect, killed himself and their sons in a fire two years later, local police declared the case closed. But with the help of Wondery, KSL reporter Dave Cawley searches the evidence, conducts new interviews, and discovers the dark legacy of psychological and emotional abuse within the Powell family in this well-told and bingeworthy 18-episode series.
Children (and their adults) who love the X-Men and other stories of adolescents with innate powers will be lost in this fictional saga. “Six Minutes” tells the story of Holiday, an 11-year-old with total amnesia who is found floating in the icy waters of Alaska by the Anders family. They immediately adopt her and tell Holiday that she is their own. But her veiled past is slowly being revealed, along with some superhuman abilities. The story is told in six minute increments and results in an epic 200 epic adventure.
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