Most podcast recommendations are about podcast series that you should listen to, podcasts that you’ll subscribe to and listen to every week. But sometimes, all you need is one really good episode to listen to. And it might turn into your new favorite podcasts. Here are some of the best podcast episodes of all time, ever (in my opinion).
Reply All – “#158 The Case of the Missing Hit”
When “Reply All” posted “The Case of the Missing Hit,” it was an instant, well, hit. This is the story of a man from California who has a song stuck in his head. The song used to play on the radio in his youth, and he just wants to listen to it one last time. The problem is, it doesn’t seem like the song even exists. “Reply All” brings out all the stops to bring the song to life and find out why it mysteriously disappeared in the first place.
This American Life – “129 Cars”
A Long Island dealership has to sell 129 cars before the end of the month, and they’re not sure if they can pull it off. “This American Life” reporters embed themselves in the day-to-day business of the dealership as the deadline creeps closer and the salespeople get more and more desperate.
Radio Rental – “Episode 04”
“Radio Rental” is a podcast about the weirdest true stories out there – stories that are as creepy as they can get without actually being supernatural. “Episode 04” is special because of its second segment, titled “Laura of the Woods.” “Laura of the Woods” is the story of a boy who meets a young girl in the forest behind his house, and the hazy memories he has of their time together. Who was Laura, really? A ghost? An imaginary friend? Something more sinister? And why didn’t anyone else seem to know her?
You Must Remember This – “Six Degrees of Song of the South”
Karina Longworth’s “You Must Remember This” tells the forgotten stories of Hollywood. In her series, “Six Degrees of Song of the South,” she explores the dark history, subtext and creation of Disney’s “Song of the South” – and how it echoes throughout popular culture today. It’s not one episode, it’s a miniseries, but it’s worth counting anyway.
Articles of Interest – “American Ivy”
While we’re on the subject of miniseries, we have to mention “American Ivy,” a series on Avery Trufelman’s podcast, “Articles of Interest,” about the history of preppy clothes and how the style has changed (and stayed the same) across time, class, race and gender. How did this one style spread from Ivy Leage campuses to almost every corner of the globe?
Blank Check With Griffin & David – “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk with J.D. Amato”
“Blank Check” is a podcast devoted to covering a director’s entire filmography, and their episode on “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” comes at the tail end of their series on director Ang Lee. The thing that makes this episode really special is how guest J.D. Amato breaks down the cutting-edge technology they used to make “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” work with a framerate of 120 frames per second. The standard speed for most movies is 24 fps, so that’s a huge difference. When trying to describe what it’s like to see the movie in its intended framerate, host Griffin Newman says “It’s going to be like we’re describing a ghost.” You don’t need to have seen the movie, or even be that familiar with Ang Lee’s work to enjoy the episode. It’s a fantastic mixture of dense tech talk and genuine laugh-out-loud moments.
Criminal – “A Bump in the Night”
On “Criminal,” Phoebe Judge tells the types of true crime stories that aren’t usually covered on other crime podcasts. In “A Bump in the Night,” a young woman moves into a new apartment, but something doesn’t feel quite right to her. She hears strange sounds, and notices objects that seem to move around on their own. But it must be in her imagination, right?
Maintenance Phase – “The Body Mass Index”
Why do we still use BMI as an indicator of health? On this episode of “Maintenance Phase,” hosts Aubrey Gordon and Michael Hobbes explore the history of BMI, its invention by a 19th century mathematician and how our reliance on this antiquated measurement might be doing more harm than good.
Radiolab – “The Cataclysm Sentence”
If the world changed forever, and you could only pass down one sentence to all future generations to come, what would that sentence be? In “The Cataclysm Sentence,” “Radiolab” attempts to answer that question, first posed by Richard Feynman in 1961. Writers, historians, futurists and artists all attempt to come up with their own version of the cataclysm sentence. It’s a moving episode about the nature of humanity and our hopes for the future.
Mystery Show – “Case #2 Britney”
“Mystery Show” was a short-lived, yet beloved podcast in which host Starlee Kine attempts to solve life’s mundane (yet still confounding) mysteries. In “Case #2 Britney,” Kine interviews a writer whose first book was a flop. Yet somehow, a photo surfaces of Britney Spears holding that very book in her arms. As with many “Mystery Show” episodes, the real joy comes from the conversations Kine has with the strangers she meets as she attempts to solve the mystery.
Dead Eyes – “31 – Tom”
“Dead Eyes” follows Connor Ratliff on his search for answers about why he was unceremoniously fired by Tom Hanks from the 2001 mini series “Band of Brothers.” In episode 31, he finally gets to ask the man himself. Will Tom Hanks have the answers Ratliff so desperately seeks? Or are they lost to the sands of time forever?
Call Chelsea Peretti – “Rain’s Comin’ In”
I have never been a regular listener of the “Call Chelsea Peretti” podcast, but “Rain’s Comin’ In” is perhaps my favorite podcast episode of all time, ever. “Rain’s Comin’ In” is a live reading of the titular play, written by Peretti and performed by her and her comedian friends. The best way to describe it would be as a parody of rural family dramas like “August: Osage County” and the works of Tennessee Williams. Peretti and the other actors play it totally seriously, and she begins the episode by thanking various fictional organizations and grants that supposedly funded her work as a genius playwright. There’s no way that I can explain “Rain’s Comin’ In” in a way that will do it justice. It’s so funny that it makes me cry.
What’s your favorite episode of your favorite podcast? What do you think is the best podcast episode of all time? Let us know in the comments below!