New and noteworthy podcasts
Running From Cops
(Pineapple Street Media)
Even if you’ve never watched a whole episode of Cops, “you absolutely know the theme song,” said Jeff Beer in FastCompany.com. TV’s longest-running reality show has been on the air for 30 years, and it’s still going strong. That’s why Dan Taberski, a lifelong fan, spent 18 months investigating Cops’ influence—how it has skewed the public’s ideas about what good police work looks like and who, exactly, is committing crime. Take, for example, the disproportionate coverage of arrests involving poor people and people of color, or the fact that drugs, prostitution, and violence constitute 58 percent of the alleged crimes featured on Cops but only 17 percent of crimes in real life. The most unsettling revelation relates to how the police engage with the showrunners in full creative partnership, giving law enforcement enormous control over what’s depicted, said Nicholas Quah in NYMag.com. “Running From Cops often feels like it’s merely scratching the surface of a much larger problem,” but it starts the conversation.
Against the Rules
“If Against the Rules has an overriding message, it’s that life simply isn’t fair,” said Fiona Sturges in the Financial Times. In this wide-ranging, seven-episode series, Moneyball author Michael Lewis examines the idea of fairness, and how we seek to guard it, by talking to people who play a referee role in their fields. “Smart storytelling” and Lewis’ wry presenting style make the show entertaining, whether he’s focused on sports refs (and how we hate them!), art authenticators, or consumer finance. At times, “Lewis seems more interested in his interview subject than in the larger point he’s making,” said Jake Greenberg in PodcastReview.org. That’s fine. Listeners, too, will want to hear more from charismatic attorney Ken Feinberg, who’s become the go-to guy for deciding how to distribute payouts to families affected by tragedies such as 9/11 or mass shootings. Lewis posits that our faith in fairness is disappearing, and he may be right. “The show delivers, as his projects always do.”
(American Public Media)
The world of classical music has no shortage of juicy stories, said Jenny McGrath in DigitalTrends.com. This podcast series, hosted by concert pianist and storyteller Jade Simmons, probes the lives of great composers to illuminate their genius and how sometimes tumultuous private dramas colored their work. “Think of it as Behind the Music: Classical Edition.” Each episode is not just a history lesson—“it’s a narrative with a character arc, a protagonist, antagonists, a climax, a resolution, imagery, and a heavy dose of emotion,” said Wil Williams in AVClub.com. The first episode focuses on Clara Schumann, a brilliant pianist and composer who was overshadowed by her husband, Robert Schumann. And naturally, Decomposed scores its stories with gorgeous classical music. “It’s the perfect mix of drama and art.” Some better-known composers get their due, too, said Sarah Larson in NewYorker.com. “The Tchaikovsky episode, ‘Why Did You Betray Me?’ should be optioned as a miniseries, because I want to watch it.” ■