10 Podcasts to Listen to Instead of Watching TV

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If you’re getting tired of watching the TV programs that keep repeating themselves and are full of commercials, maybe it’s time to refresh your day by listening to some podcasts. These 10 Podcasts to Listen to Instead of Watching TV are our suggestions of interesting, fun, educational, and perspective-changing shows. You can listen to these whenever and wherever you want, and they can even make a traffic jam a less stressful if you listen to one until the road ahead of you clears up.

1 – Serial

Serial Podcast image, the name of the show written on a bloody concrete surface.

Serial chooses one true life story and explores it over the course of one season

Yeah, Serial’s kind of old news, but it’s just THAT good! The Serial podcast is brought to you by the creators of This American Life, and the host is Sarah Koenig. This podcast tells one story over the course of one season and each week brings a new chapter in the story. You need to listen to the episodes in order so you can understand what’s happening. The plot and the characters are full of surprises and there are many ways for the story to unroll.

The Season One covered the story of a girl who went missing one day after school and turned up dead in the city park a month later. The prime suspect was her boyfriend who was eventually sentenced to life in prison, but Serial reveals much more than the public announcements. Season two tells the story of a US soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, who was held a prisoner by the Taliban for almost five years. On his arrival back home, he was greeted with respect and there were celebrations planned in his honor, but the public soon began to treat him as a traitor. Check out how this story will unfold until the end.

2 – 99% Invisible

99% Invisible podcast image, caption and a small yellow section on a black background divided into squares.

The 99% Invisible is a podcast about design, architecture, and the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world

If you still haven’t tuned for an episode of 99% Invisible, you don’t know what you’re missing. This radio show ranks high in the top arts podcasts and it’s in the top 20 podcasts overall on iTunes. This show talks about design, architecture, and the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world. The show’s created by Roman Mars and it began as a collaborative project of KALW public radio and the American Institute of Architects in San Francisco. The name of the show was inspired by a quote by Buckminster Fuller: “Ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable.”

The goal of this show is to make the unseen and overlooked aspects of design, architecture, and activity in the world visible to the public. Each episode tells its own story so you’re not obliged to listen to them in any order, simply pick one and enjoy. The show’s popularity keeps growing, and there are already 195 episodes recorded and Season four is unrolling right now. Tune in for beautiful stories about design and listen to exclusive interviews with architects, experts, or people who have been influenced by design.

3 – This American Life

Ira Glass standing with a bunch of papers in his hands and papers flying around, on a cloudy background, with a red caption saying ''This American Life''.

This American Life is the most popular podcast in the US and it’s been going on for 20 years already

This American Life has been going on for 20 years already and it stands for one of the most popular podcasts in the country. An amazing fact: each episode has been downloaded about two million times! The podcast episodes are available a week after the radio show and often include some extra content that had to be cut out of the radio broadcast. This weekly show’s produced in collaboration with Chicago Public Media and delivered to stations by PRX The Public Radio Exchange.

Each episode of This American Life has a theme and a variety of stories on that theme. Most stories are journalism, but there’s an occasional spin with a comedy routine or an essay. Maybe you’ll be happy to hear that there’s also a television version of the show that was recorded from 2006-2008. In addition to the Emmy-winning TV show, there are half a dozen stories from the radio show that are being developed into films. The popularity of this podcast only keeps growing, so see for yourself why.

4 – Radiolab

Radio Lab podcast image with captions and a logo, on a white background.

Radio Lab is hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich and it helps people understand science and technology better

Radiolab is a popular radio show and podcast produced by WNYC and hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich. This is a show that awakens curiosity and aims to improve public understanding of science and technology. The show approaches difficult topics such as “time” and “morality” in a way that makes them more understandable and accessible. The show has received a 2007 National Academies Communication Award “for their imaginative use of radio to make science accessible to broad audiences.” The program has also received two Peabody awards.

Starting from June 2009, the podcast offers hour-long episodes that explore specific topics from a number of different angles. Episodes consist of stories, interviews and thought experiments, and deliver an unbeatable perspective-changing experience. The vivid storytelling, supreme sound design, and a genre-bending spirit of inquiry drag the listeners into a different world: a world of discovery, innovation, curiosity, and creativity. Radiolab offers a unique experience and that’s probably the reason it’s already airing Season Thirteen.

5 – Welcome to Night Vale

Welcome to Night Vale podcast image, black buildings and poles with wires, with a purple sky, and a caption.

Welcome to Night Vale podcast tells intriguing stories about unusual events occurirng in an imaginary town

Welcome to Night Vale became the most downloaded podcast on iTunes in 2013. The radio show airs twice a month and it talks about a fictional desert town located in the Southern United States. Episodes consist of news, announcements and advertisements from the town. Each episode contains a music piece as ‘’the weather,’’ and every piece is by a different artist. Cecil Baldwin is the voice behind the host, main character, and narrator Cecil Gershwin Palmer. The podcast was created by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor in 2012.

The theme and background instrumental music were created by Disparition, a musician and composer. In addition to the great music and sound effects, the stories that contain announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the sky at night time, figures with dark hoods and unknowable powers, as well as cultural events. Night Vale is a town where all the urban legends and mysteries come alive. The podcast features a plot consisting of long form story telling while each episode’s a story for itself. While you’re at it, check out the new book.

6 – Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids

A microphone and a caption saying Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids, on an orange background.

Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids is an engaging show that focuses on sharing personal experiences from childhood

The idea for the Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids podcast came from reading a childhood diary as an adult. The experience was cathartic, with a bit of humor and an occasional bittersweet note. The creators thought that more people would like to share their childhood experience with others, and they were more than right. People are loving this show and rushing like crazy to read their own materials, reminisce, and have a good laugh. The thing that makes it all much more interesting is that the diary entries and other stuff people gladly share were never intended for an audience.

This Canadian podcast has inspired many gatherings and live events with a bunch of grown ups sharing their childhood fantasies, dreams, aspirations, letters, and even poems. This show’s very realistic and takes life seriously as all the stories represent authentic experiences that have, in a way, shaped people’s lives. The other perspective that makes the whole thing hilarious is that children’s ideas are read out loud to adult audiences, in a language typical for kids and teenagers. Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids touches the feelings of adults and provides another perspective and catharsis through shared human experience. The show has found its audience across the U.S., U.K. and Australia thanks to its guest slots on the CBC.

7 – Ask Me Another

A caption in blue, yellow and orange saying ''ask me another'', with npr logo above, on a white background.

Ask Me Another is a fun quiz show that combines brainteasers with comedy and music

Ask Me Another is a fun and entertaining quiz show to test your knowledge and learn new things. The lively one-hour show combines brainteasers and local pub trivia night with comedy and music. The show’s hosted by Ophira Eisenberg, a Canadian comedian, writer, and actress and the program is enriched with guitar riffs by the “one-man house band” Jonathan Coulton. Studio guests and listeners are invited to answer the questions, figure out puzzles, and the brain teasers are simply stimulating and entertaining.

This podcast is a quiz show that resembles a game night at a friend’s house. You’ll experience the same intimacy and casual feeling, and forget all about the score thanks to the hilarious gaffes. Ask Me Another is a trivia, puzzle, and game show that often welcomes famous and intriguing guests and contestants. Some describe this podcast as a fun nerdy show as it can make you feel good about being a nerd. The show is also full of funny current references, and the witty contestants make it even more fun.

8 – Fresh Air

A caption on a blue background saying ''fresh air / from WHYY'', with npr logo above.

Fresh Air is a podcast hosted by Terry Gross and it includes long interviews with celebrities

Fresh Air is a popular podcast hosted by Terry Gross and it brings the audience intimate conversations with today’s biggest celebrities. The show’s broadcasted on more than 450 NPR stations across the country, as well as in Europe on the World Radio Network, and nearly 4.5 million people tune in every week. This show has been categorized as a talk show, but it just doesn’t fit such a narrow mold. The Peabody Award was awarded to the show thanks to the “probing questions, revelatory interviews, and unusual insights.”

Fresh Air is produced at WHYY-FM in Philadelphia and its advantage is that it gives the interviews all the time that’s required, and completes them with comments from famous critics and commentators. You can enjoy this show weekdays at 12:00 noon ET. The main segment of the show includes interviews with well-known figures in arts and entertainment, culture, journalism, and world news. The shorter segments that follow include movies, books, stage plays, television programs, as well as recordings of popular music, jazz and classical music.

9 – Stuff You Should Know 

Two men holding a sign saying ''STUFF YOU SHOULD KNOW'', and a mic hanging between them, with a grey background.

Stuff You Should Know is a podcast published by the HowStuffWorks website and hosted by Josh Clark and Charles W. “Chuck” Bryant. It’s an award-winning show that’s consistently ranked in the Top 10 on iTunes. Episodes are released on Tuesdays and Thursdays and they aim to educate the listeners about a variety of topics. The hosts Josh and Chuck use popular culture as a reference to add comedic value to the podcast. Each episode provides fascinating knowledge and humor, and whether the episode talks about redheads or exorcism, you’ll learn new things in a fun and easy way. Through dialogue, you’ll gain a basic working knowledge of the subject the episode is addressing.

Most episodes of Stuff You Should Know last for about half an hour, but there are also topics that require a deeper insight so the show sometimes lasts for an entire hour. The podcast was launched in 2008 as an attempt to re-use the written content on HowStuffWorks.com. Since it was released, the podcast was enjoying a growing popularity and has breached the barrier of 700 episodes back in 2014. In 2013, there was even a full-length SYSK TV show aired on Science Channel that ran for one season. All the episodes of the podcast are thoroughly researched and topics come from the fields of science, history, urban legends, and pop culture, and there’s an added conspiracy theory every once in a while.

10 – Invisibilia

An illustration of a girl sitting and thinking about Invisibilia, with the show's logo, on a dotted background.

Invisibilia is Latin for “all the invisible things” and it explores how emotions, ideas, beliefs, and assumptions shape our lives

The Invisibilia podcast is a show about human behavior co-hosted by Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel. It’s another show that gives you a glimpse at the world you can’t see. Exploring how the invisible things shape our world, our behavior, and lives, the show premiered in January 2015. It’s available on public radio stations, at NPR.org, and on iTunes. This podcast connects narrative storytelling and scientific research. By learning more about emotions, ideas, beliefs, and assumptions, you’ll be able to see your own life from another angle.

Invisibilia is Latin for “all the invisible things” and the Podcast is often oriented on questioning whether our thoughts are connected with our deepest desires and in what way, or do our thoughts reveal who we really are. Through interesting personal stories and engaging anecdotes, all told through a scientific lens, the show quickly captures the attention of the listeners. Some episodes explore what it would be like to live without fear, how expectations can affect our performance and more. Tune in for spectacular personal stories by people with rare conditions and abilities.

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