Best podcasts of the week: How to die on screen, according to the stars of Halloween to Stranger Things

Picks of the week

Playing Dead
Widely available, episodes weekly
“Our favourite characters never really die. They live on in the hearts and minds of fans,” says Michael Nathanson, who must hope that’s true because his character, agent Sam Stein, was killed off in Marvel’s The Punisher. He speaks to stars of Stranger Things and Halloween about what it’s like to reach the last page of the script, while Nightmare on Elm Street’s Amanda Wyss tells of her delight at ending up in a body bag full of eels. Hannah Verdier

Grief, Collected
Widely available, episodes weekly

Rebecca Lehrer and Amy S Choi (The Mash-Up Americans) and expert guests explore many emotions in their new podcast, including the damage done by ancestral grief. But first they address what it means to grieve in the US, asking the vital question: “Are we going to be OK?” After each inevitably heavy episode there’s a soothing meditation. HV

Daniel Kaluuya, who stars alongside Brian Cox and Nicola Couglan in Sam Mendes’s Oliver Twist.
Daniel Kaluuya, who stars alongside Brian Cox and Nicola Couglan in Sam Mendes’s Oliver Twist. Photograph: Valérie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

Oliver Twist
Audible, all episodes out now

The world doesn’t need another Oliver Twist adaptation, and yet this Sam Mendes-produced nine-part take on the Dickens classic is an irresistibly cinematic experience, with rising star Emilio Villa-Muhammad as the orphan Oliver, Brian Cox as Fagin, Nicola Coughlan as Nancy and Daniel Kaluuya as Bill Sikes. Hollie Richardson

Skyline Drive
Widely available, episodes weekly

Astrology: helpful prediction tool or starry hokum? This hugely engaging personal podcast sees host Mangesh Hattikudur wrestle with the topic, from finding astrology-loving Nasa scientists who refuse to speak to him on the record lest they lose their jobs, to looking at the stars’ involvement in his parents’ arranged marriage – which led to his very existence AD

The Tavistock
Widely available, episodes weekly

“The most controversial clinic in the NHS” is the topic of this nuanced podcast. Through interviews and analysis, journalist Polly Curtis tells the story of the impending closure of England and Wales’s only support service for those with gender dysphoria – and offers up admirably clear-headed insights. AD

There’s a podcast for that

Amanda Seyfried as Elizabeth Holmes in The Dropout, adapted from a podcast of the same name.
Amanda Seyfried as Elizabeth Holmes in The Dropout, adapted from a podcast of the same name. Photograph: Beth Dubber/HULU

This week, Ammar Kalia chooses five of the best podcasts that have been adapted for TV, from the tale of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes to an audio murder mystery starring Jessica Biel

The Dropout
The saga of biotech billionaire and convicted fraudster Elizabeth Holmes has all the makings of a perfect TV drama, featuring vast wealth, heady power struggles and so many twists and turns that it almost feels too scandalous to be true. ABC News journalist Rebecca Jarvis’s 2019 podcast on Holmes’s controversial blood-testing company Theranos and its downfall provides the detailed backdrop to Elizabeth Meriwether’s 2022 mini-series of the same name, starring Amanda Seyfried as Holmes. While Seyfried’s gutsy performance is highly watchable, check out Jarvis’s podcast for more on the underlying motivations for Holmes’s deception.

The Shrink Next Door
Wondery’s well-plotted 2019 podcast series is part-true crime, part-relationship drama, centred on the story of writer Joe Nocera’s celebrity psychiatrist neighbour, Isaac “Ike” Herschkopf, who became the subject of a multi-year investigation into the origins of his wealth. Nocera’s detective story uncovering the decades-long abuse Ike inflicted on his patients is given a comic twist by Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd’s performances in the ensuing 2021 Apple TV+ series based on the podcast. While the adaptation might feature a few too many tonal shifts – held together by the zany persistence of Rudd and Ferrell – Nocera’s podcast is a riveting chronology of a toxic bond.

The Duncan Trussell Family Hour
One of the more experimental additions to the podcast to TV pipeline, psychedelic 2020 animated series The Midnight Gospel takes transcripts from comic Duncan Trussell’s conversational podcast Family Hour as the basis for its anthology episodes. Trussell’s podcast is an involved starting point, since its wide-ranging discussions feature everyone from Tibetan yoga experts to shamans expounding on the meaning of life. However, Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward is the perfect match to make animated (non)sense of these chats, setting his TV show in alternate universes where our protagonist Clancy Gilroy “carries out” the often profound interviews.

One of the early offerings from the now largely defunct Facebook Watch streaming platform back in 2019, the Jessica Biel-starring adaptation of the Limetown podcast series was an admirable, pulpy attempt at translating an audio murder mystery to the small screen. The original 2015 podcast series, created by Zack Ackers, reigns supreme, channeling the supernatural cliffhangers of The X Files and the investigative thrust of shows like Serial to tell the story of a fictional research facility where 300 people mysteriously disappeared a decade earlier. It’s up to public radio journalist Lia Haddock to uncover the truth, via a litany of horrifying discoveries .

More than just your typical scripted thriller, this 2016 series from podcast giant Gimlet plays like an immersive audio experience, placing the listener in the fragmented headspace of a caseworker trying to help traumatised veterans integrate back into everyday life as part of an experimental programme. The suspenseful narrative is helped along by a starry vocal cast including the likes of David Schwimmer and Oscar Isaac, while the 2018 TV adaptation features a star turn from Julia Roberts. Frenetic and often haunting, the dark undercurrents of the small-screen version perfectly capture the mystery of the original.

Why not try …

  • A look at history’s fearless female warriors, hosted by Game of Thrones’s Nathalie Emmanuel, in War Queens.

  • A special episode of The Last Bohemians featuring “creative recovery” pioneer Julia Cameron.

  • More outrageous erotica in part one of the My Dad Wrote a Porno finale.

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