6 new podcasts to listen to this week

These are our top podcast picks.

Rylan: How to Be In The Spotlight is a new BBC Sounds podcast hosted by Rylan.
_SB49476 Rylan: How to Be In The Spotlight is a new BBC Sounds podcast hosted by Rylan. (steve bright)

1. Backfired: The Vaping Wars

Streaming platform: Audible

 Genre: Health

Before journalists Leon Neyfakh and Arielle Pardes decided to host Audible’s new nine-part podcast Backfired: The Vaping Wars, they spent months reporting on vaping.

Something that has quickly gone from being a niche hobby to a million-dollar industry in the space of just a decade – but whilst they were trying to do this, Neyfakh was trying to quit vaping himself and was massively failing.

A few years ago there was only one major vaping product people were using, and it was called Juul. Still, as the hosts continued to investigate further they found that there are now thousands of vape brands on the market in flavours including, luscious lemon, cheesecake and watermelon ice.

Watching Neyfakh grapple with his vaping addiction was pretty eye-opening for Pardes. But it’s what I think brings this important story about the debate over vaping within the world of public health to life.

Backfired: The Vaping Wars tells the story of the founders of Juul, two graduate students at Stanford, who set out to create a cigarette that wouldn’t kill them – they secure the first interview that co-founder James Monsees has given since leaving the company – and dive into the growing illegal vape market that has sprouted up in Juul’s wake.

(By Yolanthé Fawehinmi)

2. The Plot Thickens

Streaming platform: All streaming platforms

Genre: History

Imagine being commissioned to create a film and it goes missing? Well, that’s exactly what happened to Hollywood director John Ford in 1944, after the US military recruited him to cover World War Two.

Season five of Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM) award-winning seven-part podcast The Plot Thickens about cinema’s most mysterious auteur, is co-produced by Novel and hosted by Ben Mankiewicz, who travels to Europe to trace the mystery of whether the D-Day movie exists or not.

“John Ford is a mercurial figure. Not surprisingly given his stature, the stereotypes about Ford are incomplete,” said Mankiewicz.

“This is a man defined by contradictions: he revered the military and envied those who served yet bristled at authority… and he preached loyalty yet frequently berated and degraded his actors during the production of his movies, particularly his most famous leading man, John Wayne.

“Despite all of that, Ford was also contemplative, playful, and a genuine artist. This season of The Plot Thickens has been spent trying to find out what is true about John Ford and what isn’t. It hasn’t been easy getting to the bottom of John Ford, but as you’ll hear, it was worth the trip.”

If you are looking for a podcast about movies and the people who make them, add The Plot Thickens to your playlist.

(By Yolanthé Fawehinmi)

3. Pack One Bag

Streaming platform: All streaming platforms

Genre: History and family

In the fourth episode of Pack One Bag, executively produced by American actor Stanley Tucci and created by documentarian David Modigliani, he interviews Paola, who still lives in the “Jewish ghetto of Rome” and is one of the last living connections to his family’s story.

This 10-part podcast series explores the story of Modigliani’s famous grandfather, Nobel Prize-winning economist Franco Modigliani, and his romance on the run from fascist Italy ahead of World War Two. Each episode uncovers the realities and inevitable darker sides of an enthralling family history.

But the overarching question that Modigliani explores in the podcast is: if fascism takes over your country – do you stay or do you flee?

The first episode already won the Jury Award for nonfiction audio at the Tribeca Festival in 2023, and I can understand why. Learning about your family history is important, it’s a privilege to be brought along on the adventure.

(By Yolanthé Fawehinmi)

4. Rylan: How To Be In The Spotlight

Streaming platform: All streaming platforms

Genre: Showbiz

I’ve always wondered what it’s like for people who have been thrust into the public eye. How can you ever really be prepared? What does it really mean to be famous?

Rylan: How To Be In The Spotlight is a new BBC Sounds podcast hosted by Rylan, where he interviews the people who have lived to tell the tale. And this time around it’s actress and comedian Emily Atack, who has a unique place in the series – she’s spent her entire life in the spotlight.

But it wasn’t until her breakout role as Charlotte Hinchcliffe on the E4 comedy series The Inbetweeners that Atack claimed the spotlight for herself at age 17.

“What does being in the spotlight mean to you?” Rylan asked Atack, also the first question he asked all of his guests on the podcast.

“Now it’s completely different. It was all about talent… the craft, it had nothing to do with social media, Instagram. Now you’ve got to be your own brand. You’ve got to be good at selling things and you’ve got to be on all the time,” said Atack.

They go on to speak about how she broke away from “sexy schoolgirl” roles, and how she deals with negative tabloid headlines. It’s an insightful and sobering listen.

(By Yolanthé Fawehinmi)

Spotlight on…

5. The Apple & The Tree

Streaming platform: All streaming platforms

Genre: Family

It’s always interesting to see how our relationship with our parents evolves, gets better or even worse, especially when we get to adulthood.

In each episode of The Apple & The Tree, podcaster Vogue Williams has candid conversations with parents and their adult children, about something they hardly – if ever – approached before.

Episode 10 features online fitness instructor and global body-building competitor Jamie, who wants to talk to his mum Jacqui, about his decision to revert to Islam and marry a Muslim woman.

Williams, who is known for her comedic prowess as the host of the hit podcasts My Therapist Ghosted Me and Spencer & Vogue, also proves to be a thoughtful and curious listener.

This podcast explores what is arguably the most complex human relationship of all: that between parent and child, and it really works.

(By Yolanthé Fawehinmi)

 6. Famously…

Streaming platform: All streaming platforms

Genre: Pop culture

If you are obsessed with the latest pop culture hot takes, then Famously… is right up your street.

BBC Sounds is launching not one, but two, new biweekly podcasts called Famously… In Love – out June 18 – hosted by Jack Remmington and Sarel, and Famously… On Trial – out June 20 – hosted by Stacey Dooley and Larry Dean.

Remmington and Sarel will unpack some of the complex, messy and often outrageous world of celebrity love stories, whilst bringing a fresh and entertaining perspective to the famous relationships and pop culture moments we’re all obsessed with, looking beyond the headlines to bring nuance and human relatability to the drama.

Stacey Dooley and Larry Dean will look into some of the biggest celebrity trials and pop culture controversies to date. The brand-new weekly podcast is a fun and forensic look at some of the best-known celebrity scandals; from Kendall Jenner’s ill-advised Pepsi advert scandal to Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s risible ‘conscious uncoupling’.

(By Yolanthé Fawehinmi)