Best of 2016
For those of us in the recommendation business, the end-of-year list has become a sacred duty. So it is that we present to you our Best of 2016 issue, featuring selected highlights from the last 12 months in audio.
In the ceaseless tide of new listening, past shows and episodes can slip beneath the next wave, heard and half-forgotten. We hope this list recalls you, as it did us, to the moments that made you stop and listen in 2016, and also points the way to stories you haven't heard.
Thank you for reading The Audit this year. It's our pleasure to do this work for you. We'll be back with regularly scheduled letters in a few weeks, but in the meantime we urge you to our website, where you can read past issues of this newsletter and browse our overflowing podcast database.
Your devoted friends,
Best New Podcasts of 2016
10 new shows that blew us away, bent our brains, broke our hearts.
Intimate documentaries about life in modern Britain, setting small local stories on a grand human stage. (BBC)
A 10-part series about race, history, and two crimes in Hawaii, thoughtfully and stylishly composed. (PRX/Honolulu Civil Beat)
In which Jonathan Goldstein and friends attempt to undo their past mistakes; mannered, yet strangely winning, and emphatically original. (Gimlet)
The funniest and most imaginative radio drama of the year, executed in the best of British traditions, and distinguished by convincing performances. (Definitely Human)
A tiny four-part show about inexplicable turning points, and a small-scale revelation. (Independent)
A collaboration between a radio producer and photographer, who together produce immersive audiovisual portraits of strangers. (Independent)
Bottom-of-the-barrel celebrity gossip is lovingly skewered, along with the media outlets who make it their bread and butter. Essential. (Independent)
A series of deeply-reported stories from the frontline: of drug addiction, of public schools, of the Arctic. A new classic. (NPR)
The Real Thing
Charming, winking, unsentimental accounts of real people and real life in Australia. (ABC)
Experimental stories that approach questions of love from sidelong angles. Jewel-like in both substance and form. (CBC)
Best Serial Podcasts
Gripping narratives, delivered in parts.
Investigates the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Andes. In a flood of 2016 true crime, Accused was notable for a sincere self-awareness about the perils of its own genre. (8 parts, Cincinnati Enquirer).
A loving account of Oprah's rise and rise. (3 parts, WBEZ Chicago)
What the Hell Happened in East New York?
Journalism about the work of journalism. Also gentrification, obsession, grief, and other big things. (4 parts, Digg/The Big Roundtable)
The Body on the Moor
The discovery of a body and the search for its identity. (6 parts, BBC)
My Dad Wrote a Porno, Season 2
The longed-for return of Belinda Blinked reached new heights and desperate lows in Season 2, along with new listeners around the world. Stupidly joyful listening. (17 parts, Independent)
SBS True Stories, Season 3
A series of gay hate crimes committed in Adelaide, Australia, are thoroughly investigated by journalist Mark Whittaker. (5 parts, SBS)
The Documentary, Where Are You Going?
Four loosely-linked episodes, in which Catherine Carr asks passersby in New York, Kolkata, Amsterdam and The Jungle, the now-dismantled refugee camp in Calais, 'Where are you going?' (4 parts, BBC)
Memory Motel, The Right to Oblivion
Three engrossing stories about the internet's long memory. (3 parts, Narrativ)
Museum of Lost Objects
A fascinating and important record of ancient sites and artifacts lost during conflict in Iraq and Syria. (10 parts, BBC)
Best Episodes of 2016
Stories that stayed with us.
Awful Grace / 203: I Heard It On the Road to New Jerusalem
The surreal account of a husband's death, rendered with great skill and tenderness. One of the single best things we heard this year.
(Independent, 14 Jul)
The Real Thing / #10 Freedom is a goat
One man. One goat. Two best friends.
(ABC, 13 Dec)
Radiolab / Playing God
New York Times reporter Sheri Fink looks back at life-and-death decisions made at a hospital during Hurricane Katrina.
(WNYC, 22 Aug)
Reveal / The man inside: Four months as a prison guard
An undercover account of life as a private prison guard in the US.
(Center for Investigate Reporting, 25 Jun)
Unfictional / A Dancer Dies Twice
A gorgeous rendering of the dancer's dilemma from Falling Tree Productions.
(KCRW/Falling Tree, 28 May)
The Run-Up / Dialogues: Craig and his Father
A conversation between a gay man and his conservative father in the aftermath of Trump's win.
(The New York Times, 24 Nov)
Saga / Stockholm Syndrome
Sweden's most famous hostage remembers the event that changed her life.
(Independent, 29 Jul)
Sleepover / Charlie's Conundrum
The first in a revolutionary series hosted by Sook-Yin Lee, in which strangers try to solve each other's problems.
(CBC, 27 Jun)
Everyone Else / Songbird
A lonely man reflects on the missteps he has taken.
(Independent, 17 Jul)
Transom / A Life Sentence: Victims, Offenders, Justice, And My Mother
A personal story about how seemingly straightforward individual justice can inflict more complicated pain.
(Transom, 2 Mar)
Revisionist History / Blame Game
The best installment in the blockbuster 10-part series from Malcolm Gladwell, about history we thought we understood, but didn't - in this case, the sudden acceleration phenomenon.
(Panoply, 4 Aug)
Us & Them / Femme Voice
From this essential indie show about cultural divides, a moving story about a trans woman trying to perfect her new voice.
(Independent/WVPB, 29 Feb)
Scene on Radio / Losing Yourself
A young radio producer records her own unexpected health crisis.
(Independent/CDS, 11 Feb 2016)
Why Oh Why / #8 How Will I Know
Andrea Silenzi's reborn dating show returns to its roots in this episode about her break-up.
(Panoply, 8 Nov)
Better Off Dead / #12 Velvet Ray
This stand-out in Andrew Denton's series about euthanasia introduces us to palliative care nurse "Velvet" Ray Godbold.
(Wheeler Centre, 22 Mar)
ReplyAll / #79: Boy in Photo
In one of its best and most representative episodes to date, ReplyAll goes in search of a stranger, and finds more than it bargained for.
(Gimlet, 13 Oct)
The Heart / Mariya
An award-winning story about a modern woman's experience of living with genital mutilation.
(Radiotopia, 5 May)
The Specialist / #9 Singing Telegram
From this sparky little show about work, the story of a theatrical couple who have made singing telegrams their business.
(Independent/KALW, 1 Jun)
Best of Indie
Excellent independent shows, produced on a shoestring, in closets, for love.
The podcast about change and transformation continues to impress, featuring stories about amnesia, tarot and an hypnosis fetish in 2016.
Experience the joyful dorkery of researcher May Jasper as she slithers down Wikipedia rabbit holes.
How to Be a Girl
After a long hiatus, How to Be a Girl returned in 2016 with more stories of parenting a trans kid, and a new partnership with local radio.
An InExact Science
This engrossing narrative podcast explores the science of psychology.
The Rule Book
From Melbourne-based lawyer James Milsom comes stories of legal curiosities, law-breakers, and loopholes.
Jim Brunberg and his twin daughters explore the US in these leisurely and revealing travel documentaries.
Miniature stories about growing up.
Best of This American Life
581. Anatomy of Doubt / In which a rape investigation goes wrong
587. The Perils of Intimacy / In which we get too close
589. Tell Me I'm Fat / In which Lindy West and others examine what it means to be fat
592. Are We There Yet? / In which the TAL team visits refugee camps in Greece
597. One Last Thing Before I Go / In which final words are spoken