1.5x speed

Class Action, Newts, and 4 More Podcasts Worth Trying

Photo-Illustration: Vulture

Hey all. There’s a certain podcast publisher that’s trying to push a new show all about dogs, and I will not have any of that pro-dog propaganda in these pages. This, I can assure you. Anyway, tell me what you’re listening to. You can reach me at nicholas.quah@nymag.com or find me on Twitter.

Class Action

Listen here.

Once, in college, I joined a mock trial team. It was an ill-fated venture. The team was brand new, there was little preparation, and for inexplicable reasons, I was made a trial attorney despite having no training in the role whatsoever — and despite hailing from a country with a completely different legal system. At our one and only tournament, we were thoroughly annihilated, and I made a complete ass of myself. I still think about that experience every once in a while, when my writerly anxieties flare up and I’m compelled to pull up Amazon listings for an LSAT book. Recalling the humiliation always causes me to close the tab.

Anyway, the mock trial teams documented in Class Action are anything but unprepared. This series, from iHeartMedia and Sound Argument (aptly named), is constructed around copious recordings gathered by creators Lisa Gray and Kevin Huffman, who spent a year shadowing teams from several universities — Brooklyn Law, St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, the University of South Dakota, Dillard University — as they go through life in the mock trial trenches: boot camps, scrimmages, tournaments.

The series, which is scheduled to run in twelve parts, is shepherded by a professional host, the MSNBC anchor and trial lawyer Katie Phang, and other other legal professionals are periodically drawn in to serve as commentators on the events of the podcast and on the broader phenomenon of mock trials more generally. That choice in presentation doesn’t entirely work for me; it’s giving infomercial for law schools and the legal profession, which feels constraining. Let the tape run free, I’d say.

But the concept is nevertheless clicking for me. If you liked Boys State, the Apple TV+ documentary from 2020, you’re probably going to find a lot to chew on here: the energy of these kids are palpable, and the severity of what they go through is wild.

Class Action is available on all platforms. Created, produced, written, and edited by Kevin Huffman and Lisa Gray. Executive producers are Taylor Chicoine and Katrina Norvell. Sound design and further editing by Chicoine and Evan Tyor.


The end of the world, with a side of salamanders.
Listen here.

Newts is a fiction podcast, a seven-layer salad of influences, and a musical that leans heavily on surf-rock and the kind of lyrical storytelling associated with something like The Decemberists. Which is to say, there’s a lot going on in the eccentric, bizarro, hard-to-describe Newts.

According to the liner notes, the podcast is a sorta-kinda adaptation of War with the Newts, the 1936 satirical novel by the Czech writer and critic Karel Čapek. Considered a dystopian masterpiece, the novel spins an absurdist tale where a species of intelligent (and relatively tall) newts are discovered, enslaved, and exploited by humankind; the newts later stage a violent uprising against the human establishment. Total war breaks out; events conspire; (spoiler?) the world ends. (If you’re so inclined to learn more about the novel itself, you might want to start with this piece from Radio Prague International.)

Newts is a production of PRX and The Truth, Jonathan Mitchell’s long-running fiction podcast operation that’s part of Radiotopia. It’s created by Ian Coss — who turned a few heads last year for Forever Is a Long Time, a memoristic piece about the mind-bending prospect of being with someone else for the rest of your life — and Sam Jay Gold, a theater artist and screenwriter. The series sports an expansive voice cast, including the singer-songwriter Chris Barron of the Spin Doctors; actors Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Rachael Grace Holmes, Joseph Medeiros, and Jon-Michael Reese; and an array of familiar voices from around the PRX universe: Joshua Malina, Glynn Washington, Avery Trufelman. Expect sea shanties, grand theatricality, and squishy sounds standing in for the salamanders.

Newts is available on all platforms. Directed by Sam Jay Gold. Music and sound design by Ian Coss. Executive producers are Jocelyn Gonzalez and Jonathan Mitchell, who also served as story editor.


➽ I’m way too uncool, too lazy, and too geographically distant to keep tabs on the Dimes Square scene, so here’s Nathan Taylor Pemberton on the recent unmasking of the Ion Pack duo.

➽ Speaking of cool people: Molly Lambert was on Longform recently to talk about her podcast, HeidiWorld. Of particular interest is Lambert’s explicit articulation of her mercenary relationship with podcasting and media work more broadly — which is refreshing! — and her noting of You Must Remember This and Once Upon a Time… as direct points of inspiration. We here at 1.5x Speed remain committed to certifying the Cool Girl Podcast as an actual aesthetic movement.

➽ Shout-out to my regional station, Boise State Public Radio, for publishing Extremely American, an actual locally grown audio documentary series tackling the thorny subject of far-right extremism — which, you know, is pretty prevalent here in Idaho.

➽ The author Jon Mooallem, who will forever be known to me as the Walking guy, has a new book of essays out, and as part of his press tour, he gave a brief interview to Lit Hub where he talked about once coming close to being co-owner of a sawmill, a process during which his research brought him to a lumber business podcast called The WoodpreneurThe endless niches of the podcast universe never ceases to amaze me.

➽ Las Culturistas … Culture Awards? At the Lincoln Center? Why yes, yes indeed.

➽ Did you hear that Kara Swisher is coming back to Vox Media? Well, I mean, she’s already co-hosting Pivot with Scott Galloway for my employer. But she’s returning more completely, and she’ll be heading up a new show that sounds like it’s going to do a lot of what she was doing with Sway.

➽ For obvious reasons, Dateline podcasts are very popular, so it makes complete sense there’s going to be more of such programming. Keith Morrison spoke to Vanity Fair recently about his upcoming limited-run series called The Seduction. 

And that’s a wrap for 1.5x Speed! Hope you enjoyed it. We’re back next week, but in the meantime: Send podcast recommendations, feedback, or just say hello at nicholas.quah@vulture.com.

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Class Action, Newts, and 4 More Podcasts Worth Trying