Previewing the year in podcasting can be tricky. Publishers tend to keep a tight turnaround between when a big project is announced and when it actually drops, which means we don’t typically have the luxury of kicking off a new calendar year with clear insight into major upcoming releases. That’s just the reality of this business, still settling into its rhythms, and perhaps that remains one of its pleasures: The probability is high that the Next Big Thing will come flying out of nowhere. All that said, we do have insight into the more intriguing releases that are slated to debut in the next few months, and we’ve compiled a few of them for your perusal here.
This Is Dating
January 10, Magnificent Noise
From the producers who make Where Should We Begin? With Esther Perel comes something that’s also likely to make you squirm and burn with the humanity of it all in equal measure. This Is Dating wants to bring listeners into an approximated experience of modern romance, and it intends to do so by following four individuals as they go on a series of virtual first dates, all curated by the producers themselves. It’s basically an audio-first take on a classic reality-TV show concept, somewhat akin to Netflix’s delightful Dating Around, but with a relationship psychologist present to help facilitate the proceedings.
The Big Hit Show
January 12, Higher Ground and Spotify
Say hello to the latest release from the ongoing partnership between Spotify and the Obamas’ production studio, Higher Ground. The Big Hit Show is pitched as a new 30 for 30–esque documentary franchise where each five-episode chapter revisits the origins and legacy of a “new classic” across various fields, from film to music to television. Hosted by the writer, journalist, and podcaster Alex Pappademas, the first two chapters will cover Twilight and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly.
Wild Things: Siegfried & Roy
January 12, Apple TV+ and At Will Media
Originally slated for last fall, Apple TV+’s upcoming original podcast series unpacking the story of Siegfried and Roy is now scheduled for a mid-January release. The proposition remains the same: Here lies the opportunity to sift through the rich, controversial, and potentially misunderstood legacy of the German American magician duo. Together, they reigned over an entertainment empire for decades before a tragic accident with one of their famous white tigers left Roy critically injured in 2003.
Heidi World: The Heidi Fleiss Story
February 14, iHeartMedia
You don’t get nicknamed “Hollywood Madam” without stepping on a few toes. In Heidi World, the writer Molly Lambert endeavors to dig into the full story of Heidi Fleiss, who rose to global fame during the early ’90s for her high-end escort business that drew the patronage of the rich and powerful of Los Angeles, and who was ultimately turned into a pariah. (Nowadays, Fleiss lives in Pahrump, Nevada, where she’s come to be known for her efforts in exotic-bird rescue.) The series seems intent on interpreting her as a symbol as to why sex work should be decriminalized in America, and how women are disproportionately affected by the country’s puritanical relationship with sex.
Embedded: New Season
NPR’s elite investigative-journalism unit returns this spring with a season that comes out of a partnership with the Marshall Project; both teams will be collaborating to trace the efforts of the Yonkers Police Department in New York to change policing from within. With an approach that sounds reminiscent of Serial’s third season, the project intends to grapple with the truly hard stuff: Can a police department with a history of misconduct actually change? And how?