Culture Articles

The best audio documentaries: crime, Hollywood and secret histories

here’s something to be said for taking half an hour for yourself to hear some of the world’s weirder, cooler facts. Here’s five audio documentaries to help you

Angela Lansbury

True talent

Love Jessica Fletcher as much as us? Emma Thompson interviews one of entertainment’s most beloved stars in BBC Radio 2’s The Legendary Angela Lansbury, about her life and incredibly varied work over a whopping seventy years in the business. There are only two weeks left to listen; skip to three minutes in for the beginning.

Radiolab More Perfect podcast logo

Supreme interest

Radiolab is a US-based show dedicated to satisfying curiosity. It has a spin-off series called More Perfect, which is all about the Supreme Court and how its rulings have affected the people involved. Sounds slightly banal, but it’s actually fascinating. And makes the legal jargon understandable.


Hidden history

Fargo was released in cinemas 20 years ago, to huge critical success – and equally huge backlash from the townspeople it depicted. One of their complaints, “We don’t talk like that,” is now the name of a documentary taking a look at how it got made, with insight from insiders including William H. Macy, who starred.

Close up of a hand playing a trumpet

Up north

In fairness, most things could be improved by Melvyn Bragg’s gentle, informative tone. Still, BBC Radio 4’s 10-part series The Matter of the North is itself a thoroughly interesting listen, starting with the Roman influence and charting this part of Britain through the industrial revolution and into culture as it is today.

Alex Trenchard, the Queen’s pageboy who defrauded Tesco to launch his own music festival

Short stories

The Guardian have made a trio of audio documentaries, Camera Off, that sit inside of their usual The Story format (also great). They cover three incredibly unique stories – about love and mental illness, hidden identities and Alex Trenchard, the Queen’s pageboy who defrauded Tesco to launch his own music festival. Hear it to believe it.

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