With interesting and critically insightful podcasts out there for every brand of fan, you’re missing out if you aren’t interacting with at least one. But there are just so many to choose from, so let us walk you through a cross-section of the best TV-talk available.
Whether you want to hear academic conversations about structure and character development or snarky commentary on the best-of-the-worst reality shows, there’s something for you on this list.
1) Talking TV With Ryan and Ryan
Even though this is the most academic of all the podcasts on the list, Talking TV never feels esoteric or finger-waggy (they adore the CW, for heaven’s sake). It’s this balance that ensures you never feel schooled by hosts Maureen Ryan and Ryan McGhee. They have a relaxed knowledge about the shows they cover, and listeners can tell they really know their stuff.
Mo and Ryan aren’t always fans of the shows they discuss—you can tell when they hate something, for sure—but every conversation is a critical discussion laced with quirky insights and accessible jokes. It kind of seems like you’re talking TV with a really cool professor in a bar.
Our favorite episode: “Jinxing the Bloodline”
2) The Vulture Podcast
Matt Zoller Seitz, a rock star among TV critics, heads up this Vulture-sponsored podcast with the help of Margaret Lyons and Gazelle Emami. Theirs is a motley combination of opinions, dislikes, and favorites, and their crackling chemistry makes for a delightfully diverse conversation about television.
One minute Matt is waxing philosophical about the “David Lynch Effect” on a show, and the next Margaret is threatening to murder him for his disparaging remarks about The West Wing. One of the best things about this podcast is the way the hosts toggle between intellectual musings and just regular ol’ talk… proving you can say really smart stuff and still use the F-word and say “like”… a lot.
Our favorite episode: “Shows About Washed-Up Stars, Plus the Emmys”
3) Go Bayside!
April Richardson is a giant Saved by the Bell fan. Huge. Her encyclopedic knowledge of the show, her willingness to call out some of its more dated features, and our cultural nostalgia for all things ’90s make this podcast extremely endearing. Her Saved by the Bell joy is contagious, even if you’ve (somehow) never seen one episode.
The podcast consists of Richardson and her friends, usually a fellow comedian, sitting in her Hollywood apartment, dissecting and analyzing an episode of Saved by the Bell. Stay with me.
Even if you don’t care that much about the Saturday morning show that ran from 1989 to 1993, like recent guest Chris Hardwick, you can’t deny the charm of Richardson’s enthusiasm. She’s a fangirl for sure, but one with a biting wit and self-awareness about her kooky SBTB geekiness.
Our favorite episode: “Earthquake”
4) Very Good TV Podcast
The staff at IndieWire knows a lot about TV, but in their aptly named Very Good TV Podcast, Liz Shannon Miller and Ben Travers take water cooler talk to a whole new level.
Listening to the Very Good TV Podcast feels like I’m eavesdropping on two folks debating the merits of a show that one of them really, really likes and the other doesn’t much care for (while I secretly root for one over the other).
A few minutes into their True Detective coverage, you’ll get the gist. Miller and Travers chat like classmates in a TV-studies class, but not in gross way.
Our favorite episode: “‘True Detective’ and ‘Sense8’!”
5) Here to Make Friends
This Huffington Post podcast is an exercise in oxymoronic discourse. That is to say that hostesses Clare Fallon and Emma Gray conduct a super-relevant feminist discussion of ABC’s The Bachelorette—and it is brilliant.
Fallon, culture writer for HuffPo, and Gray, senior women’s editor, talk so expertly and cleverly about the franchise it’s evident they are fans, and they make no apologies for it. In fact, they are so enamored with this batch of contestants that they even said they would allow one hunky bachelor to “murder them in the woods” (a direct quote).
The Bachelorette seems like the least likely inspiration for a culturally specific dialogue on contemporary feminism in America, but damn if these women don’t pull it off every week.
Our favorite episode: “Men Tell All”
6) Holler Back
Justified may have aired its final episode in April, but the Harlan County spirit lives on through Ryan McGee and Joanna Robinson. Both are fans and admirers of the show and their devotion expertly telegraphs into their exchange. They treat the show like you would treat your favorite book you’ve read a million times: gingerly and with great respect.
This podcast works best if you listen in real time—that is, listen to each episode directly following watching the corresponding Justified episode. (Justified airs on Amazon Instant video. Just saying.)
Our favorite episode: “The Promise”
7) AfterBuzz TV’s coverage of Real Housewives of New York City
This podcast is structurally more like a recap, but it feels more like brunch with your girlfriends the morning after a juicy episode.
Lyndsey Wegner, Fern Ronay, Megan Stecher, and Ashley Daniels all have strong voices and differing perspectives on the New York shenanigans, but it doesn’t feel crowded or overwrought. After one episode, you’re part of the clique.
Often, the ladies invite the Real Housewives on as guests, and there is inevitably lots of juicy, behind-the-scenes talk about production, rumors, and editing. It’s high entertainment for fans of the Housewives franchise, and anybody who cares an ounce about reality TV, which—let’s face it—is all of us.
Our favorite episode: “Awfully Charitable”
8) Rotten Tomatoes Podcast
Yeah, yeah, it’s great when folks talk about how much they love a show, but there is a certain amount of satisfaction in hearing critics talk about how awful it is too.
The Rotten Tomatoes Podcast spreads its fair share of love around, but Matt Atchity and Grae Drake aren’t afraid to show their intense disdain for something either (looking at you, Game of Thrones).
Sometimes joined by Sara Ryan, and often referred to as Velvet Smog, the Rotten Tomatoes gang is pretty informal in their chats, and it’s nothing for a discussion to veer far, far off the original strand.
They are so animated and enthusiastic that you don’t even mind listening to a lengthy conversation about Sarah’s Comic-Con costume.
Our favorite episode: “What YOU Are Watching”
Correction 9:41am, July 29: An early version of this article misspelled the first name of Gazelle Umami.
Illustration by Max Fleishman