The holiday season looks different for everyone, and that’s as true as ever in 2022. Maybe you’re traveling home this year for the first since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Maybe you’re staying put as COVID and other respiratory viruses are surging. Maybe you’re doing Secret Santa exchanges, or curling up with a Hallmark movie. Maybe you’re logging off, or committing to staying extremely online.
For many of us, within all the variables, there are two constants: pressing the pause button on “normal” life and taking some time to reflect on the last 12 months. This list does both. We’ve compiled some of our favorite Slate podcast episodes from the last year, from entertaining to edifying, vital to silly, and everything in between. While the year winds down, we hope these episodes help you pass the time, stay informed, and discover something new (we recommend hitting Ctrl+F “American Girl Doll”) . Thanks for joining us all year long, and we hope to stay in your headphones in the new year.
In this episode, Host Dahlia Lithwick is joined by Olivia Warren, a former clerk of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, and Slate’s own Mark Joseph Stern to discuss Jackson’s character, her qualifications, and the qualities she’ll bring to the highest court in the land.
Dahlia Lithwick is joined by former Attorney General Eric Holder, who describes his feelings when, as President Barack Obama’s attorney general, he realized he could not in good conscience take part in the long-held tradition of the AG arguing an “easy case” before the Supreme Court. The issue? That same court had just eviscerated the Voting Rights Act in a case that will forever bear his name: Shelby County v. Holder.
A Word … With Jason Johnson
2022’s Interview With the Vampire television series gave life to a new generation of fans who love the human monsters created by the late Anne Rice. On this episode of A Word, actor Jacob Anderson talks with host Jason Johnson about his role as the reimagined blood sucker, and his career as a singer and sci-fi screen star.
Big Mood, Little Mood
Host Danny Lavery welcomes Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, author of the forthcoming book: On Repentance and Repair: Making Amends In An Unapologetic World. Lavery and Ruttenberg tackle two letters. First, from someone wondering if she should let her fiancée know that she doesn’t like her friends. The second, a letter contemplating returning to a religious cult after experiencing the outside world.
Hosts Dana Stevens, Julia Turner, and Stephen Metcalf break down everything that went down during the weirdest Oscars ever. Then, the panel is joined by author, professor, and Slate’s pop critic, Jack Hamilton, to discuss Adam McKay’s over-stylized docudrama about the 1980s Lakers, Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. Finally, the panel is joined by Slate senior writer Mark Joseph Stern to discuss Disney CEO Bob Chapek and his response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Dana, Julia, and Steve begin by settling into the scenic Irish mystery of Bad Sisters. Then, the panel begrudgingly watches the Breitbart-funded uh…indie film…My Son Hunter which may end up being the most interesting text the panel has discussed in a while. Finally, the panel is joined by June Thomas, co-host of Slate’s Working podcast and special friend of the pod, to discuss the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II.
In 2004, the indie flick Sideways was released in just four theaters, but it had a big impact, earning five Oscar nominations and $110 million worldwide. It also became known for something else so notable that it has a name: the Sideways Effect. In this episode, host Willa Paskin explores all the outsize effects of this one little movie on the huge wine industry. Did a single line of dialogue really tank merlot sales for decades? Did an ode to pinot noir jumpstart demand for this expensive grape? Did Paul Giamatti’s sad sack character change our relationship to yet another wine, one barely mentioned in the film? And is it time to start drinking merlot again?
Rod McKuen sold multiple millions of poetry books in the ’60s and ’70s. He released dozens of albums, was a regular on late night, and was even nominated for an Oscar. So, how did the most salable poet in American history simply disappear? On this episode, Slate writer Dan Kois went searching for McKuen, a famous poet who isn’t so famous anymore. Along the way, Dan meets Andy Zax, a guy who, like him, was bewildered by this forgotten star—until he became an accidental fan, and then somehow the only person keeping Rod McKuen’s flame alive.
Hang Up and Listen
Hosts Joel Anderson, Stefan Fatsis, and Josh Levin are joined by Olympic gold medalist Crissy Perham to discuss what the overturning of Roe v. Wade means for women athletes. They also discuss Arch Manning’s decision to play football at the University of Texas and Ohio State getting a trademark on the word “the.”
In this episode, Joel, Stefan, and Josh discuss Kyrie Irving and antisemitism. They also talk about the continued rise of Deion Sanders and Jackson State. And Claire Watkins of Just Women’s Sports comes on for a conversation about the championship game of the National Women’s Soccer League.
“A Deal with the TV God Edition,” Parts 1 and 2
For decades, British alt-pop goddess Kate Bush never had a Top 10 hit in America. Then, in 2022, she found herself in the Hot 100’s Top Five, all thanks to the TV show, Stranger Things. That puts Bush and “Running Up That Hill” in a long lineage of hits spawned or made bigger by TV, dating all the way back to Davy Crockett and Peter Gunn, through Hawaii Five-O and Happy Days, and peaking in the ’80s with Miami Vice and Family Ties. Join host Chris Molanphy as he walks through more than six decades of hits from the so-called boob tube and reveals why—thanks to our streaming age—Kate Bush’s hit might be the biggest TV tune of all.
“Killing Me Softly Edition,” Parts 1 and 2
The early ’70s was a great time for R&B queens on the charts: Roberta Flack. Dionne Warwick. Patti LaBelle. Chaka Khan. They had come through the ’60s—Dionne as a smooth pop-and-B star, Patti as a girl-group frontwoman, Roberta as a cabaret pianist—and found themselves in a new decade with limitless possibilities. Flack turned folk songs into chart-topping, Grammy-winning R&B. Warwick shifted from Brill Building pop to Philly soul. LaBelle threw her insane voice at rock, funk, and glam. And a relative newcomer, Rufus frontwoman Chaka Khan, followed in their footsteps, commanding the band and converting to disco, then electro. By the ’80s, all four women were ready for a major chart victory lap. In this episode, Chris Molanphy traces four parallel careers that expanded the definition of soul from the ’60s through the ’80s and beyond.
You’ve probably heard about the importance of journaling, putting thoughts on paper to help process the daily vicissitudes of life. But it’s easy to stall once you see a blank page or get self conscious about what exactly you’re writing. On this episode, Anna Quindlen, bestselling novelist and author of the new book Write For Your Life, and John Dickerson, co-host of Slate’s Political Gabfest, CBS News reporter, and author, share their wit and wisdom on how to start writing about your personal life — and how to keep it going amid all the distractions.
Jenn and Todd Brandel have a close, loving relationship with their father, Bruce. But one thing makes their blood boil: his political chain emails. The messages are often forwarded commentary written in a provocative tone, and are an unwelcome reminder of just how far apart the family is politically. On this two-part episode, host Amanda Ripley is joined by Mónica Guzmán, senior fellow for public practice at Braver Angels and author of I Never Thought Of It That Way: How To Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times, who teaches Jenn and Todd how to aim for understanding with their dad, not agreement. Then, Jenn and Todd, and their dad Bruce put these tips into practice—on mic—around the kitchen table, as Mónica provides post-game analysis. We’ll dive into what worked, what got a little messy, and how to keep making progress.
Earlier this year, the Mormon moms on TikTok were accused of “soft swinging,” or engaging in sexual acts with people other than their spouses while their spouses are in the room, and people could not stop asking about it. On this episode, hosts Rachelle Hampton and Madison Malone Kircher discuss the drama surrounding the Mormon moms of TikTok, Liam Payne’s comments about his former One Direction bandmates, and the Early American Youtube channel.
In June, the American Girl Doll Instagram account announced the return of the classic Molly doll. And because it was announced during Pride month, everybody started wondering, “Is Molly gay?” On this episode, Rachelle and Madison discuss the recent gay panic of the conservative American Doll Instagram community, the online life of American Girl memes, and their own histories with these beloved childhood treasures.
Mom and Dad Are Fighting
On this episode, hosts Zak Rosen, Jamilah Lemieux, and Elizabeth Newcamp are joined by Phillip Maciak, TV editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books and teacher at Washington University in St. Louis. Phillip explains why Bluey, a kids show centered around a family of dogs in Australia, is the best depiction of parenthood on TV.
Host Elizabeth and Jamilah are joined by KC Davis. KC is author of the book How To Keep House While Drowning, host of the podcast Struggle Care, and is well known for her TikTok content. They advise a listener who thinks her niece may be neurodivergent and is specifically showing signs of autism spectrum disorder. The letter writer doesn’t think her brother and sister-in-law have noticed yet and she wants to inform them to make sure her niece is being supported. But she has no idea how to start the conversation.
One Year: 1986
In this episode, Evan Chung tells the story of the American teachers who competed for an unprecedented prize: a spot on the January 1986 launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Three of the finalists describe the grueling selection process and the tragedy that killed one of their own.
This episode tells the stranger-than-fiction story of Joe Mauri, who was evicted from his New York apartment, then starred in a Soviet propaganda film about the injustices of capitalism and became a star in the USSR. But was this Cold War icon using the Soviets just as much as they used him? In this episode, host Josh Levin tracks down Mauri to get the true story.
One Year: 1942
At the beginning of World War II, the greatest threat to the American war effort wasn’t the Nazis or the Japanese—it was runaway inflation. The man in charge of stopping it was the country’s “price czar,” Leon Henderson. In 1942, he controlled how much coffee ordinary people could drink and how many tires they could buy. Those rules made him a nationwide villain. But would they save the country?
On Aug. 1, 1942, the nation’s recording studios went silent. Musicians were fed up with the new technologies threatening their livelihoods, so they refused to record until they got their fair share. In this episode, Evan Chung explores one of the most consequential labor actions of the 20th century, and how it coincided with an underground revolution in music led by artists like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
Hosts J. Bryan Lowder, Christina Cauterucci, and Jules Gill-Peterson talk about whether—and why—we still need Pride. Every Pride is someone’s first, and to get that fresh perspective, the hosts spoke with Sammie Bennett, who just celebrated for the first time in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The hosts then talk about their own memories and feelings about the annual queer gathering.
Listen to hosts David Plotz, Emily Bazelon and John Dickerson live from Sixth & I in Washington DC, where they discuss new insurrection revelations, the overturning of Roe, and the legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Hosts David Plotz, Emily Bazelon, and John Dickerson discuss Trump’s strange legal maneuvering in the obstruction investigation, what Trump’s second term would do to U.S. democracy, and what voters deserve to know about a candidate’s health.
Hosts Felix Salmon and Emily Peck are joined by author Kurt Andersen to talk about the 2015 Adam McKay film, The Big Short. They dig into the merits of the Margot Robbie in a bathtub scene, what the movie gets wrong, and who the real heroes are.
Felix Salmon, Emily Peck, and Elizabeth Spiers discuss updates in the collapse of crypto exchange platform FTX and how the situation compares to past business downfalls. They also talk about Joan Didion’s estate sale.
Slate’s Spoiler Specials
Host and Slate movie critic Dana Stevens is joined by associate editor Marissa Martinelli to spoil Don’t Worry Darling. Olivia Wilde’s latest film. The movie made headlines for its behind-the-scenes drama, but on this Spoiler Specials episode, Dana and Marissa unpack the on-screen story at the center of it all.
Slow Burn: Roe v. Wade
If you’re going to tune into a single episode of Slow Burn: Roe v. Wade, start at episode one—Get Married or Go Home—and just keep listening. Hosted by Slate executive editor Susan Matthews and published throughout June 2022, the four-episode season explores the events leading up to the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, with forgotten stories about the first woman ever to be convicted of manslaughter for having an abortion, the unlikely Catholic power couple who helped ignite the pro-life movement, a rookie Supreme Court justice who got assigned the opinion of a lifetime, and more. Slow Burn: Roe v. Wade was recently named Show of the Year by Apple Podcasts, and as part of the celebration, we made Extra episodes with new interviews and perspectives, so even if you’ve already listened to the show, there’s now even more for you to hear about this universal and timely human rights issue.
What happens when infertility treatments don’t work? On this episode of The Waves, producer Cheyna Roth shares her personal struggles and talks about going through IVF with Slate’s Dear Prudence columnist Jenée Desmond Harris. They talk about what they wished they had known before starting IVF, how to be a good friend of someone experiencing infertility, and Jenée offers advice on how to cope with IVF. Later in the show, Cheyna talks to author Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos about the ethics of the infertility industry, what to say to a loved one who is going through treatments, and what it means to be an “IVF survivor.”
“Brittney Griner and the Problem With Women’s Basketball”
On this episode, Slate senior producer Cheyna Roth is joined by Amira Rose Davis, professor, historian, and co-host of the feminist sports podcast Burn It All Down to talk about Brittney Griner, the WNBA superstar who was detained by the Russians in March and released in December. Cheyna and Amira talk about how Russia treats its women athletes like superstars (until they don’t), while in America it takes weeks for people to really notice when a star WNBA player is missing. Later in the show, they discuss the impact of having Brittney Griner out of the league and Amira recommends WNBA players to watch.
The May 2022 shooting at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, left at least 10 people dead and three more injured. The suspected shooter left a manifesto riddled with racist ideology, laying out plans to specifically target Black people and citing the so-called great replacement theory as his motivation. This episode of What Next, host Mary Harris is joined by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wesley Lowery to discuss why the mass shooting in Buffalo is part of a bigger movement, and explore how much will white supremacist violence be a part of the everyday lives of Americans, and what—if anything—is being done to stop it.
The U.S. has welcomed thousands Afghan refugees since pulling out of Afghanistan in 2021. Safe from the Taliban, but without Social Security numbers, credit ratings, or even sometimes basic English, they have to make a new life relying on a patchwork of volunteers and their wits, and navigating America’s bewildering bureaucracy.
What Next: TBD
Twitter has been a lot of things—where you posted your lunch, where you met your people, where you were subjected to a harassment campaign. Now, as Elon Musk prepares to take the reins, where is it headed? Will Oremus, technology reporter for the Washington Post, joins host Lizzie O’Leary to talk about how no matter what Musk does now, Twitter will never be the same.
What can current surveillance infrastructure tell us about online privacy after the fall of Roe? In this episode, host Lizzie O’Leary and Lily Hay Newman, an information security and digital privacy reporter at Wired, discuss what online life in a post-Roe world looks like, and how to minimize your digital footprint.
In this episode, host June Thomas talks to Brittani Nichols, a writer and producer for ABC’s hit sitcom Abbott Elementary. In the interview, Brittani describes the show’s very collaborative writing process and explains what it means to be both a writer and producer. She also discusses how the show’s writers touch on personal experience to add texture to the world they’re creating.
Host June Thomas talks to casting director Angelique Midthunder, who recently worked on the FX series Reservation Dogs. In the interview, Angelique describes the casting and audition processes for the show and shares what it was like to organize an open casting call in Oklahoma. She also talks about the decision to cast Paulina Alexis as Willie Jack, which was originally supposed to be a male role.