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The Best Podcasts of 2023 (So Far)

Client: Kaitlin Fontana – Writer

It’s been a pretty rough start to the year for the podcast world. When 2023 began, there were serious anxieties about the state of the biz, and much of those worries ultimately came to be. Layoffs rippled throughout the scene, talk of contractions is now pervasive, and some of the celebrity talent megadeals that defined podcasting over the past few years exploded in very public fashion. In case it wasn’t abundantly clear, the Speculative Podcast Boom is over. But there is the business — and then there’s the actual stuff. And the thing is: There are still really interesting, fun, and memorable podcasts being made by talented teams and individuals, from powerful investigative pieces and portraits of malls to ongoing projects of media critiques that operate at a very high level. We’ll come out of the other end of this industrial slump at some point, but for now, there’s hope.

Peter and the Acid King(Imagine Audio and iHeartMedia)

Yes, there’s an unsolved murder at the center of Peter and the Acid King. But the podcast recognizes its utilitarian hook and seems to express some ambivalence about having to tangle with the true-crimeyness of its premise. And while the team — which includes the screenwriter Kaitlin Fontana, Hollywood producer Alan Sacks, and the director Penelope Spheeris, who hosts the series — is indeed interested in the mystery, what they mostly want to do is celebrate the life of the titular Peter Ivers and the early-’80s Los Angeles punk scene from which he emerged. A musician and artist, Ivers was an influential underground figure renowned for his curatorial tastes, which he bottled up in a public access show called New Wave Theater. Said to be very much of and ahead of its time, the show would be remembered for Ivers’s bizarro sensibilities and how it spotlighted then-emerging punk acts like Bad Religion and the Dead Kennedys before coming to a screeching end after Ivers was found murdered in his apartment in 1983. While Peter and the Acid King has its flaws, the series functions best as a collective memory of a volatile and influential scene, one that vibrated within the tension between punk and New Wave.

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