Late December is a time for thinking about the past, but there are ways to get that reflective fix on a weekly basis.
For the type of person prone to reflection, late December is a heady time.
The media cranks out a seemingly endless supply of year-in-review essays and top 10 lists, ruminating on everything from national politics to the best albums and TV shows.
I love the way they can prompt you to think of something you hadn’t considered before, or lead you to see a movie or read a book you’d have otherwise overlooked.
The thing is, you don’t have to wait until the end of the year to satisfy a craving for reflection. Such opportunities present themselves every week.
From professionally produced local and national radio and TV shows to recordings created in makeshift studios by formerly print-only media outlets, there’s something for everyone.
Here then, in the spirit of the end-of-the-year list, are my top week-in-review programs from television, radio and the Internet. All of these shows are available as podcasts; links are in the text below.
“Slate Political Gabfest” — Imagine if your smartest friends, who often had surprising and counterintuitive takes on the week’s news, got to host a half-hour talk show. And that they got to go a little long if the conversation got interesting. And occasionally drank on air. That’s the Gabfest.
Slate magazine’s chief political correspondent, John Dickerson, hosts this weekly conversation with legal writer Emily Bazelon and editor David Plotz.
“Hang Up and Listen” — Slate magazine’s weekly sports podcast is like a lot of other sports talk shows, only with witty hosts and no laser-swoosh sound effects.
Slate writer Josh Levin, NPR correspondent Mike Pesca and former Wall Street Journal writer Stefan Fatsis can intelligently discuss topics as varied as whether the Patriots should be going for it on fourth down to the literary merits of Andre Agassi’s new autobiography, often in the same episode.
“Slate Culture Gabfest” — Often pretentious but rarely boring, Slate writers Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens and Julia Turner range far and wide over the cultural landscape, discussing everything from current movies and music to Facebook and McDonald’s new fancy coffee.
One recent show pondered the difficulty of coming up with signage capable of warning future generations away from our stored nuclear waste. (We’ll need more than “nothing to see here” — think of how badly ancient Egyptians did at scaring modern archeologists away from their tombs with dire warnings.)
“PBS NewsHour: Weekly Political Wrap” — In keeping with public TV’s quiet aesthetic, columnists Mark Shields and David Brooks are unfailingly polite in their brief analysis of the week’s news.
“Left, Right and Center” — Self-described as “your civilized-yet-provocative antidote to the screaming talking heads that dominate political debate,” this show from public radio station KCRW-FM brings together four pundits to discuss the week in politics.
With writer and former Clinton aide Matt Miller (center), Washington Times columnist Tony Blankley (right), former L.A. Times columnist Robert Scheer (left) and Huffington Post namesake Arianna Huffington (an “independent progressive”), the show offers a smart take on the week’s events without the bloviating of shows like “The McLaughlin Group.”
“The Political Scene” — A revolving cast of New Yorker writers and editors cover topics ranging from the debate over health care to the troop surge in Afghanistan.
” (7 p.m. Fridays, WSEC and WILL) — Gwen Ifill hosts a roundtable of prominent Washington reporters. Most of the guests appear to relay information based on their own reporting, rather than opining on the work of other writers.
The show also provides an indication of how conventional wisdom is congealing in the nation’s capital.
“Money Talks” — A bi-weekly discussion of the economy and business from writers at The Big Money, Slate’s financial-journalism sister site.
“DoubleX Gabfest” — Slate writers discuss politics and culture from a female perspective. Recent episodes have covered everything from a (perhaps) racy photo Megan McCain posted online to the recent death of Gourmet magazine.
No need to wait until the end of the week to review Brian Mackey — he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.