More and more podcasts are getting picked up for big TV adaptations, whether they’re straight documentaries expanding on what the pod did with fresh interviews and insight – or just some nice whizzy graphics and shots of people looking pensively into the middle distance, which are difficult to do justice to aurally – or fully fictionalised retellings of the events of the podcast.
You can see why: people still love true crime, scammers and freaky horror-thrillers about creepy people, and it’s very handy for TV producers and commissioners that podcasters have done some of the legwork for them. But there’s something about the intimacy of podcasting as a medium that can make the whole thing more satisfying to listen to. Often, interviewees on podcasts are talking about their experiences publicly for the first time, and there’s an immediacy and vulnerability to that, which makes it compelling listening. Podcasters get all the time they need to luxuriate in nuance and detail, and give the story they’re telling the space it needs to be told. So, we’ve pulled together seven of the best podcasts that have been adapted for TV right here.
This scripted fiction pod was made into a show starring Stanley Tucci and Jessica Biel, which was perhaps unfairly cancelled after a single season, so if you want the full, creepy, atmospheric story of what’s going on at a neuroscience research centre in Tennessee. A 911 call draws police to the gates, but the facility stays locked – until three days later, when a pyre and a dead body are found, and 300 people are missing. Investigative reporter Lia Haddock goes on the hunt for clues. Listen now >>
The first series of this one was a proper blockbuster that told the story of Christopher Duntsch, a doctor who presented himself as a wunderkind of neurosurgery but who injured 31 people and killed two with his procedures. Later series looked at a chemotherapy-mad oncologist and a fraudulent thoracic surgeon who kept experimenting with synthetic tracheas. It’s properly nightmarish stuff, explored with a level of creeping dread and alarm which will stay with you. Listen now >>
If Dr Death was a blockbuster, the LA Times’ Dirty John was the Star Wars to its Jaws, the Avengers: Endgame to its Titanic. Debra Newell met John Michael Meehan on an online dating website, and he seemed like a catch: charming, good looking, had his life together. But Meehan was not the man he appeared to be. To say too much would ruin the whole thing, but it’s a twisty, deeply unpredictable story which reaches a wild climax which, depending on your view, will feel either like just desserts or a frustrating chance at justice missed. Listen now >>
For a podcast that felt like the kind of thing only podcasting could do justice to – musicians breaking down the process of writing and recording their biggest hits, stripping down a song to its bare bones before putting it back together again – the TV version that turned up on Netflix did it great justice. Whereas the Netflix series has two seasons, pretty much everyone’s been on the podcast over more than 250 podcast episodes, from Foo Fighters to Sampha and Paramore to New Order. Listen now >>
Another one that tickles whatever part of your brain it is that likes sitting around a campfire listening to spooky stories, Lore tells true tales which lean toward the unsettling, the inexplicable and the mordaunt. There’s a delicacy and strange power to host Aaron Mahnke’s coolly underplayed narration, which makes the stranger-than-fiction stories all the more bone-chilling. The Amazon Prime series based on it looked at lobotomies, werewolves and haunted houses. Listen now >>
The Shrink Next Door
Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd and Kathryn Hahn all starred in the Apple TV+ adaptation of this psychological thriller of a true story about a psychiatrist who manages to inveigle his way into his clients’ lives and help himself to anything he likes. The tone isn’t quite true crime; it’s more like a relationship drama, with celebrity shrink ‘Ike’ Herschkopf and his biddable subject Marty Markowitz becoming bound tighter and tighter together over years of manipulation. Listen now >>
Can I Tell You a Secret?
Netflix has just announced an adaptation of Sirin Kale’s investigation into a mystery that gripped Northwich in the mid-noughties. Over a decade, dozens of apparently random women were sent the same message: “can I tell you a secret?” This mysterious person would then spread rumours of infidelities, which spiralled into real life fights and fall-outs. Kale tries to find the cyberstalker at the centre of it all, and speaks to the women whose lives he made a misery. In the end, things are far more complicated than they seem. Listen now >>