What IS the greatest podcast of all time? In a new feature, we ask podcasters to tell us the podcast they call the G.O.A.T. To start the debate, Tom Davies from Proper Mental declares Heavyweight to be ‘The Greatest of All Time’ and tells you why you should think so too…
We all have a moment from our past that still weighs heavy in our thoughts. A point in time where life could have gone another way. A thing you should have done, something left unsaid, a moment that still feels definitive years after it happened.
And that is exactly what the Heavyweight podcast is all about. Originally from Gimlet Media – now a Spotify Studios production – each episode, host Jonathan Goldstein, works with someone who has contacted the show to go back to the past and readdress a situation or event that they feel has impacted their life in some way.
Over the seven years that the show has been running, Jonathan has helped people confront childhood bullies, fulfil dying wishes, reconnect with lost loves and answer the sorts of questions that drift into your head just before you fall asleep and keep you up all night.
I love this show. I would go as far to say that I’m obsessed. It’s the only podcast where I go back and listen to my favourite episodes in the way that some people rewatch episodes of Friends over and over again.
I think the reason for this is that the show is so incredibly human. Jonathan is trying to help real people, with real dilemmas. The sort of things that everybody will have thought about at some point in their lives.
I think we all wish we could track down a childhood bully and ask them why they chose us. Maybe you also sold your Grandad’s World War Two German handgun to buy drugs and want to get it back for him. Perhaps you’ve always wondered why your favourite babysitter just disappeared without saying goodbye or what happened to the person you sentenced to death while you were on jury duty. Maybe you’ve just been wondering why your whole family seems to have forgotten about the time you broke your arm as a child or why someone threw away the expensive painting that you rescued from a pile of rubbish on the street.
Some of these stories are huge and some don’t seem so big at all, but they are all important to the person whose story it is, and that is the beauty of the show. It’s real life. And just like real life, there isn’t always a happy ending or even an ending at all but every episode has more than one moment of real connection and genuine emotion.
Jonathan doesn’t always manage to help, but he approaches every episode with a level of compassion and humor that’s truly authentic and joyful to listen to. He starts every episode by phoning his friend Jackie and finds a way to wind her up or get on her nerves and this has absolutely nothing to do with the show itself, but it’s hilarious and a lovely insight into a long-term friendship. I love these interactions as much as the show itself! The show also has wonderful theme music, which as we all know is the mark of any decent podcast!
Heavyweight is a great example of someone using the podcast medium to do something completely different, something that wouldn’t work in any format other than a podcast. There really is nothing else like it!
My favorite episode is Episode 2 ‘Gregor’. If you’re looking for a place to start, jump in there! One of Jonathan’s oldest friends, Gregor, used to spend time with an aspiring DJ. They would hang out together, attend family gatherings and take long road trips and chat about music, religion and life. Over the years, he watched his friend’s career build momentum and start to take off. One day Gregor lent this friend a very rare CD box set called ‘Songs of the South’ and thought no more of it.
Except this friend ended up becoming the ‘bald headed, bespectacled, castle dwelling, multi million record selling’ artist called Moby and he took samples from Gregor’s boxset and these became the album ‘Play’ which went on to sell over 12 million copies and make Moby a global superstar. He never returned the CD’s and now, 20 years later, Gregor wants his CD’s back.
I’m not going to spoil the ending for you but Jonathan and Gregor end up on a road trip to LA and find themselves in Moby’s living room. Somewhere along the way Ru Paul gets involved but you’re going to have to listen to find out how this wonderful episode gets resolved.
Tom Davies is the host of the award-winning mental health podcast, Proper Mental. He started his show after his own challenges with mental ill health and has gone on to interview some of the world leading experts in mental health and mental illness. He also delivers talks about mental health, his own challenges and the learnings and insights he has gained from over 150 recorded conversations about all aspects of mental health. Proper Mental is available every Monday on all platforms. Instagram: @propermentalpodcast // Twitter @propermentalpod // propermentalpodcast.com