Tuesday is Valentine’s Day which, naturally, means this week’s column has come over all warm and fuzzy, and without a whiff of a flaccid petrol -station bouquet.
On the contrary, these fine podcasts are expert at exploring what love really means in the 21st century.
Would you trust stand-up comedians with your love life? That’s perhaps why for Audible’s Shared Baggage (Audible), comics Catherine Bohart and Larry Dean enlisted an actual intimacy coach, Charlene Douglas, who has previously navigated the hormones of raging exhibitionists on E4’s Married at First Sight UK.
The proverbial threesome cut and thrust their way through real-life sex and relationship dilemmas and perspectives provided by special guests – funny folk you’ll know from British panel shows, such as Sindhu Vee, Zoe Lyons, Ivo Graham and, in the debut episode, self-confessed serial monogamist Olga Koch who relays the singular pleasure and pain of first dates.
In contrast, the creator-host of This is Love (Apple, Spotify; thisislovepodcast.com) is no jester; journalist Phoebe Judge is the co-founder of the award-winning podcast Criminal, which investigates real-life crimes.
In this surprising side project with fellow host Lauren Spohrer, Judge examines the mysteries and hidden depths of the heart; the connections made between friends, romantic partners, within families and among communities. Delia Ephron – sister of director Nora, and Sleepless in Seattle screenwriter – discusses life imitating art a decade after the release of You’ve Got Mail which she wrote.
Other nuggets include the unconditional love for stray animals (Silvia, who runs a cat sanctuary in Rome), a woman who spent seven years trying to track down the sender of a message in a bottle; even the ‘story’ of the colour blue, with comments by Elena Palumbo-Mosca, model of artist Yves Klein (‘Blue Woman’), and Blue Mythologies’s writer/art historian Carol Mavor.
Psychologist Esther Perel needs no introduction among the self-help community, having made a career out of bringing “sexual alchemy” back into relationships. Her podcasts Where Should We Begin? gave fly-on-the-wall snapshots of her couples therapy sessions and How’s Work?, which investigated interpersonal dynamics within the workplace.
So she’s not involved in This is Dating (Apple, Spotify; thisisdatingpodcast.com) – that’s the job of host Logan Ury, a behavioural scientist – but the production team is the same and there’s a clear overlap with the former except here we eavesdrop on blind, virtual dates by four brave individuals.