16. Verified Season 1
“This is a story about women who fight back,” the host and investigative reporter Natasha Del Toro says in the first few minutes of Verified, signaling to listeners that vindication is coming. In 2013, Dino Maglio, an Italian police officer living near Venice, used the website CouchSurfing to attract female guests to his home; he is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting many of them. (Maglio was convicted in 2015 of raping a minor and in 2019 of serial rape—though he’s since appealed the latter conviction.) Over the next seven years, several of these women enlisted the help of the Investigative Reporting Project Italy, or IRPI, to bring charges against Maglio. The show illuminates the complexities of surviving assault: how one woman can remember everything and another might have foggier recollections, how some women take action immediately while others can’t or never will. Verified also examines CouchSurfing’s blind spots, takes a detour into how IRPI formed, and culminates with Maglio’s brazen behavior in court and bizarre sentencing. The show models several paths to finding justice or closure, much of which relies upon simply being believed, if only by other survivors.
27. The Dream Season 2
Products made as part of the multitrillion-dollar wellness industry often rely on the placebo effect, which sounds harmless. But The Dream’s host, Jane Marie, sets out to prove that it’s not. Some consumers forgo medical treatment when they take supplements, many of which aren’t regulated. Marie stress-tests claims about vaccines, tinctures, and so-called therapies. She speaks with a scientist to address the quantum-physics claims surrounding gemstones. Sometimes the podcast gets personal—the host tries a Moon Juice product, which lands her in the hospital, and discusses how her grandmother takes colloidal silver, which has dangerous side effects. Marie conducts her investigation with vigor and honesty at every step. The season culminates in a combative exchange between a former FDA commissioner and the president of the supplement industry’s largest lobbying group, arguing about how much oversight the government should have over these products. Still, after debunking much of everyday wellness culture, Marie finds herself on a massage table with a tuning-fork practitioner, inexplicably “so blissed out” that she’s moved to tears.
35. Unfinished: Deep South/Short Creek (Seasons 1 & 2)
Unfinished, a show about America’s unresolved histories, premiered with a season titled Deep South that investigated the life and death of Isadore Banks. The wealthy Black businessman and landowner was lynched in 1954, and his killer was never identified. Even 66 years later, the white people in Banks’s Arkansas town don’t want to share what they know—a telling example of the erasure of Black history. The reporters Taylor Hom and Neil Shea embed in the area, go door-knocking, and provide as much closure as they can while also putting white power and white rage on display. Unfinished’s second season of 2020, called Short Creek, profiles a community of Mormon fundamentalists on the Arizona-Utah border. Some longtime residents have disavowed their religion but are unwilling to leave the land, creating a bitterly divided town; journalists Sarah Ventre and Ash Sanders have to draw out tight-lipped people on both sides. In their mission to dig deeper into America’s murky past, Unfinished Deep South and Short Creek give voice to people who’ve been sidelined or overshadowed.
You can read the full list from The Atlantic, here.