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Why the creator of Radiolab, one of the internet’s most popular podcasts, is now obsessed with the Supreme Court

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For the past decade and a half, Jad Abumrad has co-hosted Radiolab, a radio show and podcast, for WNYC. In that time, the show has become a bona fide hit, racking up millions of podcast downloads every month … but by 2013, Abumrad wanted a change.

“I was getting kind of restless,” Abumrad said on the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka. “I felt like we were doing the same stories a lot — I mean, each story was different, but we were in the same neighborhood of science-meets-philosophy/wonder, that kind of thing. So I asked the team of producers: ‘Here’s a crazy idea: Go look at the Supreme Court docket.’”

You can listen to the new podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

One producer, Tim Howard, came back with a riveting story about a custody battle, Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, which became a Radiolab episode of the same name. After several more episodes based on court cases, the team realized they could make an entirely new show around them. So they did.

“There’s so many of these cases,” Abumrad said. “If you just peel away the legality stuff, you get down to the personal layers, then the cultural layers and the political layers and historical layers. They’re just so rich. I was like, this needs to be its own spinoff.”

Season two of that spinoff, More Perfect, debuts on Oct. 2. Abumrad said it will be a “little more of the same” compared to the six-episode first season, but “this time, for real.”

“It’s a bigger season, bigger stories, way more contemporary,” he said. “I feel like the crazy world that is America right now is very much present in every single story: The travel ban, police brutality, all the big decisions.”

“We’re not doing new stories, but I do feel like every story I tell has to teach me something about this moment,” he said.

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers in tech and media every Monday. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode, answers all of the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • And finally, Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, such as the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts— and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Peter. Tune in next Thursday for another episode of Recode Media!


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