Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. TV & Radio
19 February 2020updated 03 Aug 2021 1:07pm

The joy of BBC Sound’s US podcast Americast

Americast is completely addictive for its on-the-ground details of the campaign trail.

By Antonia Quirke

The other morning, when Chris Mason, political correspondent and host of Newscast (née Brexitcast) was on Today trailing Any Questions, he admitted he was in his living room enduring a day of solo childcare as his toddler clambered all over him, scratching the microphone with insistent fingers. Nobody back at Today HQ turned a hair. I figured that they might have done a year ago. But the spontaneous spirit of podcasts has (for the most part) joyously rubbed off on the rest of broadcasting.

Emily Maitlis, co-presenter of the new podcast Americast, seemingly does most of her recording from a treehouse in the UK, flanked by her (as yet silent) whippet. Maitlis was in Iowa with co-host Jon “Sopes” Sopel for the inaugural episode – promising to “hurtle around America following the unwinding of the 2020 presidential campaign” – but thus far it seems Sopes will be doing most of the heavy lifting. “WOW,” he breathed at the mention of the treehouse, sounding envious – and no wonder, since he was in some unlovely New Hampshire motel at the time. Although you suspect that Sopel actually loves unlovely motels, and all things America: he even suggests, with misty eyes, that the mournful klaxon of New Jersey Transit trains should provide the show’s theme tune.

Three episodes down, and Americast is completely addictive for its on-the-ground details of the campaign trail. The faces, the farms, the rooms, the unapplauded speeches given in lonely school gymnasiums. The sheer strangeness of the Iowa caucus, and its prevaricating, pitiless, peanut-crunching crowds. Pete Buttigieg’s supporters carrying placards declaring “BOOT-EDGE-EDGE” so others know how phonetically to shout his name. Sopel does a nice impression of Bernie Sanders yelling, and Maitlis chuckles quite a lot, very evidently enjoying herself, and now and again hitting us with a gorgeous turn of phrase. Her description of Nancy Pelosi ripping up Donald Trump’s State of the Union address: “like watching someone perform the most perfect inverse origami”. She’s no-nonsense, calling a cock-up a “cock-up”, or “a bit of a shitshow”. You wouldn’t hear that on the revered New York Times podcast The Daily. So prim! 

Americast
BBC Sounds

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
Why public health policy needs to refocus
The five key tech areas for the public sector in 2023
You wouldn’t give your house keys to anyone, so why do that with your computers?

This article appears in the 19 Feb 2020 issue of the New Statesman, The age of pandemics