Columns > Published on September 5th, 2019

7 Podcast Adaptations You Should Know About

You probably already know that not all television shows and feature films are entirely original. Indeed, many are adapted from existing material — most commonly, well, books. (Game of Thrones, anyone?) But now that we're in 2019, technology’s given rise to another source of inspiration: podcasts.

With big sensations such as Amazon Prime’s Homecoming rocking our screens as we speak, it's time for you to meet the podcasts-turned-TV-shows-and-films that will soon be the stuff of daily watercooler conversation. And so, without further ado, here are seven podcasts that you should know before they start popping up in a theatre (or home theatre) near you.

1. Homecoming

Based on a scripted podcast of the same name, Homecoming is a psychological thriller from the point of view of Heidi, a social worker who begins to suspect a government facility built for soldiers is not all that it seems. Created by Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg, the Homecoming podcast boasts a star-studded cast — Catherine Keener, David Schwimmer, and Oscar Isaac amongst others. And its television adaptation introduced even more stars into the fold, such as Julia Roberts, Bobby Cannavale, and Stephan James.

Like the podcast, the first season of Homecoming met with critical acclaim when it was released in November 2018. What’s more, you can stream it now on Prime Video before season two of the series is released.

Plan to watch if: You binged The Haunting of Hill House in one day and are searching for an even tenser thriller.


2. Welcome to Night Vale

When a cult favorite podcast turns into a mega success, you can be sure television execs pay attention. That was the case with Welcome to Night Vale, a twice-monthly podcast in the style of an old-time radio show about the small fictional town of Night Vale. The podcast reports on the daily news in Night Vale, from the mundane (the weather) to the extraordinary (sightings of ghosts, angels, aliens, etc).

Launched in 2012, Welcome to Night Vale’s since been downloaded more than 180 million times worldwide — all of which points to no small amount of pent-up excitement for the small-screen version. FX is currently developing it for TV with Gennifer Hutchison, an executive producer of Better Call Saul.

Plan to watch if: You’re both a fan of H.P. Lovecraft and small dusty American towns.


3. Dirty John

Girl meets boy online. Boy and girl go on a date, and get married within months. Boy may or may not be a con man who spirals the relationship into one of abuse, manipulation, and denial. This is the premise of Dirty John, which follows Debra Newell and John Meehan from the onset of their relationship. And if that’s not enough for you, get this: Dirty John is based on a true story.

Created by Los Angeles Times reporter Christopher Goffard, the podcast pieced together this story of true crime through interviews and testimonies. Its television adaptation, starring Connie Britton and Eric Bana, premiered in November 2018 on Bravo, with the second season currently in development.

Plan to watch if: You’re a true crime aficionado.


4. 2 Dope Queens

Time to meet your next obsession. 2 Dope Queens was a popular podcast run by Jessica Williams of The Daily Show and fellow comedian Phoebe Robinson. Each episode featured 3 comedians, a celebrity (such as Lupita Nyong’o), and, of course, the easy banter between Williams and Robinson that made the podcast number one on the iTunes podcast charts for weeks.

2 Dope Queens ran from April 2016 to November 2018, but HBO picked up a special based on the show. It’s a total of four episodes and you can stream it on this page if you’ve got an HBO subscription.

Plan to watch if: You want to be a part of the conversation between two brilliantly funny best friends as they riff off of every topic imaginable.


5. Lore

Created by Aaron Mahnke, Lore is for all supernatural enthusiasts out there. The chilling podcast, which tells true instances of unsettling folklore, premiered in 2015 to great acclaim, receiving the iTunes “Best of 2015” award and “Best History Podcast” in 2016.

The TV adaptation, from the producers of The Walking Dead and The X-Files, builds upon Mahnke’s formula. Each episode focuses on a new true story, ranging from the origin of werewolves in Germany to a boy named Robert Gene Otto who owns a doll that everyone believes is cursed. As Mahnke says, "All of the material is from documented stories or historical events. Some are ancient and some are modern, but they are all factual in the sense that people reported these things and believed they were true."

Currently, you can watch two seasons of Lore on Amazon Prime. Fun fact: Lore was the first ever podcast that became a TV show, so if you want to see where it all began, this is the place to start.

Plan to watch if: You're a fan of scary stories told around a campfire.


6. Man of the People

“Man of the People,” an episode in the Reply All podcast, astounded when it was released: a profile of Dr. John Brinkley, a “medical doctor” who became rich by selling people fake medicine, it traces Brinkley’s improbable rise of fortune and equally stunning fall.

It’s the stuff of Hollywood material, so perhaps it’s not that surprising that, in 2017, it was announced it would be the basis for a film adaptation. The only thing that could make this project even more exciting? Robert Downey Jr. is attached to star in it — and Richard Linklater is set as its director.

Plan to watch if: You enjoyed reading up on Martin Shkreli’s extremely public fall from grace.


7. S-Town

Downloaded 16 million times in a single week when it was released in 2017, S-Town is one of the biggest success stories so far in the iTunes world. And it’s easy to see why: what is billed as a “murder mystery” on the surface is a Trojan Horse. S-Town is a fascinating, sharply-drawn,  and sad portrait of a solitary man named John B. McLemore, who is a citizen of the so-called “Shit Town, Alabama.” His death — and the procession of events that precede it — is the subject of this podcast.

As far as investigative journalism podcasts go, S-Town is a shining (though ethically ambiguous) one. But its inevitable big-screen adaptation may be a bit trickier to create, as The Guardian aptly points out. Oscar-winning Tom McCarthy — the man behind Spotlight — is set to direct it. But can the film match up to the podcast’s psychological complexity and its grim, undeniably un-Hollywood ending? There’s only one way to find out. 

Plan to watch if: You’ve got a bit of a voyeur streak and are drawn to intense character studies.

What are some of your favorite podcasts that deserve The Hollywood treatment?

About the author

Emmanuel Nataf is a Founder at Reedsy, a marketplace and set of tools that allows authors and publishers to find top editorial, design and marketing talent. Over 3,000 books have been published using Reedsy's services.

Reedsy Marketplace UI

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy. Come meet them.

Enter your email or get started with a social account: