Unreal: A Critical History of Reality TV (May 2022)
I was commissioned to write, host and executive produce a 10-part audio documentary about the history of reality TV for BBC Radio 4, with the journalist Sirin Kale. Covering twenty years of seminal shows such as Big Brother, Pop Idol, What Not To Wear, The Only Way Is Essex and Love Island, we explore how reality TV shapes our lives and the ethical questions raised by the format.
Kale and Sykes are great interviewers, unafraid of asking tricky questions… grilling contestants, commentators, producers, psychotherapists. And it’s oddly entertaining.The Guardian
Makes a thorough case for the genre’s cultural significance, without turning a blind eye to its shaky ethical foundations… a critical history, to train critical viewers.The Royal Television Society
An entertaining and depressing survey of the history of reality television.The Times
Pieces of Britney (July 2021)
I was commissioned to write and present an 8-part audio documentary about Britney Spears for BBC Radio 4, which told the story of her life the cultural forces that have shaped it to ask: how do we treat women in the public eye? Delving into the paparazzi Gold Rush, the explosion of celebrity gossip blogs, misogyny and shame culture in the early noughties – and of course, Britney’s infamous 13-year conservatorship, from which she is petitioning the court to dissolve – the show was included in the Top Podcasts of 2021 by The Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Apple and Medium.
Beautifully constructed and narrated by one of the best voices in podcasting, the mellifluous Pandora Sykes … It tells its story — Spears’s rise from redneck Louisiana to mega fame to dodgy conservatorship — with effortless narrative energy.The Times
Seamlessly assembled and achieves an impressive level of depthThe Financial Times
Pandora Sykes is trying to do something different with this podcast: to present a sympathetic portrait, and locate Spears within a cultural context. An admirable ambition… This is an absorbing podcast, and I recommend it.The Guardian
Sykes makes a compelling moral case in Pieces of Britney for this being an important story… In incisive, urgent narration she charts Spears’s rise to fame… Spears is at the centre of this story, but Sykes also makes this a cultural reappraisal of how our society treats women and a strong analysis of a tumultuous media landscape.The Sunday Times
The Missing (2020 -)
In the UK, someone is reported missing every 90 seconds. 99% are found – but what of the 1% who are not, known as the ‘long-term missing’? Produced by What’s The Story? Sounds and made in collaboration with the charities Missing People UK and Locate International, The Missing uses interviews with friends and family to tell their life stories. I have presented three seasons of the No.1 podcast The Missing so far, which was nominated for a British Podcast Award in 2022.
A well-researched and ethically sound addition to the true crime genre… [Sykes is an] excellent host, her script and presentation striking the right balance between intrigue and empathy.The Guardian
[Sykes] has now put on an investigative hat. It’s a good fit. The Missing is framed as a true crime show with a difference… Still, it’s got the hallmarks of the genre: gripping whodunnit narratives, moody music, emotive case studies…. When, Sykes asks, do you give up hope and stop searching?The Sunday Times Culture
Doing it Right (2020 -)
An interview series about the myths, anxieties and trends of modern life. Guests have included broadcaster Dotty Charles on outrage culture, psychotherapist Julia Samuel on the relationship between grief and change, philosopher Alain de Botton on the paradox of choice, Noreena Hertz on the loneliness epidemic, sleep scientist Russell Foster on what we get wrong about sleep and science writer David Robson on how the predictive brain can affect how long we live.
Exploring contemporary ideas without imposing them.The Sunday Times Culture
The most recent season is especially rich, with Sykes skilfully probing the latest theories on human behaviour and social norms.The Guardian
The High Low (Feb 2017 – Dec 2020)
The High Low was the no1 women’s weekly podcast created and hosted by me and Dolly Alderton, covering current affairs, pop-culture and books and blending high and low culture. The show garnered over 1.2 million downloads per month, interviewed best-selling authors like Candice Carty-Williams, Graham Norton, Leïla Slimani and David Nicholls, launched a line of merchandise and went on a sell-out tour of the UK in 2019. Our live finale in December 2020 was watched via Zoom by over 11,000 people and raised over £87,000 for Blood Cancer Awareness.
Refreshing, witty…in a world where podcasts can stray into 90-minute slogs full of rambling diversions, The High Low is resolutely tight.The Guardian
Done with wit, intelligence and an archly raised eyebrow.The Financial Times
Like a 21st-century incarnation of sharp-eyed Jane Austen characters waspishly observing events in the millennial parish.The Sunday Times
Intelligent, sensitive discussion of pop culture, TV, books, lifestyle questions and the news. Don’t be deceived by the show’s breezy and approachable style; it works because its polymathic hosts are fiercely on top of their brief.The Times
Chicken soup for the soul.Marie Claire
Like listening to two of your best mates lovingly take the piss out of each other at the pub… The High Low, has charmed listeners across the nation – and the world.Elle