To me, monotone is infinitely preferable to the excitable English TV newsreader type audio featured in the free online lessons. This is definitely not normal english conversation. How am I to know if the Russian I'm listening to is similarly unnatural?
I totally agree. I could only listen to one or two of these podcasts without getting annoyed. I can understand that it might be amusing to speak like this every now and again, but if it's through the whole thing, podcast after podcast, I wouldn't pay for it – you should be able to focus on the lesson without getting irritated. I doubt he speaks like this constantly in real life lol.