Pretty Much Pop #106: Stand-Up Comedy in the Internet Age

Mark discusses how Internet culture has changed stand-up with three comedians: past guests Rodney Ramsey (who co-owns the Unknown Comedy Club) and Daniel Lobell (host of Modern Day Philosophers and author of the Fair Enough comic), plus Dena Jackson (also a speaker on yoga and mindfulness and host of The Ego Podcast). How does the existence of YouTube, social media, and  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #105: The Death of Soap Operas (Is Greatly Exaggerated)

Writers Sarahlyn Bruck and Kayla Dreysse join Mark to discuss how this once very popular TV show type has simultaneously become niche yet has had a tremendous influence on current prestige TV as well as reality shows. We talk about soaps' story and structure conventions, the demands on soap actors and writers, and how changing market forces and technology have affected the  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #104: King Arthur Reigns O’er Pop Culture

With the recent theatrical release of The Green Knight, Mark and Brian along with Den of Geek's David Crow and the very British Al Baker consider the range of cinematic Arthuriana, including Excalibur (1981), Camelot (1967), King Arthur (2004), King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017), First Knight (1995), Sword of the Valiant (1983), Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1973), and  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #103: Queering Video Games w/ Naomi Clark

While LGBTQ+ representation in video games has been improving (as with other media), Naomi Clark (who designed games for LEGO, Gamelab, Fresh Planet, Rebel Monkey, et al) has something more disruptive in mind when arguing for game "queerification." The prototypical video game includes a more-or-less linear progression through a pre-defined story to a defined win condition, and  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #101: The “Conjuring” Retroverse

With the release of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, Mark, Erica and Brian explore the larger "Conjuring universe" that started with the 2013 James Wan film depicting the fictionalized supernatural investigations of Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). Largely using the plot-generating device of the couple's storehouse of haunted objects,  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #100: Directing Comedies w/ Heather Fink

What makes for a good comedy film or show? Funny people reading (or improvising) funny lines, right? WRONG?  Mark, Erica, Brian, are joined by Heather Fink to discuss the role of the director in making a comedy (or anything else) actually good. Heather has directed for TV, film, and commercials and spent a lot of time doing sound (a boom operator or sound utility) for  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #99: The Music of Your Youth w/ Jon Lamoreaux (The Hustle podcast)

What long-term effects do songs that we're exposed to early have on our adult tastes? As children we (hopefully) learn to love music, but then our critical faculties and peer pressure kick in, and many early influences become unacknowledged or transformed into guilty pleasures. Is the generation gap in musical taste really just due to how styles change over time (and we old  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #98: The Spirit of Captain America w/ Anthony LeBlanc

What is it for a super-hero to represent America? Though the character created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in 1941 may have been a way to capitalize on WWII patriotism, it has since been used to ask questions about what it really means to be patriotic and how America's ideals and its reality may conflict. We're of course talking about race, a theme explored by Sam Wilson,  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #97: The Girl in the Wooder: Our Mare of Easttown Show!

Insofar as something is a TV hit at all these days, the small-town Pennsylvania murder mystery starring Kate Winslet seems to qualify, but what distinguishes it from the many many other crime dramas on TV? Mark, Erica, and Brian discuss the plot structure, casting, and other creative choices and try to figure out how the show relates to Broadchurch, The Undoing, etc. Should  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop#96: Modernizing D&D w/ Amanda McLoughlin

What's the current status of table-top role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons in pop culture? Thanks to D&D's recent depiction in Stranger Things and the enormous popularity of fantasy properties like Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, interest in elves and magic and such is no longer fodder for Satanic panic, but the idea of actively pretending to be a character  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #95: “The Nevers” With a Side of Whedon

Mark, Erica, and Brian discuss the HBO Max show out Victorian-era super-powered feminine outcasts, helmed and now abandoned by the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, etc. It's jam packed with steampunk gadgets, fisticuffs, social injustice, and far too many characters and plot threads to keep track of. Given that the season was reduced to a half season in light of  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #94: Psychology of Video Game Engagement w/ Jamie Madigan

Why do people play video games, and what keeps them playing? Do we want to have to think through innovative puzzles or just lose ourselves in mindless reactivity? Mark, Erica, and Brian are joined by Dr. Jamie Madigan, an organizational psychologist who runs the Psychology of Video Games podcast, to discuss what sort of a thing this is to research, the evolution of games,  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #93: Made for Love (and other Silicon Villainy)

The tech genius has become the go-to bad guy in recent films: They're our modern mad scientists with all imaginable resources and science at their command, able to release dystopic technology to surveil, control, and possibly murder us. Even Lex Luthor was made into a "tech bro" in Batman v. Superman. Mark, Erica, and Brian discuss the HBO Max series Made for Love starring  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #91: Pet Culture w/ Trainer Hannah Branigan

What is with the weird relationship we Americans have with our pets? Many of us treat them as our babies, yet of course they're our captives. Dog trainer Hannah Branigan joins Mark, Erica, and Brian to talk about pets as entertainment, as hobby, and as pandemic companions. How can we make this relationship as beneficial as possible for all involved, and how can learning to be a  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #90: Godzilla vs. Kong vs. All the Kaiju!

Are gynormous monsters ("kaiju") stamping on cities just stupid fun, or do they channel deep fears of our own helplessness? Mark, Erica, and Brian reflect on the MonsterVerse films, plus the history of Godzilla in Japan from the 1954 original to 2016's award-winning Shin Godzilla. Do we care at all about the humans in these films? Are King Kong films too sad? Is there any  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #89: The Chicago 7 (and the Aaron Sorkinverse)

In lieu of an Oscars episode, we consider one of the nominated films, The Trial of the Chicago 7, and the career of its writer/director, Aaron Sorkin, which started with A Few Good Men through four TV series (most notably The West Wing), and films like The Social Network, Steve Jobs, and Molly's Game. Brian, Erica, and Mark consider Sorkin's stock recurring characters and  Continue Reading …

PMP#88: Indie Animation w/ Benjamin Goldman

In the perennial conflict between art and our corporate entertainment machine, animation seems designed to be mechanized, given how labor-intensive it is, and yes, most of our animation comes aimed at children (or naughty adults) from a few behemoths (like, say, Disney). Mark, Erica, and Brian are joined by animator Benjamin Goldman to discuss doing animation on your own,  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #87: Female Buddy Comedies w/ Erica’s Female Buddy Micah Greene

The buddy comedy is a staple of American film, but using this to explore female friendship is still fresh ground. Erica, Mark, Brian, and Erica's long-time friend Micah Greene (actor and nurse) discuss tropes and dynamics within this kind of film, focusing primarily on Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, the 2021 release written and starring Kristin Wiig and Annie Mumolo as a  Continue Reading …