Pretty Much Pop #27: For the Love of Star Wars

Mark, Erica, and Brian grasp the low-hanging fruit in pop culture to talk about Star Wars: The unique place that these films have in the brains of people of a certain age, how we grappled with the prequels, and why we feel the need to fill in and argue about the details. We primarily focus on the two most recent emanations of this beast, The Mandalorian and Rise of  Continue Reading …

NEM-Pretty Much Pop Crossover: The Singer Not the Song w/ Ken Stringfellow (feat. Game Theory)

Ken returns from episode #39, this time not to talk about his own music, but more generally about our relationship to music.  Do you just embrace the pure sound, or do you care about who made that sound? One way of seeing where you fall on this issue is whether you care more for singles or to whole albums or careers by artists. This is a cross-production with my Pretty Much Pop  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #25: Sports as Pop w/ Sportscaster Dave Revsine

How is spectator sports different from other types of entertainment? Dave Revsine (lead studio host for the Big Ten Network and former ESPN anchor) joins Mark, Erica, and Brian to discuss the various sources of appeal, team identification, existing in a sports-filled world as a non-fan, watching vs. playing, human interest stories, sports films, and more. Some of the  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #24: Christmas Viewing: What’s Canon?

Join Mark, Erica, and Brian for a special "snake draft," where we take turns picking the holiday films and TV specials that we think are (or should be) part of America's yearly viewing traditions. Were I to list all the shows and films we mention, that would give away our picks now, wouldn't it? Compare your intuitions about what is classic or seminal or over-rated with  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #23: The Singer Not the Song w/ Ken Stringfellow

What's your relationship to music? Do you just embrace the pure sound, or do you care about who made that sound? One way of seeing where you fall on this issue is whether you care more for singles or to whole albums or careers by artists. Ken Stringfellow, who co-fronts The Posies and was a member of R.E.M. and Big Star, joins Mark, Erica, and Brian to talk about what  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #22: Untangling Time Travel

Time-travel rules in The Terminator franchise are notoriously inconsistent. Is it possible for someone from the future to travel backwards to change events, given the paradox that with a changed future, the traveler wouldn't then have had the problem to try to come back and fix? Neither the closed-loop series of events in the first film nor the changed (postponed) future in the  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #21: Role-Playing Video Games

What constitutes a video RPG? Is there any actual role-playing involved? Our editor Tyler Hislop rejoins Mark, Erica, and Brian to discuss those video games that are supposed to make you feel like you're contributing to the story, that your choices matter, in which you can maybe, you know, choose to wear a funny hat or just craft potions all day instead of advancing the  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #20: Improv Comedy w/ Tim Sniffen

What role does improv comedy play in popular culture? It shows up in the work of certain film directors (like Christopher Guest, Adam McKay, and Robert Altman) and has surfaced in some of the TV work of Larry David, Robin Williams, et al. But only in the rare case of a show like Whose Line Is It Anyway? is the presence of improvisation obvious. So is this art form doomed to  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #19: Race and the Target Audience w/ Rodney Ramsey

We've all felt at various points (maybe at most points) that some media creation has reached us by mistake, that we are not the target audience. 20th century American TV was aimed largely at a white majority, with a parallel, underfunded channel of content aimed at people of color. So how have things changed? There still seem to be "black shows,"  but how do they fit in to a  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #17: Comedy as Philosophy w/ Daniel Lobell

Are stand-up comedians the Modern Day Philosophers? This claim forms the premise of Daniel's podcast where interviews some of our best known and loved comedians, but really, only some comedians are trying to express original views on the world instead of just telling a good joke. Even so, do the words of comics telling their truth or pronouncing sentence on the world count as  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #16: 25 Years After FRIENDS

Mark, Erica, and Brian examine the conventions, techniques, and staying power of the beloved ’90s sitcom. Are we supposed to identify with, or idolize, or merely like these people? What makes the formula work, did it sustain itself over its 10-year run, was it successfully replicated (like by How I Met Your Mother or by Chuck Lorre?), and what parts haven’t aged well? We  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #15: Opera As Pop

Opera used to be a central part of European pop culture, Pavarotti was as big a pop star as they come. But still, it's now the quintessential art-form of the wealthy and snobbish. What gives?   Guest Sean Spyres from Springfield Regional Opera joins his sister Erica along with Mark and Brian to discuss opera's place in culture (including its film appearances), how  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #13: TV Revivals Revived!

A crazy number of shows are now being continued long after their deaths. Revivals (not to be confused with reboots) bring us back to the comfort of old friends, who are now really old. What can a revival's success tell us about why the show was appealing in the first place? Wouldn't you rather see a new work by the same creative team than more of the same? Mark, Erica, and  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #12: Once Upon a Tarantino Film (feat. Wes!)

Wes Alwan joins Mark, Erica, and Brian to discuss Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood in the context of Tarantino’s other films. Wes thinks the film is great, even though he’s not actually a Tarantino fan, and is working on a very long essay on it. We consider T’s strange sense of pacing, his comic violence, his historical revisionism, and casting choices. Is  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #11: The Live Music Experience

Surely tech advances make it unnecessary to ever leave the house, right? Why go to see live people doing live things live? Dave Hamilton (Host of Gig Gab, Mac Geek Gab, and Mark's old drummer) joins Mark, Erica, and Brian to discuss what's so damn cool about live music (and theater), the alternatives (live-streamed-to-theaters or devices, recorded for TV, VR), why  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #10: The Handmaid’s Tale

  Mark, Erica, and Brian take on both Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel plus the Bruce Miller/Hulu TV series through season 3. There's also a graphic novel and the 1990 film.   We get into what's needed to move a novel to the screen like that: The character can't just remain passive as in the novel in order to keep us suffering with her past the first season as  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #9: Cartoons with Dee Bradley Baker (from Clone Wars, American Dad)

Are cartoons an inherently juvenile art form? Even animation aimed at adults is still typically considered genre fiction–a guilty pleasure–and the form enables tones and approaches that might simply be considered awful if presented as traditional live action. So what’s the appeal? Dee’s voice can be heard in substantial portion of today’s cartoons, especially for animal or  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #8: Spider-Man: Far From Home (and Elsewhere)

Mark, Erica, and Brian finally cover a current film, and of course use it as an entry point in discussing the social function of super-hero films more generally, how much realism or grittiness is needed in such stories, whether to repeat or bypass the origin story, everlasting franchises, the use of multi-verses as a storytelling device, exaggerating the potential in a story of  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #7: Native Representation w/ Jonathan Joss (King of the Hill, Parks & Rec)

Jonathan built his career playing 19th century Indians on horseback and is best known for his voice acting as John Redcorn III in King of the Hill (starting season 2) and then for his recurring role as Chief Ken Hotate in Parks and Recreation. Erica, Mark, and Brian talk to him about those roles plus acting in The Magnificent Seven, True Grit, and his current role as Sitting  Continue Reading …