Mark, Erica, and Brian discuss Michael Schur's NBC TV show. Is it good? (Yes, or we wouldn't be covering it?) Is it actually a sit-com? Does it effectively teach philosophy? What did having actual philosophers on the staff (after season one) contribute, and was that enough? We talk TV finales, the dramatic impact of the show's convoluted structure, the puzzle of heaven being … [Read more...] about PMP#32: Judging “The Good Place”
What's the deal with images of powerful women in media? The trope of the tough-as-nails boss-lady who may or may not have a heart of gold has evolved a lot over the years, but it's difficult to portray such a character unobjectionably, probably due to those all-too-familiar double standards about wanting women in authority (or, say, running for office) to be assertive but not … [Read more...] about PMP#28: The Alpha Female Trope w/ Margaret Colin
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 … [Read more...] about PMP#27: For the Love of Star Wars
Perhaps the most lauded graphic novel has been sequelized for HBO, and amazingly, it turned out pretty darn well (with a 96% Rotten Tomatoes rating!). Mark, Erica, and Brian are joined by the Cornell psych prof who hosts the Very Bad Wizards podcast. We consider Alan Moore's 1986 graphic novel, the 2009 Zack Snyder film, and of course mostly the recently completed (we … [Read more...] about PMP#26: We Watch “Watchmen” w/ David Pizarro
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 … [Read more...] about PMP#24: Christmas Viewing: What’s Canon?
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 … [Read more...] about PMP#19: Race and the Target Audience w/ Rodney Ramsey
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 … [Read more...] about PMP#16: 25 Years After FRIENDS
TV news reporter Paul Beban (ABC, Al Jazeera, Yahoo, and now featured on the Discovery Network's Contact) joins Mark, Erica, and Brian to discuss the appeal of UFO narratives, both at the peak of their popularity in the 50s and in the current resurgence. Why do they make for good TV? Do you have to believe to be entertained? Is belief in UFOs related to religious belief? To … [Read more...] about PMP#14: UFOs on TV with Investigative Journalist Paul Beban
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 … [Read more...] about PMP#13: TV Revivals Revived!
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 storytelling beyond … [Read more...] about PMP#10: The Handmaid’s Tale