Title: Late-Night War, Merged Freckles, And The Pet-Petter (November 19, 2010)
Glen Weldon returns from the magical land of hammocks and macitas de puerco. He renders his co-panelists helpless with laughter as he riffs about his Welsh heritage, vacation culture, and UV protection.
The A segment considers the premiere of Conan on TBS following the notorious late-night wars that pitted Conan O’Brien against Jay Leno and NBC. The panelists find the first few episodes funny and engaging, though they opine that staples of the late-night format (e.g. topical monologues and celebrity interviews) have become stale and innocuous.
They then tackle the concept of nostalgia in a technological age that allows people to access obscure types of pop culture. Glen brings up the PBS show The Electric Company, and how his nostalgia erased the kitschy aspects of the show in his mind. Trey considers theater as a medium that primarily exists in memory, but some moments (such as Judi Dench’s affecting rendition of Sondheim’s “Send In the Clowns”) can now be available, thanks to recordings.
A recording of the cartoon "The Great Toy Robbery" and sports recordings are the pop culture artifacts that have eluded Stephen. (On the next PCHH episode, the cartoon quest came to a happy conclusion, thanks to an NPR librarian.) He also cites a beloved Nichols and May sketch, which he gifted to his mother Maggie Thompson. Linda cites the TV show It’s Your Move as one of the catalysts of her friendship with Stephen. (“Don’t make it ugly, Glen Weldon.” - Linda)
What Is Making Them Happy
Glen - He praises BBC One’s Sherlock, particularly the dialogue and chemistry between Martin Freeman (Watson) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Holmes). Much fun is also had regarding Cumberbatch’s J.K. Rowling-esque name.
Trey - Having watched the Country Music Awards for the first time, Trey was moved by the performance of "Coal Miner’s Daughter" for Loretta Lynn, who was honored during the event. It reminded him his special affection for the grand ladies of country music such as Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Tammy Wynette.
Stephen - Dikkers.com, a cartoon website founded by former Onion editor Scott Dikkers. Stephen also mentions a short called "The Astounding World of the Future." He also mentions The Complete Hank Williams Box Set.
Linda - A gag product called the Pet Petter and Linda’s credulity causes Trey to have an extended giggling fit. Linda vigorously defends herself by invoking the Harriet Carter catalog and considers her knowledge of the consumer industry as the thing making her happy.
Some Episode Highlights
- Linda Holmes declares that Barrie Hardymon is, in fact, a permanent member of the PCHH crew. Callback to Barrie dropping the T-bomb.
- The show plays a segment of a sketch that features O’Brien discussing sexual euphemisms with a TBS censor. They also sample an interview with Tom Hanks regarding the origin of “Coco.”
- The panel points out that the shows that actively compete with Conan are actually Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report and not Leno.
- During the 2010 TCA Press Tour, Louis C.K. gave some insights on why Conan O’Brien wanted the Tonight Show franchise.
- Linda contrasts Jimmy Fallon and Jay Leno’s comedy styles, arguing that Fallon creates a much more positive rapport with his audience. New York Magazine published a profile that also highlights Fallon’s positivity.
- Youtube video clips of The Electric Company as listed by Glen: Introduction, The Plumber, We’re Out of Sweet Rolls, The Adventures of Letterman. (Fun fact: “The Adventures of Letterman” was narrated by Joan Rivers.)
- TV shows that hasn’t been released in DVD as listed in the episode: The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and China Beach. Shows that swapped music due to prohibitive costs: WKRP in Cincinnati, Quantum Leap, Felicity, Party of Five, and The Wonder Years.
- Theatrical productions with available TV recordings: Cinderella musical and Thorton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth.
- "From now on, you are Charlie Bumblinsqueak! From now on you are Templeton Hamsterwheel! Go and make cheaply produced science fiction television." - Glen Weldon channeling J.K. Rowling.
- Trey’s happy-making pick involves a discussion of how sad country songs by male and female musicians differ. Linda mentions George Jones’ “She Thinks I Still Care.”
- Another digression occurs as the panel complains about unnecessary and annoying appliances such as vacuum-sealed coffee bean storage.
- On the tribute episode for outgoing producer Mike Katzif, they added a giggly outtake from episode 17.
Title: Punching Bags And The A Cappella Smackdown (November 12, 2010)
Guest panelist Barrie Hardymon (former producer for NPR’s Talk of The Nation) joins the gang once again as Glen Weldon visits a mythical land full of swim-up bars and hammocks. They begin by defending things considered as “pop culture punching bags.”
Stephen and Barrie choose reality television, but they champion completely different genres. Stephen prefers elimination-based shows (Survivor, Amazing Race, The Apprentice), likening their plots to a football season. Meanwhile, Barrie talks about the philosophical lessons gleaned from The Real Housewives franchise, such as the fact that money does not buy happiness or taste.
Trey defends Andrew Lloyd Webber against accusations that he is a schlockmeister for “inflicting Sarah Brightman to an unsuspecting public.” Finally, Linda calls out Ed Helms’s Andy Bernard (The Office) for perpetuating the idea that it’s fine to make fun of college a cappella by creating the fictional group Here Comes Treble. The panel, however, still proceeds with the mockery.
What Is Making Them Happy
Barrie - Judith Krantz’s novel Mistral’s Daughter proved to be “truly [satisfying]” amidst the stress of covering the 2010 Senate Elections. She notes regrettable language choices for the ways men and women “interlock.”
Trey - He brings happiness for Stephen Thompson by revealing the trailer for Kung Fu Panda 2. This touches off a discussion of how Stephen has argued that the first Kung Fu Panda is a better movie than Wall-E.
Stephen - Stephen promotes Clem Snide for the first time on the podcast by highlighting Eef Barzelay’s offer to write a personalized song for fans. He mentions their album Soft Spot in order to convince Barrie to commission a song for her baby.
Some Episode Highlights
- Barrie refers to herself as “the pregnant lady.” In March 2011, PCHH releases a special episode celebrating the birth of her new baby.
- Stephen and Linda differentiate between competitions that are “higher in brow” like Project Runway and Top Chef and those that are “lower” like Hell’s Kitchen and Rock of Love Bus with Bret Michaels. Barrie mentions MTV’s Real World/Road Rules Challenge.
- Linda Holmes, former reality TV recapper at Television Without Pity and self-professed reality show nerd, note the “blunt force gender politics” presented in Survivor.
- Barrie focuses her discussion on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, highlighting a miserable $60,000 birthday party thrown by a Housewife. This episode is recapped here.
- In his defense of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Trey cites former Granta editor Ian Jack. He quotes Jack’s article in The Guardian, “…at its best [Lloyd Webber’s] music can summon feelings in an audience without necessarily cheapening them.”
- Trey highlights the Webber musical Jesus Christ Superstar, which he says posits complicated theological questions about Judas Iscariot. He also brings up his conversation with composer Ricky Ian Gordon about the singing style Lloyd Webber invented for Evita. Seth Rudetsky and Randy Graff demonstrates their theory about the high belt.
- He also makes a connection between the song “Prima Donna" from Phantom of the Opera with Giuseppe Verdi and “Unexpected Song" from Song and Dance with Niccolo Paganini.
- PCHH panelists discuss the idea that popularity automatically means hackery includes a discussion of Stephen King.
- Aside from The Office, other less than dignified depictions of college a cappella include The Amazing Race Season 17. Youtube video of contestants Connor Diemand-Yauman and Jonathan Schwartz.
- Linda reveals her past as a member of the women’s a cappella group Nothing But Treble at Oberlin and their rivalry with the men’s group called The Obertones (and their former member Ed Helms.)
- "I’m just gonna tell you right now, you can all just bite me." - Linda Holmes, amidst snickering.
- Trey sings the Regrettable Television (POP!) Quiz theme instead of Linda because the crew “has made [her] feel ashamed and embarrassed.”
- They discuss Mario Lopez’s career-reviving stint in Dancing With the Stars. Video of him dancing the Paso Doble with Karina Smirnoff.
- Linda alluded to a lawsuit filed by one of the brides featured in the 1st season of Bridezillas.
- Barrie ends the show by dropping the T-bomb.
All in all, I can’t say the Rally To Restore Sanity quite measured up to the Hot Bath To Re-Restore Sanity.— Linda Holmes (@nprmonkeysee) on her coverage of the event. October 31, 2010
Title: Replacing Zombies And James Franco, Mountaineer (November 5, 2010)
This episode is a free-wheeling discussion of various pop culture events of the time, specifically the critically lauded James Franco vehicle 127 Hours, critic Roger Ebert’s objection to Top 10 lists, and the proliferation of zombies in pop culture as illustrated by the high ratings of AMC’s The Walking Dead.
127 Hours becomes to jump-off point of their discussion of based-on-a-true-story movies and shows such as United 93, The Social Network, and Carlos. For Glen, this is actually a disadvantage for him because he maintains that the act of adaptation already fictionalizing it. All in all, the panel relayed much interest for the Franco vehicle.
They then move on to the proliferation of Top 10 lists and how critics constantly face a lot of recrimination over ranking but the audience still expect them at the end of a given year. At some point, the phrase “The Tyranny of the Thumbs” is uttered.
The panel then formulates their pitch for the next supernatural creature to catch the public’s imagination after vampires and zombies: Skeletons in Top Hats with British Accents Wearing Monocles. They also formulate the romantic storyline where the skeleton falls in love with a librarian in a small Maine town, a la The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.
What Is Making Them Happy
Stephen - 1) Brett Favre eating it, 2) Finishing The Hunger Games, which the panel discussed here, 3) Submissions for art renderings of Chiktopus, 4) Nick Lowe’s Tiny Desk Concert (“It’s like being serenaded by your kindly, misanthropic uncle.”)
Glen - He mentions Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, which comes up at PCHH multiples times. The show is about comedians discussing the processes and neuroses of comics. He highlights and episode featuring This American Life's Ira Glass, where Maron experiences a moment of connection with a non-comic and a public radio star.
Trey - Some call-outs to a previous episode: a PCHH fan translating a post in Finnish written by another Finnish fan and another fan reaching out to Glen to identify the creepy musical phrase in “The Headless Horseman" as the Neapolitan chord. His main happy-making thing, however, is a recording of Eva Cassidy singing “Autumn Leaves.”
Linda - Free word jumble game on Kindle (she doesn’t mention the specific name) and Family Feud on Facebook.
Some Episode Highlights
- Linda begins the show by recounting her experience covering Stewart and Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear. She calls it “surprisingly grueling.” Trey mentions an NPR internal memo regarding the rally, which had caused some controversy.
- Much fun is had when Trey compares 127 Hours and Titanic. “It’s about the guy cutting his arm off like Titanic is about the fact that the ship sinks.”
- Trey mentions as story by critic Bob Mondello about movies using restrictive settings as a narrative challenge.
- They talk about how the creators of The Social Network tries to have it both ways by arguing that they are either eschewing the facts or adhering to them, depending on what serves their defense of their storytelling.
- Glen brings up the controversy about David Sedaris embellishing his humor pieces, originally written by Alex Heard on The New Republic.
- Trey mentions Linda’s piece, “Ten Jobs Not Right for Wolverine.”
- Listicle vs. “Multiple Points of Entry”
- The panel mentions the Inventory section of The A.V. Club and praises it for being quirky and esoteric, as well as for being commentary in and of themselves.
- "Ordinarily I love what you do, but this time you’ve gone too far!" - Stephen’s approximation of random internet commenters.
- The also highlight the McSweeney’s piece “Great Literature Retitled to Boost Website Traffic.”
- Stephen mentions that the Nick Lowe Tiny Desk Concert was recorded on the same day as Richard Thompson's.
- Trey relates the story of the piano soloist that performed with Eva Cassidy for “Autumn Leaves.”
- Glen and Linda goes into a discussion about Linda’s dismissal of the game Angry Birds, with Glen characterizing her action as “a little like bailing at the dwarf tea party.”
- During the discussion of games, Stephen mentions his quest to find the traditional version of The Oregon Trail for iPhone.
- "In fact, I’m offended that there isn’t a Trey-voice yet." - This needs no attribution.
Title: BOO! Halloween Fears And Costume Theory (October 29, 2010)
Halloween takes up the bulk of this episode’s agenda, beginning with a segment where the panelists bring up some scary pop culture-related memories from their childhood. Glen begins by bringing up Bing Crosby and the 1949 cartoon The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (the entire short is available on Youtube). The part that young Weldon found creepy is the song “The Headless Horseman" where Crosby sings, "So when you’re ridin’ home tonight / Make for the bridge with all your might / He’ll be down in the hollow there / He needs your head / Look out! Beware!"
Trey’s pop culture artifact, on the other hand, is the Barbie Loves Beauty Styling Head. (I don’t know which iteration Trey is referring to but this comes close to his description.) He is also terrified of “everything.” Stephen’s scary memory comes from a trip to the Universal Studios Theme Park and his encounter the animatronic shark on the Jaws ride. Linda is vague about her fear, the Golden Pictures Story Book Babes in Toyland but she can’t remember which part terrifies her.
They also discuss a Target commercial depicting a young boy who is mortified at his mother’s attempt at creating an Iron Man costume. Trey, Stephen, and Linda object to the message of conformity, and disdain for creativity that the commercial is promoting. Glen strongly disagrees, however, characterizing this as misguided sentimentality. For a young person wanting to dress up as a superhero, it’s all about being as close as possible to the ideal. It comes down to 3 votes for childhood and 1 vote for
What Is Making Them Happy
Stephen - He is made happy by his son’s Halloween costume, a banana suit from Target (linked product a conjecture on my part) and the prospect of Chiktopus art. The list of happymaking things also include “Brett Favre eating it,” CMJ music festival, and Whisky Friday at The Onion headquarters.
Glen - Glen praises the first season of Top Chef: Just Desserts from Bravo. He notes the new dimension that a baking competition brings to the Top Chef franchise. The also played a clip from the episode where contestant Seth Caro has a meltdown.
Linda - Comedian Dave Holmes get credit for what is making Linda happy: a series of Youtube videos by Katherine Chloe Cahoon produced to promote her book The Single Girl’s Guide to Meeting European Men. Linda highlights a particular gem, her advice for girls who are attending Oktoberfest.
Some Episode Highlights
- Glen brings up a blog post written in Finnish, which when put through Google Translate’s algorithm, generates phrases such as “squeeze the endcap on this business trip” and “putting a button on people’s ears.” Another Finnish-speaking PCHH-er translated the post on the comments section. (The translation is lost forever due to the recent change in the comment system at NPR.org. Woe.)
- Glen takes Washington Irving to task by being “no friend to nerds” since the original story of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” focuses on driving the schoolteacher Ichobod Crane out of town.
- They mentions Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing “Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth.” Stephen calls it his favorite pop culture artifact.
- In an attempt to cure Trey and Glen’s pop culture phobias, Linda proposes putting the Barbie Loves Beauty Styling Head onto the Headless Horseman to come up with a horseman with fabulous hair.
- "It’s sort of like being at front row at a Gallagher concert. There’s always the worst possible place to sit if you’re easily startled or four. Or both." - Stephen on his brush with the Jaws shark.
- Linda’s fear of Babes in Toyland is revisited on a PCHH episode a year later. Stephen’s mother Maggie Thompson gives her with a copy of the book.
- Stephen talks about his childhood dressing up as Alice Cooper based on his appearance on The Muppet Show (Youtube clip).
- During the target commercial discussion, brings up a childhood memory of wanting a Batman costume and having to wear the Ben Cooper Batman costume. He calls the logo stamped on the forehead a “third eye of shame.”
- Stephen made call for PCHH fans who want to draw the hybrid superbeast Chiktopus to send their art. This eventually resulted to a wonderful gallery of Chiktopusiana.
- "Come on, friends, do you really think I am being serious?! Of course they are parodies!" - Katherine Chloe Cahoon
Title: The Menace Of Laughter And A Life-Saving Allergy (October 22, 2010)
The crew tackles the challenges of live television in this episode, reviewing a special 30 Rock episode that is acted and filmed in front of a live audience. Linda dislikes this particular episode, characterizing it as a so-so episode Saturday Night Live. They point out that the material is frequently stalled by audience reactions, affecting the rhythms of the show. Trey enjoys the fictional commercials and the difference between the East Coast and West Coast broadcasts. They thought, however, that the Tracy storyline does not work and that the main plot of the episode (Liz Lemon’s birthday) is muddled by the jokes surrounding it.
Regrettable Television Pop Quiz makes a comeback, with the panel bringing their own choice clips. Their TV Show and Tell includes clips from $#*! My Dad Says, Parking Wars, Ma’ Roadhouse, and Undercover Boss. The entire team acknowledges their debt to The Soup, where they mine TV gems such as Gordon Ramsay characterizing a dish as “Gandhi’s flip flop.” (Youtube clip)
What Is Making Them Happy
Trey - Trey offers up happy-making things for the rest of the PCHH crew, including the news that The Hobbit movie has been greenlit, Barack Obama’s appearance on Mythbusters (Youtube clip), and an iPhone case that works as a bottle-opener.
Stephen - Stephen talks about having been recognized by a podcast fan during a post-Happy Hour happy hour. He also recommends two books from his The Onion and The A.V. Club colleagues, Nathan Rabin’s My Year of Flops and A Book of Jean’s Own, written by Maria Schneider’s character Jean Teasdale.
Some Episode Highlights
- Vulture’s article listing the 26 differences between the 30 Rock East Coast and West Coast broadcasts.
- Glen mentioned Louie C.K.’s cancelled HBO show Lucky Louie. It recalled the sitcom style of The Honeymooners, where the live audience was acknowledged by the characters.
- Tracy’s storyline references The Carol Burnett Show.
- "It would be like if you had a friend who chose to run a marathon wearing Crocs and a Storm Trooper costume, finished two hours behind everyone else with a ton of blisters and asked to be congratulated for finishing at all given the circumstances." - Critic Alan Sepinwall on the live 30 Rock episode, quoted by Linda Holmes.
- Linda proposes that “carbuncle” be included in the list of items the Grinch steals at Christmas.
- During the discussion of Parking Wars, Glen makes a shout-out to Cops and the officers’ patented monologue of self-justification.
- Rick Fairless’s Strokers serves as the setting for Ma’s Roadhouse.
- Episode recap of the Undercover Boss episode about Hooters.
- As with his screed against Donald Trump’s The Apprentice, Stephen rails against self-aggrandizing CEOs in Undercover Boss.
- Nathan Rabin also wrote a memoir called The Big Rewind. Apparently, Stephen is lavishly praised in it.
- Marshall Crenshaw played Buddy Holly in the 1987 movie La Bamba. (Youtube clip from the movie)
Title: Literacy, ‘Modern Family,’ And Other Blind Spots (October 15, 2010)
Stephen Thompson returns for a follow-up to episode 4 where they talked about their various pop culture blind spots. Each panelist took to their respective tasks with varying degrees of commitment.
Stephen - While Stephen does not tackle his real blind spot (Breaking Bad), he has progressed in his Stephen Reads a Book project by reading part of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. He and the rest of the PCHH panelists praise the dynamite plotting. They also talk about the the Young Adult label and what it actually means.
Trey - Trey characterizes himself as a “qualified convert” to Modern Family, having warmed to the character (particularly the doofy husband Phil). He finds most of the writing tight but points out a particular clunky joke during one episode.
Glen - Watching season 1 of Friday Night Lights has caused Glen to become a qualified convert as well. He, however, expresses reservations about the beginning of the second season, due to a plot point involving Tyra and Landry. He also points out an instance of extremely awkward exposition and the flatness of Layla’s character.
Linda - Her attempt at reading Glen’s special copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit (the subject of a heartwarming moment back in episode 7) proves to be a failure due to an incident of petty theft. Before having the copy stolen from her desk, she had only read up to page 4 of the book because she hit a wall during the dwarf tea party songs.
What Is Making Them Happy
Linda - Because Glen’s book was stolen from her, nothing is making Linda happy except for The Search for Justice.
Trey - Logo’s The A-List, a specimen of regrettable television about, as Trey characterizes as, “a gaggle of people.” This is the beginning of Trey tumultuous relationship with the reality show, which he also brings up in a subsequent episode.
Stephen - The birth of Chiktopus! Stephen recounts a heartwarming scene where his son inadvertently invents Dungeons & Dragons, causing them to fuse the DNA of a chicken and an octopus. There is also the obligatory Brett Favre content.
Some Episode Highlights
- The saga of Stephen’s jury duty is a callback to episode 11.
- Glen points out a trope in YA fiction, which is the propensity of presenting plot points through young people eavesdropping into adult’s conversations.
- Linda compares the writing style of Suzanne Collins to Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. (Barrie talked about the Franzen book on episode 7). She also compares The Hunger Games and Twilight (which was a selection of Monkey See’s I Will If You Will Book Club).
- "You have arrived at the wrong podcast. You are looking for Snootitude Today. They make that down the hall, in the regular NPR.”
- Glen recommends Rankin and Bass’s 1977 cartoon adaptation of The Hobbit, featuring the voices of Orson Bean and John Huston.
- The panel makes a quick detour and discusses audiobooks as a way of consuming books. Trey recounts a great experience of driving while listening to a recording of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake as read by Campbell Scott. Glen praises Jim Dale’s reading of the Harry Potter books due to the wide range of voices he uses. Linda also recalls her struggle to listen to Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo audiobook. She also talks about Bobby Cannavale’s great performance reading Richard Price’s Lush Life.
- "It’s like Logo is saying ‘Look we gave you Michelangelo and Martina Navratilova and you gave us Proposition 8 and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, so this is our revenge.’" - Trey Graham on The A-List.
- Linda references a Harry Chapin song “Cats in the Cradle" in reference to Stephen and his son.