Not Quite Great Books: a TV podcast

When you spend the bulk of your life reading, writing, and building lesson plans, sometimes your brain needs a break. Join two of your favorite political theory professors - Danielle Hanley and John McMahon - as they switch gears from the world’s so-called great books to break down some of your favorite TV shows. The twist? Only one of your hosts has seen the show before. First up? The Americans.

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3 days ago

John and Danielle are back on their own this week to contemplate the world through the eyes of Anton Baklanov. Together, they dig into The Americans Season 3 Episode 11, “One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov.” They really start at square one, with John explaining the framing device to a none-the-wiser Danielle, and then they ask how using Anton as a lens impacts their takeaways from the ep itself. They follow-up on all things Paige/Jennings in the aftermath of the last episode, and check in on Gabriel, Nina, and of course Martha. They touch on some solid (if surprising) spycraft from Hans, and some weird feminizing of computers in Glas. This leads into our first self-cite, with John invoking an article of his and producer Amy in the Cave! And of course, is it even an episode of NQGB if we don’t give someone Foucault as a TheoryShip?
Music by Lesfm from Pixabay

Thursday May 25, 2023

WOW, what an episode! John and Danielle call in the reinforcements to help them dissect Season 3 Episode 10 of The Americans, “Stingers.” Your hosts are joined once more by the illustrious Lilly Goren to discuss ALL things Paige, from the reveal to Philip and Elizabeth’s responses to Paige’s reaction as it unfolds over the next day. Together, they unpack the timely drop-in from Stan, and start to consider the deeper implications of this all for the Jennings family. There is a celebratory Dossier discussion, obviously regarding Paige, but they count the Zinaida reveal as a win for Danielle as well. John has feelings about Keri Russell’s Russian accent, and everyone is concerned about Henry’s Eddie Murphy impression. With Lilly’s help, all three think with Leo Strauss (honestly, they can’t believe it either!) in the Cave. Don’t worry, we also have a Foucault-themed TheoryShip, in case you were worried that we went too deep on the Straussian vibe.
Music by Lesfm from Pixabay

Thursday May 11, 2023

“Do mail robots dream of electric sheep?” Do they ‘mangia’? Do they feel Philip probe their deepest depths to plant a bug? All great questions. This week, John and Danielle tackle Season 3 Episode 9 of The Americans, “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” touching on Elizabeth’s shocking honesty with Betty, Hans’ CHOICES, and the showdown between Philip and Gabriel. In the Dossier, Danielle floats a new Zinaida theory and checks in on her Martha predictions. John muses over the 80s-ness of aspirin and beer, and then offers a helpful gloss of Foucault on confession to help your hosts contemplate some of the theoretical implications of Elizabeth’s conversation with Betty. Come for the critique of Succession-core hats as spy disguises (come on guys, you’re professionals!), stay for TheoryShips for not only Elizabeth, but Hans too!
Music by Lesfm from Pixabay

Thursday Apr 27, 2023

This week, your hosts consider the role of interrogation as they analyze The Americans Season 3 Episode 8, “Divestment.” They contemplate the formal interrogations of Walter Taffet, and make their way to the violent interrogation of Eugene Ventor and Todd, also touching on the interrogations by Paige and of Nina. They consider how racism structures Taffet’s questions to Aderholt in his interrogation, and are helped in this pursuit by the Random Theory Generator, who highlights Charles Mills for the Cave. In Borrowed Nostalgia, they interrogate the presence of Alpha-Bits and Paige’s microfiche archive hours. In the Dossier, Danielle interrogates her own suspicion about Gene being interrogated twice. It’s not all interrogations though, sometimes it’s just requests: your hosts consider the weight of Elizabeth’s request to Gabriel and Igor’s to Arkady. No mail robots are damaged during this NQGB episode, which is more than we can say for the series ep… 
Music by Lesfm from Pixabay

Thursday Apr 13, 2023

WOW. There’s a lot to unpack in The Americans Season 3 Episode 7, “Walter Taffet,” but your hosts are up for the challenge. After she gets over her shock, John helps Danielle contemplate the implications of the bug, its discovery, and everything it puts into circulation. They chat Martha, marveling over the acting choices and story beats, from the bathroom scene to the sweep to the exchange with Clark. In the Cave, they pick up on the significance of the bug itself, with John offering a gloss of Bruno Latour’s work on actants to think differently about the objects in the show. They also tackle Stan’s racism, which is prominently on display in his frustration about Aderholt. Don’t worry, it’s not all heavy. Danielle calls out her fav music cue to date - Fleetwood Mac! - and has big feelings about leaving pizza crust on the plate. John caps it all off with a TheoryShip for Henry.
Music by Lesfm from Pixabay

Thursday Mar 30, 2023

Oh boy, lots of baptism/bible/church talk in this episode - for Season 3 Episode 6 of The Americans, “Born Again,” Danielle and John are back on their own, and focused on the theme of new beginnings and rebirth as it weaves its way through this intense episode of TV. After unpacking the baptism scene (including Danielle’s questions about Buddy Christ), your hosts consider the parallel conversations and situations between Elizabeth and Paige alongside Philip as Jim and Kimmy. They laugh at Philip’s use of prayer to placate Kimmy, but also consider the intimacy of the interaction at the same time. After they debate the speed at which the stoner giggles descended on our main characters, they consider Gabriel’s role as chief manipulator, and contemplate the ellipses left by Hans/Elizabeth’s discovery. After a quick check-in on Martha and Tori in the Dossier, John and Danielle tackle Stan and Nina in Glas. They reward ‘KGB Woman’ Minor Character of the Week, a silent but solid performance, before taking up Pastor Tim’s invitation to consider the consequences of action in the Cave with none other than Hannah Arendt. Don’t worry, John has a great TheoryShip, and your hosts don’t miss a chance to highlight Sandi and Matthew’s impeccable 80s fashion sense. 

Thursday Mar 16, 2023

For The Americans Season 3 Episode 5, “Salang Pass,” your hosts John and Danielle are joined by faithful Listener Mike, author of the much-beloved and incredibly useful Dossier excel sheet. Together, these three tackle the myriad and complicated questions of children that animate this episode, from Martha’s adoption-obsession, to Philip’s moral quandary over Kimmy and the questionable parallels to Paige, and the rising tensions between Philip and Elizabeth on that matter. Both John and Mike plead the fifth as Danielle questions reality in the Dossier, with Mike adding his own questions about Zinaida to the mix. Your hosts have a blast unremembering the 80s in Borrowed Nostalgia, highlighting the nostalgic snacks, Oleg’s fashion sense, and Kimmy’s stellar music taste. In the Cave, Danielle offers a rendition of Rousseau’s Emile to think about the conditioning of children alongside the episode’s main themes. Mike also dazzles with his deep production and historical knowledge of all things Americans - enjoy!
Music by Lesfm from Pixabay

Thursday Mar 02, 2023

Danielle and John talk about The Americans Season 3 Episode 4, ‘Dimebag’. Together, they consider the role of truth and deception, and how these shape the dynamics in this week’s episode. They highlight the role of manipulation - of others and of oneself - across multiple characters, focusing on the rising tensions between Philip, Elizabeth and Paige, as well as Stan, Nina, and even Kimmy. Don’t worry - John and Danielle do not miss the chance to celebrate all the awesome 80s nods in this ep, from Yaz to boomboxes to Julia Garner’s hair, Borrowed Nostalgia is chock-full this week. This episode also features the return of the Random Theorist Generator, which lands on Machiavelli for this week’s Cave segment. Come for Danielle’s countdown to Martha’s demise, stay for the analysis of parallels between Nina and Elizabeth!
Music by Lesfm from Pixabay

Thursday Feb 16, 2023

Well, this is a first for NQGB - due to technical issues, a chaotically fun episode with some returning favs, Emily Crandall and Producer Amy Schiller, has been lost to the technology gods. But don’t fret fair listeners, your hosts John and Danielle thread their discussion of The Americans Season 3 Episode 3, “Open House,” with insights from their now-absent friends. They debate the sexiness factor of basement dentistry, track the rising tension over Paige, and consider the curious entry of Zinaida while marveling over the spycraft of the car scene. Of course, they can’t ignore the academic backstory of Hans, and not to out-nerd themselves, in Glas, your hosts challenge Gabriel’s Scrabble choices.  In the Dossier, Danielle muses over Martha’s potential demise and contemplates Chekhov’s bad spy. They use Elizabeth’s casual mention of Marx to animate their descent into the Cave. There’s a lot to unpack - enjoy!
Music by Lesfm from Pixabay

Thursday Feb 02, 2023

Back together to discuss ‘Baggage’, Season 3 Episode 2 of The Americans, John and Danielle tackle all the different forms of baggage that are in play in this season and series. Bodies arrive and depart in various bags and containers, and Nina gets a new cellmate. They consider emotional, physical, and psychic baggage that comes along with Annelise’s body for all involved. Your hosts track how tensions rise between Philip and Elizabeth over Paige and Philip’s new lead with Youssef before Danielle adds some new entries to the Dossier, always suspicious. Danielle brings J. Peter Euben’s reading of Euripides’ Bacchae into the Cave which allows her and John to think about how dismemberment threads through this ep.
Music by Lesfm from Pixabay

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