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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Episodes

Thursday Jun 06, 2024

While William battles the Lassa virus, Danielle and John contend with the season 4 finale, “Persona Non Grata.” They consider the episode through the lens of endings that lack resolution, digging into the relationships between Philip and Elizabeth, Paige and her parents, as well as the state of affairs with the FBI, Arkadii, and of course, William. Danielle logs a number of losses (and one key win) in the Dossier, and offers some Season 5 predictions. In Glas, your hosts check in with Oleg, chat about Mischa, and John comments on the architecture and filmmaking regarding the quarantine room. After a quick jaunt to Borrowed Nostalgia to log the 80s references, your hosts head to the Cave to complete Plato SZN by turning to the Phaedo. They then wrap up the season with a round of TheoryShips. Join us as we pour one out for William and toast to Season 4!
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Music by Lesfm from Pixabay
 

Wednesday May 22, 2024

Danielle and John are back once again, and not only do they have questions about The Americans S4E12, "A Roy Rogers in Franconia," they have questions about questions. What happens in the aftermath of William's questions about his duty, Paige's questions about Elizabeth, and Oleg's questions about the USSR, and how do those questions reorient other characters? As we delve into these matters (and much more), there's still plenty of time to discuss first-kiss fish lips, a surprising Oleg-David Byrne connection, Dossier conspiracies, and (naturally) Plato SZN. 
Sorry for the delay on this episode! The Americans Season 4 finale episode coming your way on June 6. 

Thursday Apr 18, 2024

Danielle and John are joined by one of John’s best friends, Jordan Cass, to chat all things The Americans 4x11, “Dinner for Seven.” Jordan proves himself to be an impressively prepared co-host, and helps guide us through the key points in this episode around various characters’ experiences of guilt. Together, your three hosts consider how guilt informs Elizabeth’s decisions, relationships with Pastor Tim and Alice, as well as the interaction between Stan and Oleg. In the Dossier, Danielle touches on Gabriel’s sex life, and Jordan and John ask a few leading questions. Jordan offers his insights about Paige’s character development in Glas before your hosts run through some silly stuff and camera angles. PLATO SZN returns to the Republic before a solid set of TheoryShips from all three co-hosts. Come for Jordan’s awesome insights, stay for Danielle’s complaints about how Pastor Tim is still not a ghost. Enjoy!
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Music by Lesfm from Pixabay

Thursday Apr 04, 2024

Despite its name, this is not an episode about the Lollipop guild - it's The Americans 4x10, “Munchkins.” John and Danielle work through the different plot elements through the lens of entrapment: Stan & Aderholt, Alice & the Jennings, Elizabeth & Don, Gaad & the Munchkins. Danielle laments how Pastor Tim was snatched from his impending death and your hosts laud Keri Russel’s ‘are you kidding me’ face, which makes many-an-appearance this week. In Glas, they chat about Oleg and Tatiana (after Danielle makes a Dossier prediction), and touch on the significance of Kimmy’s return. In Borrowed Nostalgia, they analyze Alice’s fashion choices, Henry’s walkman, and Paige’s coffee choices. It’s still PLATO SZN, but this time your hosts turn to the Phaedo for some fitting insights about death from our favorite Platonic main character, Socrates. Come to this ep for the discussion of the bumbling Russian trio, stay for John’s TheoryShip of Honig to both Paige and Reagan!
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Music by Lesfm from Pixabay

Thursday Mar 21, 2024

Danielle and John are back to discuss The Americans 4x9, “The Day After.” They call on their Gen-X expert, Jon Keller, to weigh in on the titular TV special and its general significance. They dig into the challenges posed by obligation, thinking about obligations to self, others, and the nation as they structure the lives and decisions of Elizabeth, William, Philip, and Paige throughout the ep. In the Dossier, Danielle claims victory about some of her latest predictions. In Glas, your hosts are excited that racquetball has finally returned to the screen. They also evaluate Elizabeth’s spycraft techniques while on her babysitting adventure, and rate the best outfits of the episode. Danielle forces some variety into PLATO SZN, which leads your hosts to dive into the Laws before offering some solid TheoryShips to close out the episode.
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Music by Lesfm from Pixabay

Thursday Mar 07, 2024

Buckle up, folks! This week, John and Danielle dig into The Americans S4E8, “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears.” Through the lens of consolidation, they consider the beautiful, silent opening scene of the episode, Martha’s departure, and the ensuing inner turmoil for Philip, challenges for Elizabeth (including an EST visit), and the clash with Paige. They also tackle Gabriel’s course-correct, TV magic, and EST as an MLM. With Martha gone, it’s time to turn to a new subject in the Dossier: Oleg and Tatiana! In Borrowed Nostalgia, your hosts call out the beer bottles, needle drops, and movie theater antics. Back to PLATO SZN in the Cave, but this time with a new dialogue: Plato’s Euthyphro (otherwise known as Danielle’s least favorite dialogue even though she suggested it!). Come for their serious look at the aftermath of the Martha mission, but stay for their chatter about fashion, movies, and of course, the FBI’s favorite sad boi, Stan and his beer run.
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Music by Lesfm from Pixabay

Thursday Feb 22, 2024

In their discussion of The Americans 4x7, “Travel Agents,” John and Danielle come face-to-face with the age-old question (at least for this show…) is the FBI good or bad at its job? And, on top of that, what about the KGB? They marvel at the parallel searches for Martha following her escape, happenings at the respective home bases, as well as the tensions between Philip and his two (?) leading ladies. Danielle reveals a new suspicion and a new worry in the Dossier, and in Borrowed Nostalgia, your hosts shut up and play the hits when they remark on phone booths and how this wouldn’t be possible today (if it ain’t broke and whatnot). They don’t miss the opportunity to chat about the freezer rat or Borscht, and they crown Joan their Minor Character of the Week. PLATO SZN is in full swing in the Cave, including a bonus Theataetus TheoryShip from Danielle. Come for the deep dive into this missing persons search, stay for the demands to show Hans onscreen!
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Music by Lesfm from Pixabay

Thursday Feb 08, 2024

Ohhh wow. Things finally come to a head as Danielle and John discuss The Americans S4E6, “The Rat.” They follow the arc of the episode, remarking on Martha’s farewell to her apartment, the tension at the safe house, the FBI discovery, the literal rat, and Martha’s escape. Don’t worry, your hosts don’t miss a chance to draw parallels between the sex scenes between Martha and Philip and Philip and Elizabeth, nor does Danielle miss a chance to lament the continued survival of Martha. They express some Borrowed Nostalgia for the TODAY show, tofu, broaches, and sexism at the FBI. They crown the titular Rat this ep’s Minor Character of the Week before another installment of PLATO SZN. There is some intense rat theorizing, questions about Elizabeth’s cooking, the inspired development of a new NQGB business idea, and even a reappraisal of William in light of recent developments.
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Music by Lesfm from Pixabay
 

Thursday Jan 25, 2024

John and Danielle are joined once again by the incomparable Lilly Goren to dig into The Americans 4x5, “Clark’s Place.” Together, they talk about the table-setting that happens throughout this episode, considering the emotional turmoil of Paige, Martha, and Philip. They take stock of Martha’s pill-popping, Philip’s conversation with Stan, and of course, the “priest” they bring to Pastor Tim. Don’t worry, your hosts also dissect the intense sex scene that closes the ep before heading into the segments. In the Dossier, Danielle voices some skepticism about Elizabeth’s promise to Philip, and in Glas, your hosts gush over Noah Emmerich’s directing and Gabriel’s weird behavior, among other juicy tidbits. Lilly joins in for a rousing rendition of PLATO SZN, and all three offer some TheoryShips to close out the ep. Enjoy!
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Music by Lesfm from Pixabay

Thursday Jan 18, 2024

We're receiving a transmission [static] The Americans podcasting interrupted [static] some heptapods have arrived for this hepta-pod(cast) [static] our favorite political-science-fiction enthusiasts Desiree Weber and Sid Simpson join John to break down this developing story. 
Join us as we discuss the 1998 novella "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang and the 2016 film Arrival (dir. Denis Villeneuve) that is based on the novel. After a genre-defining consideration of sci fi and politics, we turn to the novella and film to consider their engagement with language, the impossibility of storytelling, tragedy, free will and determinism, causality, teleology, time, the adaptation choices from novella to film, and much more. Many of our usual segments return, replete with Christopher Nolan gags, jokes about being very on brand, cinematic shout-outs, and the most literal Cave we have yet encountered. 
Spoilers for both the novella the film in this episode. 
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Music by Lesfm from Pixabay
 

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