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

7 days ago

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

Thursday Jan 19, 2023

After a lengthy hiatus, John and Danielle are back with The Americans Season 3 Episode 1: "EST Men". They are coming at you from a car in Troy, New York - of course, on their way back from location scouting the Jennings’ impromptu upstate NY vacation from the end of Season 2! In this ep, your hosts consider Elizabeth’s encounters with both Charlotte and the Gaad and Aderholt, the brewing conflict over Paige, and contemplate once again whether Stan is good at his job. Of course, they can’t pass up an opportunity to chat about the Nina aftermath or EST. In the Cave, John gives a rousing rendition of Simone de Beauvoir’s phenomenology to help think through some of the central themes of the episode. All in all, your hosts are happy to be back with the Jennings, and more importantly, on the pod together.
 
Music by Lesfm from Pixabay

Thursday Sep 29, 2022

Before diving into Season 3 of The Americans, and after a summer of some high highs (The Americans Season 2) and lower highs (their MCU jaunts), John and Danielle take a moment to reflect on the kinds of artistic choices that draw them into TV shows. In particular, they consider the recent controversies over Marvel and Netflix's uses of VFX artists and studios, and use it as a broader jumping off point to discuss visual effects in other shows (and the recent Jordan Peele film Nope), as well as how these choices impact their ability to enjoy shows. No Cave this week, but they make up for it with a fun chat about technology, television, capitalism, and unions.(Light spoilers for The Terror season 1, Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon through two episodes, and Nope) 

Thursday Sep 22, 2022

Now that they’ve made it through two full seasons of The Americans, Danielle and John take a chance to step back and consider their reactions to different characters, relationship development, and really, the show overall. They compare season 1 to season 2, and dig into the new characters that this season introduced. They use an amazing spreadsheet developed by listener Mike to induct some predictions into the Danielle Dossier Hall of Fame. The journey is just beginning!

Thursday Sep 15, 2022

We’ve got a treat for you this week - surprising no one, John’s Horkheimer deep dive in the final Moon Knight Cave went on a bit longer than we let on, and we’re serving you the entire debate in this bonus episode of NQGB. Listen in as John obliterates Marvel by thinking with Horkheimer himself. Don’t worry, Danielle doesn’t let them off scot-free, and gives her own analysis of the cultural production of the MCU and Marvel alike. Both your hosts are throwing heat in this bonus ep. Enjoy!

Thursday Sep 08, 2022

Strap in, folks, Jon Keller is back for the season 2 finale, “Echo,” and this is an episode you do not want to miss! Together, your hosts take the major reveals of the show piece by piece, starting with Fred’s mission in the cold open, Paige’s protest experience, and the impromptu family trip to a motel in the middle of nowhere before they (over?) analyze the Jared reveal and Nina’s removal. Jon and John debate Arkadii’s awareness about Oleg and Nina’s relationship, and then delight in a Gorbachev/Oleg comparison. In a shocking turn of events, Danielle is relieved, at least momentarily, by the return of Claudia, but this just offers further opportunity to reflect on the new recruit program and the fate of Paige. In the Cave, Keller is coerced (in a friendly way) into a wonderful analysis of Tocqueville’s relationship to The Americans, and all three offer some solid TheoryShips. What a doozy to end this season!

Thursday Sep 01, 2022

On this week’s episode, “Operation Chronicle,” John and Danielle try to make sense of all the different forms of escalation taking place in the series. They first follow Larrick as his actions impact Philip and Elizabeth, Paige, Jared, and Fred, before shifting gears to think about the escalation between Arkadii, Nina, Oleg, and Stan. Though distinct, your hosts consider how spying both enables and limits the abilities of different characters to make connections. John logs some questions for Danielle in the Dossier, and your hosts come up with their own codes words/phrases to use in case of a spying-related emergency. To round out this intense episode, Danielle invokes Sophocles’ Antigone in the Cave before John introduces a new Cave-adjacent segment, TheoryShip.

Tuesday Aug 30, 2022

We did it - we made it to the end of our Marvel run!! For the final episode of Moon Knight, John and Danielle tackle the main plot points - Ammit/Khonshu and Layla/Marc/Steven/Harrow fights, the binding of Harrow, and the Jake Loughly reveal - before turning to a lengthy (understatement!) discussion of questions of binaries, expectations, and their overall enjoyment of this series and Marvel properties more generally. They offer some sweet and prickly roses and thorns from their experience chatting about Marvel and MK together. After subjecting John to multiple sessions with fellow-MCU lovers, Danielle clears space for John to quintuple down on complaint corner (with ample pushback of course) by bringing Horkheimer into The Cave. Join your favorite political theorists-turned-podcast hosts as they debate pop culture, art, and aesthetic judgment for one final time this season!

Thursday Aug 25, 2022

Things are really coming to a head season 2 - Danielle and John work together to make sense of the rising levels of tension and intensity they see in The Americans Season 2 Episode 11, “Stealth.” They ask about Kate’s fate, her relationship to Jared, and how this all impacts Philip and Elizabeth’s relationship. They also marvel over the centrality of Nina’s role in everything, which of course includes a brief sojourn into depressed-Stan land, and a detour into Stan’s FBI comic books, and whether/how those are connected to MacGruff the Crime Dog (maybe only in Danielle’s brain). Focusing on Nina’s role more broadly, Danielle offers a brief gloss of Sharon Krause’s work on agency in The Cave. On a lighter note, we get a brief Harry Styles reference and John, as always, prompts a chat on the series’ aesthetic choices.

Tuesday Aug 23, 2022

Buckle up, NQGB fans - John and Danielle are joined by the brilliant Dr. Nick Carnes. Nick is the co-editor of The Politics and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, along with former repeat-guest of the podcast, Dr. Lilly Goren. Together, they consider how the show helps us think about the hero/antihero divide before diving deep into how the show represents trauma, violence, and DID, and how the Egyptian setting/cosmology impacts the choices and representations. The discussion is wide-ranging and flush with takes, both on Moon Knight, but also on the broader MCU. Nick offers his favorite Marvel easter egg from this ep, and your three co-hosts chat about weird Marvel, marvel over Oscar Isaac (again, because why not?), and Nick shouts out the origin of Steven’s name. Then, John and Danielle clear the floor for Nick to lay out his grand-theory of the MCU before plugging the upcoming academic volume. And don’t worry, in this episode where some VERY traumatic stuff happens in a cave, your hosts seize the opportunity to find Plato in the Cave. It’s a jam-packed episode - enjoy!

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