Are There Limits for a Sitcom Premise? A Pretty Much Pop Culture Podcast (#47) Discussion and Quiz

Sitcoms provide a form of escapism that doesn't take one to a magical world of possibility, but instead to a basically unchanging, cozy environment with relatable characters engaged in low-stakes conflicts.

So what are the limits on the type of premise that can ground a sitcom? While most of the longest lasting sitcoms have simple set-ups involving friends or co-workers, streaming has led to more serialization and hence wider plot possibilities.

Does this mean that the era of sitcoms has come to an end? Or has the genre just broadened to admit entries like Ricky Gervais' After Life and Derek, Harmon & Roiland's Rick & Morty, Greg Daniels' Upload and Space Force, and Armando Iannucci's Avenue 5?

In this low-stakes, feel-good discussion, Mark, Erica, and Brian also touch on the Parks & Recreation reunion special, Curb Your Enthusiasm, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Community, Modern Family, Red Oaks, The Simpsons, Last Man on Earth, WOOPS!, the stain of Chuck Lorre, and more. Plus a quiz to guess which weird sitcom premises are real and which Mark made up.

Incorporate these articles into your situation:

If you enjoy this discussion, check out our previous episodes on Friends and The Good Place.

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

What Is a “Casual Game?” Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #46 Talks to Nick Fortugno, Creator of “Diner Dash”

Famed game designer Nick joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to consider fundamental questions about the activity of gaming (Nick calls games "arbitrary limits on meaningless goals") and what constitutes a casual game: Is it one that's easy (maybe not easy to win, but at least you don't die), one meant to be played in short bursts, or maybe one with a certain kind of art style, or just about any game that runs on a phone? Nick's most famous creation is the casual Diner Dash, which can be very stressful. Vastly different games from very hard but very short action games and very involved but soothing strategy games get lumped under this one label.

Our conversation touches on everything from crosswords to Super Meat Boy, plus the relation between psychology and game design, whether casual games really play less than hardcore gamers, the stigma of an activity that was for marketing reasons at one point branded as being just for adolescent boys, and even heuristics for beating slot machines.

Some sources we looked at include:

Just so you don't have to write them down, our recommendations at the end were:

You can follow Nick @nickfortugno.

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Is It Rude to Talk Over a Film? MST3K’s Mary Jo Pehl on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #45

We live in a commentary culture with much appreciation for camp and snark, but something special happened in the early '90s when Mystery Science Theater 3000 popularized this additive form of comedy, where jokes are made during a full-length or short film. Mary Jo Pehl was a writer and performer on MST3K and has since riffed with fellow MST3K alums for Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic.

Mark, Erica, and Brian briefly debate the ethics of talking over someone else's art and then interview Mary Jo about how riffs get written, developing a riffing style and a character that the audience can connect with (do you need to include skits to establish a premise for why riffing is happening?), riffing films you love vs. old garbage, the degree to which riffing has gone beyond just MST3K-associated comedians, VH-1's Pop-Up Video, and more.

Follow Mary Jo @MaryJoPehl.

Here are a some links to get you watching riffing:

Different teams have different styles of riffing, so if you hate MST3K, you might want to see if you just hate those guys or hate the art form as a whole. The alums themselves currently work as:

Here are a few relevant articles:

Also, PROJECT: RIFF is the website/database we talk about where a guy named Andrew figured out how many riffs per minute are in each MST3K episode, which character made the joke, and other stuff.

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Does Local News Deserve More of Your Attention? Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #44 w/ Deion Broxton of Bison Meme Fame

Is news entertainment? To what extent has local news consumption decreased given the alternatives? Deion is an on-air reporter for NBC Montana who was recently memified for fleeing amusingly from some bison. He joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to discuss what we might be missing out on, the uses and abuses of news coverage, reality vs. media portrayals, and the current status of "trusted news reporter" in our collective consciousness.

Here are a few relevant articles to peruse:

Read that story about the murder that Deion refers to. Deion's bison encounter has been covered on the Today Show, Time, Huffington Post, etc. Follow him @DeionNBCMT.

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Decoding Korean Cinema: A Pretty Much Pop Culture Podcast (ep. 43)

We're seeing a lot of Korean media in American popular culture nowadays, what with Parasite winning the Oscar for best picture and K-Pop and K-Dramas finding an increasing American cult following. This is not an accident: The Korean government has as an explicit goal the growth of "soft power" through exported cultural products. This Korean Wave (Hallyu) was aimed foremost at Asia but has reached us as well. Suzie Hyun-jung Oh joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to explore the context for this spread and figure out what exactly feels foreign to American audiences about Korean media.

This is our first attempt to get at the zeitgeist of another culture to better understand its media, and the primary focus of our immersion (the part of the wave that's not aimed at teens) was film: In addition to the work of Bong Joon-ho, we touch on The Handmaiden, A Train to Busan, The Burning, A Taxi Driver, Lucid Dreaming, Among the Gods, and others.

We also talk a little about Korean teen cultural products, family life and religion in Korea, the aesthetic of cuteness, M*A*S*H, and whether Americans will read subtitles.

Some articles and other resources that helped us:

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Star Trek: World-Building Over Generations—Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #42

The world-wide Tribble infestation and Star Trek: Picard dropping make this an apt time to address our most philosophical sci-fi franchise. 44 years of thought experiments (with photon torpedoes!) about what it is to be human should have taught us something, and Brian Hirt, Erica Spyres, and Mark Linsenmayer along with Drew Jackson (Erica's husband) reflect on what makes a Star Trek story, world building over generations in Gene Roddenberry's land, canon you don't remember vs. something that just hasn't been shown on screen, Trek vs. Wars, and step-children like The Orville and Galaxy Quest.

We have gathered a heap of articles for further cogitation:

For some suggested episodes to catch up on, there are lists online recommending those from the original series and from the franchise overall. There are also fan creations like these original series episodes, a Star Trek musical, and of course the Improvised Star Trek podcast. For some relevant words from Rod Roddenberry, check out episode 55 of the Mission Log podcast.

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

 

Soundtrack Composer Craig Wedren (Zoey’s Playlist, Glow, Shrill) Joins Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #41 on TV Musicals

Craig was the front-man of the brainy punk band Shudder to Think from the mid-'80s through the '90s and has created music for many TV shows and films. He joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt due to his involvement with the current NBC musical dramedy Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, which along with Glee, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Nashville, Rise, etc. represents a new era of musicals as mainstream TV.

Why are shows like this being created at this point in our cultural history? These shows all use some narrative explanation for why there's singing (i.e. the songs are diagetic) instead of just having the characters sing as in a classic musical or a film like The Greatest Showman or La La Land. Most of these also make heavy use of cover tunes and/or parodies in a way that stage musicals usually don't. And of course there's often a heavy use of autotune and more star-based casting than is the norm for stage productions.

Some articles to provide an overview of the topic:

Note that Craig doesn't create the actual songs that the cast members sing for Zoey's, just the interstitial music, but he's written heaps of songs and is in a great position to talk with us about everything from Cop Rock to Mama Mia. We also touch on musical episodes in Community and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bohemian Rhapsody, karaoke in film, Adam Schlesinger, Stop Making Sense (also see David Byrne's mobile band on Colbert) and a weird Netflix lip-sync drama called Soundtrack,

Listen to Craig talk about his own tunes on Nakedly Examined Music and watch his daily Sabbath Sessions at facebook.com/craigwedrenmusic or on YouTube. Hear the song he wrote for School of Rock.

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

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