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Pop Literacy

92 EpisodesProduced by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong & Kimberly PottsWebsite

Your biweekly pop culture book club.

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The Scoop on Black Country Music: Listening for Revolutions with Author and Professor Francesca T. Royster

January 11th, 2023


Francesca T. Royster’s Black Country Music: Listening for Revolutions is a vital read that helps us to understand how country music got whitewashed, …

Michael Ausiello and the Making of Spoiler Alert

December 21st, 2022


TV journalist Michael Ausiello wrote a 2017 memoir called Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies that detailed his 13-year relationship with his husband Kit Cowan, who, in a devastating turn, was diagnosed with terminal cancer …

Life’s Work: A Memoir, from One of TV’s All-Time Greatest Writers

November 30th, 2022


Consider this a Pop Literacy year-end gift: the recommendation of a deeply engrossing read for the average book fan, an extra fantastic read for writers of all mediums and genres, and a round-up of some of the finest …

And It All Started with The Big Bang (Theory)

November 17th, 2022


The Big Bang Theory ran for 12 seasons, 279 episodes, on CBS, and continues to be a pop culture presence with its frequent re-airings on cable, …

Black Hollywood with Carell Augustus

November 2nd, 2022


Carell Augustus’s brilliant and beautiful photography book Black Hollywood reimagines, and restages, iconic Hollywood moments from the likes of 

The Tragedy and Triumph of George Michael, with James Gavin

October 18th, 2022


James Gavin’s stunning biography of pop star George Michael—simply entitled George Michael: A Life—dives deep into an enigmatic, charismatic figure who dominated pop music in the 1980s and ‘90s, but never seemed to find …

Summer Rerun | The ‘Jenny from the Block’ Video: A Historical Analysis

August 2nd, 2022


The episode originally aired July 23, 2019.

Jennifer Lopez turns 50 this month and is at the top of her game: dancing her way through an …

Summer Rerun | Will 1990s Nostalgia Always Be the Best Nostalgia?

July 19th, 2022


This episode originally aired March 4, 2019.

It was the decade of “The Macarena,” the O.J. Simpson trial, the teen pop boom, VHS tapes, and Nintendo. …

Summer Rerun | The State of the Boy Band

July 5th, 2022


This episode originally aired April 8, 2019

Boy bands as we know them have been around since New Edition got together in 1978—and now, they’re bigger than ever, thanks to online fandom. New Kids on the Block, Backstreet …

Summer Rerun | 2000s Nostalgia: Yes, It’s Happening

June 21st, 2022


This episode originally aired February 19, 2019.

AOL Instant Messenger, the first iPods, Paris Hilton, emo, Mean Girls, The O.C., low-rise jeans… Now that it’s 2019, it’s time to prepare for a wave of 2000s nostalgia. 

Summer Rerun | BTS for Beginners

June 7th, 2022

This episode originally aired April 16, 2019.

After years of massive popularity around the world, Korean boy band BTS is breaking through to the top …

The Mystery of the Man Who Invented Movies, Then Disappeared, with Paul Fischer

May 3rd, 2022


Thomas Edison and the French Lumiere brothers have widely been credited with inventing motion pictures, but there’s another strong contender for the distinction: Louis LePrince, a driven inventor who dedicated every …

The History of Netflix and Bingewatching

April 19th, 2022


Asking yourself how you ended up paying for half a dozen streaming entertainment subscriptions every month? There’s a book for that: Binge Times: 

Rethinking the Epic Romance Between Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, with Stephen Galloway

April 5th, 2022


In Truly, Madly, author Stephen Galloway explores the tumultuous relationship between two giants of Hollywood’s Golden Age, movie stars Vivian Leigh …

Watching – and Reading – The Andy Warhol Diaries

March 23rd, 2022


Many of the pop culture devoted among us sadly missed the chance to experience the New York City populated by pop artist and pop culture genius Andy …

The Women of Jenji Kohan with Dani Bethea and Sydney Urbanek

March 8th, 2022


The writer-producer Jenji Kohan has given us some of the best depictions of women on television. Nancy Botwin of Weeds followed a Breaking Bad-like …

Hollywood’s Cultural Battle with China

February 15th, 2022


So, yeah, whatever did happen to Richard Gere’s career? The Golden Globe-winning actor was once everywhere on the big screen, but has been largely …

Jami Attenberg on the Rise of Brooklyn, the Creative Life, and Boundaries on the Internet

February 1st, 2022


Novelist Jami Attenberg’s new memoir I Came All This Way to Meet You takes readers behind the scenes of her creative life, from scraping by in …

Remembering Betty White

January 4th, 2022


When Betty White died on New Year’s Eve, it was a shocker—even though she was 99 years, 11 months, and two weeks old. It seemed impossible to …

Celebrity Death Culture with Kirthana Ramisetti

December 21st, 2021


The new novel Dava Shastri’s Last Day by Kirthana Ramisetti tells the story of an aging music mogul who plans her own assisted death after a …

Talkin’ the History of Rock Concerts with Marc Myers, the Rock Star of Music Journalists

December 7th, 2021


From radios to records and teens with allowances to teens with part-time jobs, the history of the American concert began in earnest with …

What Makes Samuel L. Jackson One Bad Motherfucker, with Gavin Edwards

November 9th, 2021


It’s hard to imagine a time when Samuel L. Jackson wasn’t the unassailable pinnacle of Hollywood cool, but cool is made, not born. And that’s where …

The History of 20th Century Fox … Before Disney

October 26th, 2021


Decades before it came under Disney control, 20th Century Fox was one of the most respected, innovative movie studios in Hollywood, under the …

Lynette Rice on the Backstage Drama at ‘Grey’s Anatomy’—and Why We Keep Watching

October 12th, 2021


Lynette Rice has covered Grey’s Anatomy from the beginning: as it became a culture-defining phenomenon in the 2000s, as it faced cast meltdowns and …

Nichole Perkins on the Healing Power of ‘Frasier,’ the Exclusive Whiteness of Brat Pack Movies, and the Complications of Miss Piggy

September 28th, 2021


Nichole Perkins knows the power of pop culture: She has seen how Frasier’s Niles Crane inspired her to overcome her own professional hang-ups, how …

Chatting With Daniel Paisner, the Author Who the Stars Share All Their Secrets With

September 14th, 2021


Denzel Washington, Serena Williams, Shark Tank star Daymond John, Mets World Series champ Ron Darling…those are but a few famous names who have entrusted author Daniel Paisner to help tell their personal and …

Kathleen Collins on Growing Up a TV Junkie in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s and Her Book ‘From Rabbit Ears to the Rabbit Hole’

August 17th, 2021


TV scholar Kathleen Collins grew up loving television before it was cool—while others fancied themselves sophisticated for digging film and music, …

James Tate Hill on ‘Blind Man’s Bluff’ and How Tom Cruise Got Him Through the Hardest Times in His Life

August 3rd, 2021


James Tate Hill gradually began losing his sight while still in high school—and worked hard to hide this fact from the world well into adulthood. …

‘Clueless’ Star Elisa Donovan on Grief, Loss, and Life in Hollywood

July 20th, 2021


You know her from roles on Sabrina the Teenage Witch and particularly in Clueless as Cher’s nemesis Amber. Elisa Donovan thought she had her life and …

Getting the Real Scoop on the Real Housewives with Bestselling Author Brian Moylan

July 6th, 2021


From his clever Real Housewives recaps to his newly launched “The Housewives Institute Bulletin” newsletter, Brian Moylan has certainly …

Robert McKee Talking Character With the Master of Storytelling

June 24th, 2021


His books and lectures on storytelling are so iconic that he was portrayed by Brian Cox in the Oscar-winning film Adaptation, and guest starred as himself in an episode of The Simpsons. This week we’re thrilled to chat …

Because He’s Jeff Goldblum with Travis M. Andrews

June 8th, 2021


Jeff Goldblum’s career is a unique reflection of our times: He’s a character actor who eschews attention outside of his films, yet he’s more popular …

A Trip to Lilyville with the Great Tovah Feldshuh

May 25th, 2021


Prepare to be entertained, enlightened, and entranced in this week’s episode of Pop Literacy, as we welcome Tony and Emmy-nominated actress and singer Tovah Feldshuh, who talks to us about her engrossing new book 

Dawnie Walton’s ‘The Final Revival of Opal & Nev’

May 11th, 2021


Dawnie Walton’s debut novel The Final Revival of Opal & Nev is getting terrific reviews: “Feels truer and more mesmerizing than some true …

Caroline Kepnes’ You Love Me

April 27th, 2021


She’s a Pop Literacy returning guest. And though fans of her delicious, Netflix drama-inspiring thriller series of books about handsome stalker Joe …

Rock Me on the Water: How 1974 Changed Hollywood’s Politics Forever, with Ronald Brownstein

April 13th, 2021


In 1974, Los Angeles crackled with astonishing creative output: movies such as Chinatown, The Godfather Part II, Shampoo, and Nashville; seminal albums from Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, and the Eagles; …

When Women Invented Television

March 30th, 2021


We all know Betty White from her years on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls. But decades before she was making us laugh in primetime, …

From Immigrant to the Graduate to Hollywood Legend: Mike Nichols, With Mark Harris

March 16th, 2021


Director Mike Nichols lived an extraordinary life: He immigrated from Berlin to America as a young boy in 1939, lost his father at age 12, and was …

What Happens When People Stop Being Polite: The Real World

March 2nd, 2021


“Video Killed the Radio Star,” as the song and video that launched MTV in 1981 told us, and Millennials, among other pop culture deaths they have …

The History and Future of Pro Women’s Wrestling with Scarlett Harris

February 16th, 2021


“To be a women’s wrestling fan, particularly one who patronizes WWE … is to be constantly disappointed,” Scarlett Harris writes in her book-length …

Hoopin’ It Up with Pete Croatto and the History of the Modern NBA

February 2nd, 2021


“The narrative of the NBA’s rise to become arguably the world’s second-most popular sport is frequently summed up as a rapid-fire afterthought: 

Celebs Spilling Tea on Themselves: The Must-Read Celebrity Memoirs of 2020

December 9th, 2020


Bingewatching every TV show ever produced isn’t the only way we’ve survived 2020. We’ve also read a whole mess of books, and among our favorites have …

Michael J. Fox: The Making of an Icon

November 17th, 2020


The Back to the Future films were among the most popular choices on Netflix this year, and for good reason: We can all use a few extra doses of …

Stream to the Extreme: The State of Streaming TV and Why Binge-Watching Is One of the Only Good Things We’ve Had in 2020

October 6th, 2020


Would any of us being surviving the pandemic without binge-watching comforting old TV and finding some new favorites along the way, too? We certainly …

Pop Literacy Is All About That Pop Life with Pop Star Goddesses

April 7th, 2020


In a very special return episode, we talk about the fantastic, and oh-so-perfectly timed new book Pop Star Goddesses, by Pop Literacy co-host …

How Did The Brady Bunch Become A Pop Culture Icon?

December 10th, 2019


The Brady Bunch never got higher than No. 31 on the ratings charts, and it was far from a critical favorite or a television masterpiece. But it's celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with loving tributes to its …

Carrie Fisher, Feminist Princess and Hollywood Queen

November 2nd, 2019


She was the child of a Hollywood couple notorious for their public breakup, an iconic sci-fi princess, the wife of a great singer-songwriter, a …

Let’s Make the Most of This Beautiful Day … and Talk to Author Gavin Edwards About His New Book on Mister Rogers

October 16th, 2019


The cardigan, the sneakers, the voice so soothing it should be its own brand of stress therapy. We speak, of course, about Mister Rogers, and we …

Generation X Is Having Its (Nostalgia) Moment

October 10th, 2019


It’s the smallest of the three generations currently ruling the world—sandwiched between Boomers and Millennials—but Gen X is not skimping on its …

Why Jeannie Gaffigan Was, Is, and Will Always Be, a Superwoman

October 1st, 2019


She was already a writer, producer, and director, a mom of five, and the personal and professional partner of her husband, comedian Jim Gaffigan. Then Jeannie Gaffigan found out she had a tumor the size of a pear in her …

All Hail The Queen, Queen Meryl of Hollywood!

September 24th, 2019


She’s been nominated for a record 21 Oscars (and won three). She can sing, she can dance, she can whip up an accent like nobody’s business. She can make you laugh, cry, quake in your stilettos with a mere two-word …

Stealing BH90210: A No-Fucks-Given Conversation With Christine Elise

September 9th, 2019


Christine Elise is the greatest revelation of the mind-bending, meta reboot-about-a-reboot BH90210: The actress who once played bad girl Emily Valentine on the original 90210 returned to play a version of “herself” as a …

Why Women Matter in TV and Criticism: With Maureen Ryan

August 26th, 2019


Maureen Ryan has been a TV critic for the Chicago Tribune and Variety through the medium’s seismic changes over the last two decades and continues to write about it for basically every high-profile outlet that …

Being A Stay-At-Work Mom on the ‘Roseanne’ Reboot, ‘Two Broke Girls,’ and Other Great Sitcoms

August 19th, 2019


Liz Astrof is a “stay-at-work mom,” by her own admission—and for her, “work” means writing sitcoms such as Two Broke GirlsKing of Queens, and the …

Rebooting Beverly Hills 90210: What Did We Just Watch?

August 11th, 2019


From its hashtag-friendly title to its celebreality-meets-where are they now character throwback premise, Fox’s BH90210 gave viewers all the feels during its premiere last week: joy at seeing these ‘90s teen pin-ups …

Summer Road Trippin’, Pop Culture Style

July 29th, 2019


Summer vacation means heading out on the highway for a lot of travelers, and if you’re a TV fan looking for some primetime inspiration for a New York City road trip, author Marion Miclet has written the perfect road map …

The ‘Jenny from the Block’ Video: A Historical Analysis

July 23rd, 2019


Jennifer Lopez turns 50 this month and is at the top of her game: dancing her way through an international tour, engaged to baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez, and managing to be one of the few massive pop stars with …

Daniel Ford and ‘Black Coffee’ in Pop Culture

July 8th, 2019


Pop Literacy producer Daniel Ford’s short story collection Black Coffee inspired us to talk about our favorite legal stimulant and its role in …

‘Seinfeld’ at 30: Reconsidering That Finale, Celebrating the Legacy of ‘Nothing’

July 2nd, 2019


Seinfeld celebrates its 30th anniversary this month, and that show about “nothing” still gives us plenty to talk about. We pay tribute by sharing behind-the-Seinfeld-reporting tidbits from throughout our careers, some …

Country Music’s Reckoning: Race and Gender, 2019-Style

June 25th, 2019


The song of the summer, “Old Town Road,” is as 2019 as it gets: It’s a bop, but it’s a hit that rose to popularity thanks to online platforms and …

Eltonpalooza: Celebrating the Summer of ‘Rocketman’

June 17th, 2019


Elton John burst onto the music scene in 1970 with his self-titled album, dominated the charts in the 1970s and ‘80s, gave us enduring songs like …

The Dream of the ‘80s Is Alive: Framing John DeLorean

June 10th, 2019


It was the 1980s, and John DeLorean was livin’ large: a supermodel wife, two children, and a swanky New York City apartment he’d bought from pal Johnny Carson. DeLorean’s lifelong dream was coming true, too, as his …

How to Find New Music, Plus: A BTS Concert Update!

May 28th, 2019


Summer’s the perfect time to relax with some new tunes in your earbuds … but with so many options, finding stuff you haven’t heard before can feel overwhelming.

On this week’s Pop Literacy, we get help from Billboard’s …

Live Sitcom Throwbacks: Why ABC’s All in the Family and The Jeffersons Have Us So Excited

May 20th, 2019


This week ABC airs a throwback stunt that thrills us TV history nerds: On Wednesday May 22, star-filled casts will perform old All in the Family and 

Streaming TV: Understanding the (Many, Many) Options That Overwhelm Us All

May 13th, 2019


To cord cut or not to cord cut; that is the question. Or rather, one of the many questions that overwhelm TV watchers, as the amount of television …

Pop Culture Pacifiers and Palette Cleansers

April 29th, 2019


Between the exhausting news cycle and the endless selection of complicated TV dramas to watch, we can all use a shot of lighter pop culture …

Did You Hear the One About the Movie Salvador Dali Wrote for The Marx Brothers?

April 22nd, 2019


Even some of the most devoted of Marx Brothers fans don’t know about this project: a wild, fantastical movie script that Surrealist artist Salvador Dali wrote for the comedy icons, after forging a fast friendship with …

BTS for Beginners

April 16th, 2019


After years of massive popularity around the world, Korean boy band BTS is breaking through to the top of mainstream American culture. They just …

The State of the Boy Band

April 8th, 2019


Boy bands as we know them have been around since New Edition got together in 1978—and now, they’re bigger than ever, thanks to online fandom. New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, O-Town, 98 Degrees, and Boyz II Men …

A Tribute to Luke Perry, the Nicest Bad Boy Who Ever Lived

March 11th, 2019


Luke Perry had a solid 30-year acting career, but he became an instant ‘90s icon with one of his first roles: dreamy “bad boy” Dylan McKay on Beverly …

Will 1990s Nostalgia Always Be the Best Nostalgia?

March 4th, 2019


It was the decade of “The Macarena,” the O.J. Simpson trial, the teen pop boom, VHS tapes, and Nintendo. It was also before 9/11 and Columbine, a …

Paul Simon: Timeless Treasure and Poet of the Midlife Crisis

February 26th, 2019


"Graceland," "America," "You Can Call Me Al," "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard," "Diamonds on the Soles of Her …

2000s Nostalgia: Yes, It’s Happening

February 19th, 2019


AOL Instant Messenger, the first iPods, Paris Hilton, emo, Mean Girls, The O.C., low-rise jeans… Now that it’s 2019, it’s time to prepare for a wave of 2000s nostalgia. Pop Literacy host Jennifer Keishin Armstrong is …

Fandemonium Extra: A Podcast for Stans of Stans, by Stans of Stans

February 12th, 2019


Welcome to our insanely experimental pretend backdoor pilot for It’s It’s Britney Bitch, Bitch!, “a podcast for stans of stans, by stans of stans.” …

Fandemonium: The Britney Army With It’s Britney, Bitch!

February 4th, 2019


In the first of an occasional series on fandom, we dive into one of the most loyal, long-running followings in pop music: that of the humble legend …

Episode 14: Super Bowl Box Set Part 2 – The Commercials and Post-Game Programming

January 28th, 2019


Last week, we talked about this year’s Super Bowl halftime show, and the collective lack of enthusiasm for it. Could this year’s SB commercials and …

Episode 13: Super Bowl Box Set Part 1 – Halftime Shows

January 21st, 2019


Everyone’s talking about who isn’t playing the Super Bowl halftime show this year: Rihanna, Cardi B, and most anyone else who isn’t Maroon 5. Could …

Episode 12: Mrs. Maisel, Transparent, and the Importance of Jewish Life on TV

December 17th, 2018


With anti-Semitism on an astonishing rise and the recent mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, it suddenly seems more important than ever that Jews are depicted sympathetically on television. Luckily, Jewish TV …

Episode 11: Journey, Jail, and Jesse Gets Away: TV Series Finales We Love, Hate, and Love to Debate

December 10th, 2018


It’s been five years since Jesse Pinkman took off like a bat out of a drug-making hell in the final episode of Breaking Bad. It’s been more than a decade since Tony Soprano may or may not have been whacked by that dude …

Episode 10: Should We Still Care About Movies?

December 3rd, 2018


2018 has brought a few glimmers of hope for disaffected moviegoers sick of superheroes, explosions, and special effects: A Star Is Born, Crazy Rich Asians, Eighth Grade, Boy Erased. But many of us (your hosts included) …

Episode 9: Prison Life in Pop Culture: Why Are We So Obsessed?

November 19th, 2018


Orange Is the New BlackThe Night OfOzRectify… they’re the finest examples of what TV has offered viewers in depictions of prison life. Add in …

Episode 8: A Very Pop Literacy Holiday: The One About Thanksgiving and Christmas TV Episodes

November 12th, 2018


The Office owns TV Christmas episodes, the Friends own TV Thanksgivings, and Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang have been serving up leftovers, er, repeats, of their beloved classic specials for both …

Episode 7: How to Be a Male Pop Star in 2018: The John Mayer Story

November 5th, 2018


John Mayer has been releasing new pop tunes this year and even did something that looked suspiciously like a comeback interview. It didn’t go so well; even though it was for his own Instagram show, he sparked a flurry …

Episode 6: The Cultural Power of Friendships

October 29th, 2018


Or: What is Dave Chappelle doing in A Star Is Born? We were intrigued when Chappelle showed up in the middle of that delirious fever dream of a trailer for A Star Is Born, so we investigated. Turns out he’s friends …

Episode 5: Is Tom Hanks Hollywood’s Last True Adult Man?

October 22nd, 2018


In a culture where every day we’re afraid to look at the news, lest we hear of yet another public figure who’s caught up in an appalling scandal, …

Episode 4: Women Who Survived – and Thrived – in TV’s (Even More) Sexist Past

October 15th, 2018


Women have been battling their way through Hollywood sexism behind the scenes for decades to get us to the point where more women than ever are now …

Episode 3: Maybe Reboots Aren’t So Bad

October 8th, 2018


We’re certainly at Peak Reboot, with this fall’s Magnum P.I., Charmed, and Murphy Brown reimaginings hitting the air, and talk of rebooting everything from Frasier and Mad About You to Alf and The Twilight Zone. Few …

Episode 2: Female Authors Are Fueling TV’s Darkest Shows

October 1st, 2018


Many of this year’s biggest shows are dark, twisted, complicated, and angry. And many of them come from books written by women—The Handmaid’s Tale, Sharp Objects, Big Little Lies, Dietland, and You among them.

In this …

Episode 1: Meet the Writer Who's Making BET the New HBO

October 1st, 2018


In Episode 1, Pop Literacy investigates: Why the hell is BET’s new biographical miniseries about Bobby Brown so extraordinary?

The short answer is that it was written by the same guy who scripted BET’s last ingenious …

Introducing Pop Literacy

September 21st, 2018


We find smart things to say about pop culture so you don’t have to. We’ll take you into the writers’ rooms, songwriters’ heads, and novelists’ …

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