Your weekly supply of smart things to say about pop culture. We’ll take you into the writers’ rooms, songwriters’ heads, and novelists’ thoughts that are fueling pop culture conversations. And we’ll give you the smart insights, factoids, and conversation starters to get you through your next cocktail party conversation about the latest in TV, music, movies, and books. Seriously: You don’t even have to binge watch that whole season or read that whole book. Just listen to Pop Literacy and you’ll be the smartest person in the room.
And as for our own credentials, you can see our bios below, but basically we are pop culture expert soulmates who have four-hour-plus lunches discussing such matters and also have persuaded the people at Vulture, Yahoo, Entertainment Weekly, BBC Culture, and lots of other places that we know what we're talking about.
Now Playing: Journey, Jail, and Jesse Gets Away: TV Series Finales We Love, Hate, and Love to Debate
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 coming out of the Holsten’s bathroom. It was 20 years ago that Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George were sentenced to jail time for, well, basically for being jerks, in the Seinfeld series ender. And viewers have been debating those television series finales ever since they first aired.
On this week’s Pop Literacy, Jennifer and Kim talk about the history of series finales with Syracuse University Professor Bob Thompson, whose Syracuse Press TV book series just released Television Finales: From Howdy Doody to Girls. Thompson, the founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse, helps us recall the best and worst series finales ever (the Sopranos and Seinfeld enders have landed on both those lists through the years), reveals the finale that touched him and then made him angry (one word: purgatory), and shares some insights into what makes a good series wrap-up episode and whether or not he thinks viewers will be left satisfied by upcoming finales of Game of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory.
For an added bonus, check out this exhaustive online analysis of The Sopranos finale.
Meet Your Hosts!
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, where she spent most of her time putting on shows in her parents’ garage, studying TV Guide, devouring Sweet Valley High books, lip-synching to Debbie Gibson, and memorizing every note of every George Michael song. This finally came in handy when she got a job at Entertainment Weekly, where she worked for a decade. Her work has since appeared in many places, including BBC Culture, The New York Times Book Review, Vice, New York Magazine, and Billboard. She’s the author of the New York Times best-seller Seinfeldia: How the Show About Nothing Changed Everything; a history of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted; and Sex and the City and Us: How Four Single Women Changed the Way We Think, Live, and Love. She now lives in Manhattan. You can visit her online at JenniferKArmstrong.com.
Kimberly Potts grew up in a very small Ohio farm town, where she spent time reading any magazine she could get her hands on, feeling certain no one would ever be funnier than Michael J. Fox as Alex P. Keaton on "Family Ties" (she was right), listening to and cataloging Casey Kasem’s America’s Top 40 countdown each week (look it up, kids), and, most importantly, plotting her eventual escape to New York City, because, duh, that’s where Duran Duran and Madonna hung out. Fast forward to that Manhattan arrival, which has been followed by writing six books, getting paid actual cash to watch and write about television (the greatest form of pop culture) for the likes of Vulture, TV Guide, The Los Angeles Times, Variety, and Yahoo, and interviewing her TV heroes, including Bryan Cranston, Carol Burnett, Robin Williams, Bob Newhart, Mary Tyler Moore, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Betty White, Henry Winkler, Ron Howard, Laurie Metcalf, and Conan O’Brien. Oh yeah, Shaquille O’Neal once called her Kimberly Wimberly.