I’m celebrating Tolkien’s birthday in a strange way this year: by making graphs about the The Prancing Pony Podcast. As a Tolkien fan, I have been listening with great joy. Alan Sisto and Shawn Marchese do a great job of dissecting the texts, digging into the rich historical background of Middle-earth, and also bringing in pop culture references and making me laugh.

After I made the bingo card for the PPP, I kept jotting down the off-topic references, jokes, and repeated phrases that came up. It was a crazy, even compulsive, thing to do, and it actually slowed down my listening (something I didn’t want since I am trying to catch up ) but once I got started, I couldn’t stop.

To celebrate completing Season 3, I decided to distill down some of the data I collected into graphics just for the fun of it. Not everything I recorded is included, nor did I record everything that I should have. Also, I don’t get every reference that they make. Some slip by unnoticed, others I couldn’t trace to the source. But I’ve included everything I could.

Do not expect true science here. I did this for fun, just to look for patterns . Also, I’ve only included the chapter discussion episodes from season three. Questions After Nightfall, interviews, etc., are not included here. I originally planned to do pie charts for all of these, but most were too complex to plot that way. Fortunately, I figured out that bar charts would do a better job of getting across what I was trying to find out: which references were repeated most frequently?

My first graph is for the special phrases and jokes that are the fingerprint of the PPP. These include acronyms and running gags, but also things that just get said a lot (like “But we digress” or “We’ll get to that in 4 years or so”).

As any PPP fan knows, Alan and Shawn make endless references to music, movies, and TV shows. In breaking these out, I felt that there were a few things mentioned that couldn’t be easily grouped into just one category. A good example is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which is not only a series of books, but also a movie, a TV series, and a radio series. I decided to chart five of these hard-to-class creations as megaverses: not only do they cover more than one media, they are famous enough to be recognized by most non-fans.

The guys often joke that they couldn’t do an episode without referencing Tolkien’s letter 131, and it definitely won as most-referenced letter from Carpenter’s collection.

Maybe it wasn’t fair to include Peter Jackson’s adaptations in the movie references, but I did want to see how often they came up. Princess Bride is the winner after that, with Galaxyquest close behind. (This is one of the reasons I love this podcast. These guys have excellent taste in books and movies.)

Season three was full of more musical references than I included here. Some songs had no band (B-I-N-G-O) and some references I just didn’t get. It’s appropriate that music comes up so often given that Ilúvatar and the Ainur use it to create Middle-earth.

Finally come the TV shows. I was surprised to see that Dr. Who and Jeopardy tied for first place. Dr. Who is a no brainer; we are geeks and this is what we love. But who expects Jeopardy in a Tolkien podcast? While there’s no question that it’s the discussion of Tolkien that brings me back, it’s these sorts of surprises that keep the podcast fresh and entertaining.

6 thoughts on “Prancing Pony Podcast Graphs for Season 3”

  1. This is HILARIOUS! I love seeing data from our ramblings, digressions, and pop culture references laid out *exactly* the way I’d have done it if I’d tackled this same project. This is wonderfully done, Kit!

    1. I am so glad you liked it! I have an analytical mind and now I’m in the habit of tracking the data, I’ll probably do these for each season. I found it really interesting to see how often certain things come up, and enjoyed testing my perception of what I think you guys reference the most versus the reality of it.

    1. I was somewhat surprised by the number of different musical references myself. However, I think this is a good indicator that, while they make band references all the time, they listen to a wider variety of music than you might guess. Since I am rather out of it when it comes to popular music, I tend not to know who sang what, which means I have probably missed some of their references. These are just the bands that I recognized. So in fact, their variety might be even higher than this indicates.

  2. This is wonderful! Im sad there were 0 Bab 5 references in S3. I know they mentioned missing the reference a few times during the season…please keep doing this amazing and very important analysis of the PPP as often as you can! It visualizes why this show is so successful at both reaching the breadth Tolkien fandom and inviting newcomers to the world we love.

    1. Good news.. there have already been Bab 5 references in Season 4! I was planning on reporting at the end of each season and I’ve figured out how to get more than one season on a graph, so we’ll be able to see trends over time. Since I intend to keep up with the stats as I collect them, I might be able to post an update mid-season… I’ll think about that.

      I agree that one of the appeals of the podcast is how they put Tolkien’s work in a modern context and I’ve had friends who saw this say that they would try the PPP because of the wide range of references made.

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