What do Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies and the musician Sting have in common? The Prancing Pony Podcast, of course. In honor of season four, which ends today, here are my statistics on jokes and references made during both this season and last. And (spoiler alert) you already know who got the most mentions in the movie and music categories.

As I did for season 3, I’ve kept track of catch phrases, running jokes, and references to pop culture. I only collect this information for episodes that are actual chapter analysis. Episodes on special topics and interviews are not included, although I do collect data on North Wing segments if they are part of a chapter analysis episode.

While I do my best, I know these data are incomplete. I am not as well versed in popular music as these guys are. As a result, I have to do a lot of Googling. Even when I recognize the song, I rarely know the name of the artist, so it’s been very educational. But my lack of knowledge means that not every song mentioned is included or that I may have mis-attributed a reference. It’s hard to know which version of an old song (like “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”) is being referenced, so I usually go with the original performer (Fred Astaire), unless there is a more recent, obviously famous version, or I have some clue from the context.

Because they make so many references to songs and bands (116 different performers!), I had to look at subsets of the data. The most interesting are who gets the most references and comparing the number of references per season for those mentioned in both seasons 3 and 4. For those who want to see them all, I’ve posted the raw data here.

Another source of error is missing the boat. It’s hard to know the first time they tell a joke which ones will become running gags and which are one-offs. I try to capture anything I think might take, but it’s amazing how often I’m wrong, as you can easily see from the Catch Phrases and Repeated Jokes chart. (I would have trimmed this down to those things that only show up across seasons, but then I would have lost Balrog wings.)

Like music, the number of movie mentions is phenomenal (72 different films for the last two seasons), so I produced the same two charts I did for music. (You can see the unfiltered data here.)

While the top winner in each category is rarely a surprise (Monty Python, I’m looking at you), there are interesting discoveries to be made, like the fact that Star Wars runs a close third behind The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for number of mentions in the Megaverse category.

I was interested to see that there were many more references to TV in season 4 than 3 and wondering if the lockdown has increased the time the guys have for watching television. Then I remembered they work, have children, and put together this amazing podcast and decided they probably have to schedule time to breathe.

Last but definitely not least, references to Tolkien’s letters (which only includes those from Carpenter’s book, since I use the numbers to track them). Letter 131 (of course) wins the day.

I intend to go back and collect data for the first two seasons. I need to spend more time with The Silmarillion anyway, and I know it will be a lot easier for me to get through that book with the help of Alan and Shawn. (Much as I love Tolkien, The Silmarillion is my Everest.) And I’m happy to listen to The Hobbit episodes again. But I don’t think it will happen quickly. Their hiatus is way too short.

Do any of these stats surprise you? What’s your favorite PPP joke/mention?

4 thoughts on “Graphs for The Prancing Pony Podcast Season 4 (and 3!)”

    1. Oops! Misplaced reference. Thanks for the heads up. I confess when I made the phrase chart, I wondered what Stealers Wheel was. Live and learn! I will update and fix everything right now.

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