Oddly enough, the word to describe the pop culture references made by Alan Sisto and Shawn Marchese during Season 5 of The Prancing Pony Podcast is balanced. Several of the categories resulted in ties for first and even second place. (Music had a five-way tie for second!) This was true even for the episode titles, which is not always the case. Apparently, the guys were very even-handed with their favors this time around.

With each season I analyze, the data is becoming more and more complex, requiring summaries and distillations. So far, I’ve only done seasons 3 through 5 (which cover the first three books of The Lord Of the Rings; I’ve been working on Season 1 simultaneously with Season 5 but am no where near done). This post will just cover season 5. Comparisons across season will be posted separately.

Just as the data is getting more complex, so is what it takes to wrangle it. My rules, challenges, and sources of error are laid out in this behind-the-scenes post.

Each season I tackle teaches me new lessons. This time around, I was amused by my own foibles. I’ve discovered that whenever a song has “night” in its lyrics, I assume it’s “knight.” (“Knights in White Satin” makes much more sense to me.) I also can’t get over the number of popular songs that are one-hit wonders. Even though I know the lyrics, I have never heard of the bands before.

I counted 105 individual music references this season. (You can see all of them listed here.) AC/DC and Journey were tied for first, with five mentions each. Five performers were tied for second (four mentions each), so there was a lot of consistency in who got mentioned multiple times. (If you combine episode title references and in-episode references, AC/DC wins, hence the banner image for this post.)

In the Megaverse category*, Monty Python continues to reign, with 47 of the total 82 references. Star Wars was second, with Star Trek a surprising third. (More than once, Shawn has said he’s not really up on Star Trek, but even he made a Trek joke this season.) Here’s a pie chart (because it’s pretty):

For those interested in hard numbers, the same data as a bar chart:

Movies were referenced 174 times this season, with Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies getting the most references but seeming like they have an unfair advantage. It’s kind of like tracking the number of times Tolkien’s name gets mentioned. So I consider the movie in second place, which was still well ahead of the rest of the pack, as the true winner: The Princess Bride.

There were 41 references to TV shows, with Babylon 5 and The Simpsons tied for first. I’m still trying to figure out which was the most surprising reference: Mister Ed, Bob Ross, or VeggieTales.

Tolkien’s letters were referenced 40 times this season, with #156 winning (5 mentions). The famous (and usually most frequently mentioned) #131 was tied with #154 for second.

The catch phrases and repeated jokes are part of how I got started with this crazy project in the first place . I recorded 296 separate references for season 5, which is an underestimate, because I know I missed some. (See the behind-the-scenes post to learn my many sources of error. ) 26% of the references were groaners (the jokes that make us laugh and roll our eyes at the same time). The usual suspects (word nerd/ery, “We’ll get to that in X years”, and “But we digress”) took the next three spots. My favorite entry in this category was calling smoking hobbits “little baby tiny dragons” although I’m hoping the phrase “Quick work for an Ent moot” will catch on.

As time goes on, I’ve become more and more aware of things I should have been tracking but haven’t. Specific references include “Lots to unpack here,” “Ford of Bruinen” jokes, references to Parma Eldalamberon #17, Gimli’s obsession with the old man, and Bovril jokes. But one thing I have added to my process is checking the episode titles for references. AC/DC, Genesis, and Monty Python were tied for first. Here’s the breakdown for all the chapter analysis episode titles for Season 5:

So there you have it: Season 5 in a balanced nut shell. For those who want to see all the references I’ve recorded, check out this post.

What was your favorite joke or reference this season? Which one surprised you most?

*Megaverse is an eccentric category of my own devising that is used for popular stories that cover more than one form of media. For example, it should include Marvel’s superhero universe in some way, and currently doesn’t.

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