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On this week’s episode, Sonny is joined by Jason Pargin for a wide-ranging and freewheeling discussion about, among other things, the propriety of jokes about nuclear war, how a cult classic movie kicked off his literary career, and the ways in which social media algorithms have possibly led you to believe that your favorite writers have disappeared and/or died. (As the former executive editor of Cracked dot com, Jason has some experience with this.) Oh, we also talk about his new novel—If This Book Exists, You’re in the Wrong Universe, out October 18—and why you don’t need to read the three previous books in the series to enjoy it. That said: I would recommend reading them! The first, John Dies at the End, is probably the easiest to skip since you can get the basics by watching the movie (streaming now on Hulu) but basics are, well, basic, and you don’t want to be Basic, now do you? (You can buy a new copy here and a used copy here). The second, This Book Is Full of Spiders, is my favorite of them, a deft deconstruction of the late-2000s-to-mid-2010s wave of zombie movies, shows, and video games. (New here, used here.) What the Hell Did I Just Read is perhaps the funniest book about depression I’ve ever read. (New here, used here.) One of the things we talk about in this episode is Jason’s dislike of live events, meaning readings/signings. Which in turn means that if you want to get a signed copy of the new one, well, you have to preorder it from Parnassus Books in Nashville. And you have to do it by October 17, a scant 11 days from now. So … go get it, I don't know what you’re waiting on. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
David Coggeshall, the writer and co-producer of Orphan: First Kill, joins Sonny this week to talk about the making of the legacy sequel, the difficulties and opportunities presented by shooting in the midst of the pandemic, and the theatrical vs. streaming debate.  And if you haven’t watched Orphan: First Kill, you can check it out now on Paramount+ or rent it on VOD; I put a spoiler warning up before we got to talking about the plot of the film in-depth, but you should watch it anyway. If you enjoyed this episode, share it with a friend! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
On this week’s episode, Sonny broaches the topic of China and gaming with Colin Moriarty, founder and CEO of Last Stand Media, the world's most popular fan-funded games podcast network, co-host of Sacred Symbols: A PlayStation Podcast, and 20-year veteran of the gaming industry. Colin has firsthand experience in this realm as a game developer and relays a pretty interesting story about the chilling effect China can have on the art of gaming. Beyond that, there’s much to consider about the dangers of mergers and consolidation. Does the government have a role to play in keeping Chinese Communist Party-controlled firms like Tencent from dominating the gaming space? Should the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States play a firmer role? These are some of the questions we ask, but don’t necessarily have answers for, on this week’s episode. If you found this episode informative and entertaining, please share it with a friend! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The NFL: Ratings King

The NFL: Ratings King


On this week’s episode, Sonny asks Sean McNulty—author of The Ankler’s excellent morning roundup newsletter, The Wakeup—who, exactly, the Emmys are for in an age of audience fracturing. The answer, at least according to the Nielsen ratings, is “very few people.” Many, many more people are watching football, as sports remains the one savior of linear TV (that is: non-streaming, watched-live TV). We also talk about the news out of D23, the weird, aborted push by an activist investor to spin ESPN off of Disney, and much more. If you enjoyed the episode, share it with a friend! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
On this week’s episode, Sonny is joined by Broadside Books’s Eric Nelson to take a look at a slightly different end of the entertainment industry: political non-fiction. Eric is the editor of Tim Miller’s bestselling book Why We Did It as well as Jared Kushner’s bestselling book Breaking History, so he understands how to appeal to both sides of the book-buying aisle. Almost as importantly, he has heard, and can debunk, just about any myth you can come up with to explain away why a book by someone you don’t like is a bestseller. (Spoiler: The basements of the RNC and DNC are not filled with moldering copies of books by pols.) You’ll learn tons of interesting stuff here (which TV hits matter; what the perfect Amazon review looks like) and, hopefully, come away with a better understanding of just how the book business works. If you enjoyed the episode, make sure to share it with a friend! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
On this week’s episode, Sonny talks to Mitchel Berger, SVP of global commerce at Crunchyroll, about the continually “surprising” success of Crunchyroll’s (and, previously, Funimation’s) anime theatrical releases. Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero opened atop the box office a couple of weekends ago with $20 million; last year Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train grossed nearly $50 million during its run. How did Crunchyroll help create and nurture this fandom to the point where they can open a movie on traditionally dead weekends with a fraction of the advertising spend of your typical mid-or-low-budget release? If you enjoyed this episode, share it with a friend!  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
On this week’s episode, Sonny steps back from Hollywood a bit to look at the broader state of free expression in America and around the world. PEN America’s Summer Lopez joins the show to discuss a range of topics: from the heinous assault on Salman Rushdie in New York to efforts to pressure libraries to remove books across the United States to foreign oppression of writers and thinkers to concerns over the ability of a handful of Internet-based companies to determine what can be expressed. If you enjoyed this episode and want to help get the word out, please share it with a friend. A brief plug: I am a member of PEN America and have been so (on and off, mostly dependent on remembering to pay my dues) since the group stood up for the journalists killed during the Charlie Hebdo massacre. They do great work to help shine a light on the limits of free expression around the world; a couple years back, I had PEN’s James Tager on the show a couple years back to talk about their report on China’s pernicious influence on Hollywood. You can become a member here. The group is celebrating its centenary; the year-long commemoration includes PEN America @ 100: A Century of Defending the Written Word, an exhibit at the New-York Historical Society through Oct. 9; a daylong public symposiumon Sept. 12 called “Words on Fire” in New York with a lineup of literary stars including Margaret Atwood, Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie, Dave Eggers, among others; and Flashpoints, a series of talks on free speech and civil rights in cities nationwide that continues through 2023. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
On this week’s episode, Sonny is joined by Brian Gewirtz to talk about his tenure as a writer for the WWE. His new book, There's Just One Problem...: True Tales from the Former, One-Time, 7th Most Powerful Person in WWE, is a must-read for anyone interested in the world of “sports entertainment." Brian was there for the rise of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the tail end of the Monday Night Wars, the so-called Attitude Era, and beyond. He suffered through celebrity guest hosts of Monday Night Raw, some great, some terrible. He lived through the real-life beef between John Cena and Dwayne Johnson. And he came out the other side as part of Johnson’s production house, Seven Bucks Productions. I really can’t recommend Brian’s book enough, and I can’t help but feel like wrestling—with its baby faces (heroes) and heels (villains); with its emphasis on “kayfabe” (that is, playing along with a storyline even though everyone on all sides knows its scripted)—on some level is a key to understanding modern American political culture. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
On this week’s episode, Sonny is joined by Julia Alexander of Parrot Analytics and Puck to discuss the wild couple of weeks in streaming. From HBO Max to Netflix to Disney+ and unbundling to rebundling, there’s a ton to discuss. Of particular interest to folks interested in how the business of streaming works is Julia’s expertise as a consultant who helps studios and producers understand why streamers like Netflix will renew a show; you won’t want to miss that discussion about 40 minutes in. Spoiler: Eyeballs-captured and hours-watched aren’t the only thing that matters.  This is one of my favorite episodes of the show thus far; if you found it as interesting as I did, make sure to follow Julia on Twitter and read her stuff at Puck. And please share this episode with a friend!  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
On this week’s episode, Sonny is joined by Aaron Reynolds, creator of Effin’ Birds. Having a daily comic read by half-a-million people is cool and all, but what’s really cool is criss-crossing North America to sell merch featuring that comic and other various designs. Aaron talks about the economics of convention life, how COVID has shaped the way conventions work, what it’s like to have a booth at San Diego Comic Con, the crazy economics of attracting huge stars to cons, and, most importantly, what it was like to be endorsed by pop star Britney Spears on her 41.8-million-follower-strong Instagram account. You can follow Effin’ Birds on Twitter and Instagram and Aaaron on Twitter and Instagram. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
On this week’s episode of The Bulwark Goes to Hollywood, Sonny is joined by longtime New Yorker writer Ken Auletta, who stops by to discuss his new book Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence. Both a biography of Weinstein and a tick-tock of the trial that ended with the Oscar-winning producer’s imprisonment, Auletta’s new book is a fascinating glimpse at the life and times of a man whose predatory instinct was allowed to go unchecked thanks to the caliber of the movies he made and the way he distributed favors to filmmakers, cultivated journalists, and ingratiated himself to politicians. If you enjoyed the episode, make sure to share it with a friend … and pick up a copy of the book! It’s a must-read for anyone who lived through the Miramax era.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
On this week’s episode, Sonny is joined by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman to discuss their new history of the John Wick franchise, They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog: The Complete Uncensored Ass-Kicking Oral History of John Wick, Gun Fu, and the New Age of Action. (Listen to the podcast to hear how to properly announce this title.) In addition to talking John Wick and the history of the action film art form referred to as “Gun Fu,” we talked about the tricky art of authoring a compelling oral history. Believe it or not, it entails more than just cutting and pasting long chunks of interviews into a Word document! If you’re in San Diego for Comic Con this week, make sure to swing by Ed and Mark’s panel on Friday (you can find it on the full convention schedule here), which will be followed by a signing at the Saint Martin’s booth. Tell them I sent you! And if you enjoyed this episode, share it with a friend! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
On this week’s episode of The Bulwark Goes to Hollywood, Sonny is joined by Ron Shelton, the writer/director of Bull Durham, to talk about his new book on the making of the film, The Church of Baseball. In addition to discussing the fights over casting, the weirdly lackluster response from test audiences, and the movie’s impact on the minor league game writ large, we also chatted about some of Mr. Shelton’s other films like White Men Can’t Jump and Dark Blue.  Make sure to pick up his book; while you’re doing that, the excellent Blu-ray release of Bull Durham is 50 percent off as part of Barnes and Noble’s 50 percent off sale on all Criterion discs. (In the podcast, I also mentioned the Arrow Video release of Dark Blue, but you should only pick it up in the United States if you have a region-free Blu-ray player; luckily it’s streaming on Prime Video right now for free.) Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
This week, CNN’s Frank Pallotta rejoins the episode to do a box office victory lap. The movies are back, baby! Older audiences are showing up for Top Gun: Maverick and Elvis; younger audiences are showing up for Minions: The Rise of Gru; and no one’s showing up for Lightyear. Why are the first three hits and the last a miss? What’s the most successful way to sell moviegoing audiences on future movies? And what are theaters going to do over the next few months as COVID-related production slowdowns mean fewer big movies hitting theaters before the Thanksgiving season? All that and more on this week’s episode of The Bulwark Goes to Hollywood. If you enjoyed the episode, share it with a friend! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
On this week’s episode, The Ankler’s Richard Rushfield returns to talk tumult at Disney, what Hollywood might be looking for in a studio head, and how the town is feeling about Netflix. If you enjoyed the episode, share it with a friend! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
On this week’s episode, Sonny is joined by Jason Baker of Callosum Studios, the house that helped design the sure-to-be-iconic mask from the upcoming horror film The Black Phone. They also discussed designing masks for the WWE, pandemic-related slowdowns, working with FX legend Tom Savini, and Jason’s documentary about said legend, Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini. You can stream that now on Tubi or YouTube or hold off until the special edition Blu-ray drops in October. Make sure to check out Jason’s handiwork in The Black Phone, dropping next week. And if you enjoyed the show share it with a friend! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Stop Stealing Movies!

Stop Stealing Movies!


On this week’s episode of The Bulwark Goes to Hollywood, Sonny talks to the CEO of Creative Future, Ruth Vitale, about the costs of piracy. A longtime producer in Hwood, Ruth has seen firsthand the costs of theft on productions big and large, but in an age where stealing a movie or a book or a song is just as easy as popping onto Google and punching in some search terms, how do you convince folks that stealing is, in fact, wrong? And what can the government do to help stop the scourge of Internet-based IP theft? All that and more on this episode of BGTH. If you’ve got any ideas, feel free to leave them in the comments. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Over Memorial Day weekend, Netflix released a new stand-up special from Norm Macdonald, who unexpectedly died in September of last year. Unexpected to us and his friends; perhaps more expected to the comedian, who had kept his cancer diagnosis incredibly secret. On the occasion of the release of Norm Macdonald’s “Nothing Special,” Washington Post national arts reporter Geoff Edgers published a new piece featuring interviews with his friends and colleagues about the special and his life’s work. I’m very happy to have Geoff on today to talk about Norm specifically and the art of profiling more generally.  Back in 2016, Geoff wrote a longish feature about Norm that, I think, helped spark something of a reappraisal or reconsideration of his work: though beloved—almost revered—by fellow comedians, Norm had fallen out of the spotlight with normal folks, and this well-read feature reminded them of what they were missing. (The publication of his absolutely brilliant book around the same time also helped in this regard.) And Geoff’s designation of Macdonald as “Tolstoy in sweatpants” in his obit for the Canadian funnyman is a pretty perfect encapsulation of his charms. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Sonny takes a break from talking to industry experts this week to kvetch about something that’s been bothering him and JVL: Why are theaters so empty of movies for kids? A nearly two-month gap between The Bad Guys and Lightyear feels like studio malpractice; why didn’t Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers get at least a token run in theaters? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
On this week’s episode, Sonny is rejoined by CNN’s Frank Pallotta to preview summer movie season. Blockbusters, big horror, comic books, and kid-friendly films are coming to the multiplex—but they’re doing so at a slower clip than years past. What’s changed since the pandemic and how is the industry reacting to it? Plus: Netflix, Disney+, and the evolving streaming situation. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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