Potterless

A podcast about a grown man reading a series of children’s novels for the first time”. Given that the series in question is, you guessed it, Harry Potter, this concept is mouthwatering to Potterheads. Possibly even a mild intoxicant.

Each week, host Mike Schubert gives listeners a breakdown of a few chapters, including a summary of events interspersed with reactions from Mike and his guests. A solid premise, it goes without saying.

Where the show revels is in its off-the-cuff remarks and unscripted tangents, geeky as they might be, about the books. The often snarky Mike, who loves nothing better than a good plot hole, might have questions about how some part of the wizarding world works, or else have spotted some error on J.K. Rowling’s part, allowing the Potter ‘expert’ on hand to shine. These critiques often involve Quidditch and its nonsensical scoring system, which Mike hates with a passion.

However, Mike is far from a perfect host. Potterless may be better led by a Brit, rather than an American: his complete lack of understanding of everyday British words and phrases threatens to irritate rather than amuse before long. More generally, the humour can be a tad hit-or-miss, and is perhaps more appealing to American listeners.

Additionally, Mike makes frequent mistakes with both plot points and pronunciation that leave real Potter fans head-in-hands. As well as being distracting, this can give the impression that Mike does not care about either the books or his podcast. Even worse, in later episodes he sometimes admits to having read up to half a book ahead of the chapters currently under discussion. While this level of preparation may seem like good practice, it leaves Mike looking back to his weeks-old notes for his initial thoughts about Harry and co.’s latest antics. When it comes to Mike’s ‘predictions’ for future chapters, which he has actually read, this really undercuts the whole idea and it begins to feel a very slapdash podcast.

It can be difficult to know whether to be won over or turned off by Mike’s take on the books. Highlights include his nickname for Harry, Ron and Hermione (“the Squad”), his incessant hatred of Quidditch, and his exuberant, tongue-in-cheek sign-off and catchphrase, “Wizard On!” Without the epic source material and its considerable nostalgic heft, however, it is sad to say that Schubert might not make it in podcasting. He may just be a man with a Sirius-ly good idea.

Image: Carlos Cruz via Wikimedia Commons

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4 Responses

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  1. Mike Schubert
    Jan 22, 2018 - 05:50 PM

    Hey, how’s it going? Always down for some constructive criticism, but I would like to point out one detail you are incorrect about: the reading ahead. For each episode, I have not read ahead past the section of chapters covered. You might be confusing this with the fact that I RECORD multiple episodes in advance of release. For example, I just started reading Chapters 1-4 of Half Blood Prince, but just released an episode covering chapters 28-29 of OotP. When I recorded that episode covering chapters 28-29 I had only read from 28-32 of OotP (I usually record 2 eps worth of audio in one session with my guests since they are remote). After that, I read chapters 33-38 of OotP and recorded again after finishing those, before starting HBP. So my notes are not weeks old, and my predictions are legitimate. Hope that clears things up. Thanks for taking the time to write about my podcast, though! I’ll do my best to fix some of these errors you’ve pointed out, and hopefully you’ll see that I’m more than just a man with a good idea. I’m very excited to prove your last two sentences wrong!

    Reply
  2. Jeanett Rasmussen
    Apr 29, 2018 - 07:21 PM

    I must say: I LOVE POTTERLESS, and I really hope that Schubert makes in the world of podcasting. I am a huge Harry Potter fan, but I love Mike Schuberts more adult and questioning perspective of the books than my own view of the books. I read the series as a child/teenager and I therefore believe that I have had and still do have a more accepting take on the books, because I as a child just accepted and explained the more “difficult” and problematic parts of the books as “well, it’s magic”. I agree with you that Mike sometimes do get stuff wrong, but come on there are a seven books and an enormous amount of information to keep track on – especially the first time you read the books. I also guess that is the reason why he has guests on his show that can both correct him and witth whom he discuss all of these “problematic” parts with.
    I am from Denmark and have only read the danish books + I don’t know how to pronounce all the words, but I do love how an american notices the very british parts of the books. Well, all of this is just my take on it, and your opinion is as good as mine, but I just wanted to say, I find this podcast hilarious and I would have loved to have learned how to analyze and interpret novels/short stories etc. through this podcast back in my days in elementary/high school. Keep up the good work, Mike 😀

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  3. Charlotte Roberts
    Jun 05, 2018 - 05:27 PM

    A pretty short-sighted review of the wonderful Potteriess.
    As a lifelong British Potterhead, Schubert can be delightfully naïve but in no way does he seem not to care about the source material.
    He has a refreshing take on the books and your review comes across judgy without substantiation.

    Reply
  4. Cate Brown
    Jul 23, 2018 - 08:26 AM

    I’ve just started listening to the Goblet of Fire episodes and found this blog because I needed confirmation I wasn’t the only one super annoyed by Schubert and guests harking on about perfectly common English words and phrases (ferreting springs to mind, how do Americans not know it’s a word? Or prefect, or head boy or…all of them really). And it’s not a “British” thing, it’s an “all English speakers except Americans” thing.
    Some of the hang ups are irritating because they are picking on things taken straight from mythology (e.g. the roosters in CoS)
    Not sure I agree with the rest of your assessment about Schubert not caring about the source material or not succeeding in future podcasting. Seems like a well made, tight show to me.
    Aside from the language thing I am loving it for the most part, and am looking forward to listening to the rest, it’s refreshing to find a HP podcast that isn’t just a group of people claiming JKR is some sort of perfect author, just a good world builder with a good story.

    Reply

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