18-41 Segment 1: Stutters, Stammers, and Vocal Fillers

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If you’ve had to speak in public, you know the nerves that come with public speaking. So you probably also know the pain of umming, uhhing, or misspeaking. We explore where these vocal blunders come from and what they might mean.


  • Michael Erard, author, Um: Slips, Stumbles and Verbal Blunders and What They Mean

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18-41 Segment 2: Growing Up Poor in Rural America

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Sarah Smarsh is a journalist and author who grew up poor on a farm in Kansas. She discusses life in rural America, how our culture treats people living in poverty, and the causes she attributes to America’s wage gap.


  • Sarah Smarsh, journalist and author, Heartland: A memoir of working hard and being broke in the richest country on earth

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Culture Crash 18-41: Better Call Saul’s unique pacing and why it works so well

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in entertainment.

Television is a medium that heavily relies on shock. Over the years, cliffhangers have come to define TV. A season, or even an episode, almost always ends on a twist or a reveal designed to set up anticipation for the future.

One of the traditional ways that TV shows have kept these shock-and-awe moments coming is by moving things along quickly. As soon as some incredible act of deceit takes place, the show starts speeding toward that next signpost.

That’s where Better Call Saul, AMC’s Breaking Bad spin-off, differentiates itself. That show often moves at a glacial pace. It’s a law show with no case of the week format. It’s a show about drug cartels that focuses on the politics of the cartels much more than actual drug deals.

The nature of Better Call Saul is that it’s a prequel series to doom. We don’t want the flawed but lovable protagonist Jimmy McGill to become the scumbag we know we will become, Saul Goodman. As a result, Better Call Saul has a fanbase that revels in the slow, meticulous pace that sounds to outsiders like it would be boring. The faster the show moves, the quicker we’ll lose the characters to the madness that is Breaking Bad.

Most shows have no interest in slowing down, and for good reason. Audiences generally want to see the big moments, and don’t care much for the mundane ones. Better Call Saul has found a way to flip that dynamic on its head and still keep audiences totally engaged. It’s a daring experiment gone completely right.

The first three seasons of Better Call Saul are available to stream on Netflix. Season four is available on-demand through AMC.

I’m Evan Rook.