The Student
Review
Potterless
by Sam Lewis, 21/01/18

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