Pop culture critics & espionage experts uncover our obsession with spy thrillers

In this edition of ‘Spy Week,’ POTUS Politics host Julie Mason examined espionage in Hollywood and beyond with writers Ann Hornaday, Mike Hale and Amy Zegart.

Jackie Kolgraf
February 15, 2022

Espionage, decoder rings and dead drops of the Hollywood sort were the order of the day during Julie Mason Mornings’ Pop Culture Spy Week on POTUS Politics (Ch. 124). Previous editions of Spy Week covered the real-life exploits of undercover agents, so Julie switched things up — first, with Ann Hornaday, film critic for the Washington Postwho ran down her top spy movies.

As any binge-watcher knows, it takes a lot to stand out the crowded field of James Bonds and Jason Bournes. How? Hornaday said it’s not explosions or gunfire that reels us in, but rather a filmmaker’s drive “to keep the audience destabilized.”

One such unexpected spy film Hornaday praised is docudrama The Mole Agent, which features a spy (of sorts) deep undercover in a Chilean nursing home. How’s that for clandestine?

Mason’s conversations continued with Mike Hale, a television critic for the New York Timeswho rattled off a half dozen diamonds in the rough for streamers to check out.

There was no question, though, which show took the prize during Pop Culture Spy WeekThe Americans “nailed it,” Hale said, when it came to portraying the 1980s America its paranoid Russian agents crept through.

One would think Hale and Hornaday’s fields of interest would stay on the right side of the silver screen, but the distinction between fact and fiction occasionally gets confused, even in Congress. When Amy Zegartauthor of Spies, Lies, and Algorithms: The History and Future of American Intelligence, stopped by Julie Mason Mornings, she recounted the story of intelligence officials getting grilled on the exploits of Kiefer Sutherland. Yes, that Kiefer Sutherland.

Hear more top-secret conversations with Julie Mason every weekday from 6-9am ET on SiriusXM Ch. 124, and catch the full set of Pop Culture Spy Week interviews any time on the SXM App.