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LI 'Fandalorian' podcasters offer their takes on sci-fi, fantasy action movies

Charles Giannone, left, Patrick McDonald and James Richardson

Charles Giannone, left, Patrick McDonald and James Richardson of "The Fandalorians: Teachers by Day, Nerds by Night" podcast. Credit: Jennifer Simoes / Lauren McDonald / Hayden Richardson

Ever realize maybe the movie reviewer doesn’t know as much about the characters or the franchise or the themes as you? Well, here’s your chance to dive in with a trio of native Long Islanders long fascinated by the action hero genre — and see if you can keep up.

The title of the weekly podcast, which began July 21 with an 18-minute episode in a world where voices instead of deeds rule supreme is: "The Fandalorians: Teachers by Day, Nerds by Night."

With its nod to the Star Wars franchise, "The Mandalorians," that pretty well sums up what readers can anticipate — though the title only hints at some of the novel, not to say unconventional and at times, teasing and comical analyses of sci-fi, fantasy and action movies and trailers this trio of friends embarks on — as they have for much of their lives.

Teachers to the core, the episodes reflect considerable research. The topics of the short segments — divided by the peal of a classroom bell — are agreed on in advance.

None of the three, though clearly expert in myriad subjects, from plots and actors' careers to lawsuits and projects under development, evidently feels obliged to either cram or pose as a know-it-all.

"I know zero about this," confesses fourth-grade teacher James Richardson, 45, of Wading River, in Episode 7, referring to an Amazon series due in November, "The Wheel of Time."

"I don’t do ‘Lord of the Rings’ well, ‘Game of Thornes,’ or ‘Conan’ — none of that stuff is fantasy that I enjoy, but I see Mr. G. is ready to stretch in," he says, referring to his co-host, Charlie Giannone 44, of Wading River.

Responds Giannone: "It’s actually funny that it is a gap in my nerd knowledge, I know."

"I know of it, I’ve heard people talk about it, but I’ve never sat down and read them — and the reason is exactly what you said — 14 volumes and each book is like twice as thick as an encyclopedia."

Richardson and Giannone met two decades ago where they both teach, at the Riverhead Central School District. The third co-host, Patrick McDonald, 44, of Ridge, who teaches history at Long Island City’s William Cullen Bryant High School, met Richardson when they were both second graders in Riverhead.

Americans increasingly are turning to podcasts: about 162 million or 57% of the population older than 12 years listened this year, about double the 2011 percentage, media researchers at the New York City-based Edison Research said in a report.

The Fandalorians attracts around 85 listeners, Richardson said, which might sound quite modest but is considered rather promising for such a young podcast.

Like countless podcasts, this one sprang from the pandemic. When the trio were finally able to get together again this summer and discuss their favorite subjects, Richardson realized others who share their interests might enjoy their conversations.

"We started this podcast to make sure we have time to hang out — and if anybody listens, that’s great," McDonald said.

And the shows reveal teachers actually do have lives outside the classroom — sometimes much to the surprise of their pupils, no matter their age. Said McDonald, "The premise is just to expose people to how teachers kind of talk and act because it’s just lifting the veil behind the teaching, and secondly, to have some fun and talk about things we find interesting."

"My students think it's hysterical," said McDonald, whose administrator cleared him to just mention the podcast to them. "They don't realize we have lives outside of school," he said, let alone what they might do for fun.

McDonald readily admits he is the most likely to interrupt and to like just about everything; Richardson is seen as the most critical while Giannone tends to find the middle ground, the three men agreed.

What unites them is their love for a story with people confronting their differences, deciding what roles they should take on — and seeing how their choices may evolve. Films overly focused on special effects, said Richardson, "tend to gloss over creating a compelling character; they just want explosions; I don't really care" about them.

"It's not just a superhero saving the day, it's a character who has the ability to help but then maybe mentally is not there yet — they don't know the right thing to do."

"It's a great thing they are taking to the online world," said Lauren McDonald, Patrick's wife, who teaches at the same school as Giannone.

Of course, she already has heard more than a few of their discussions over the years, and may be inclined to skim a bit until they alight on a subject she finds appealing. "It varies," she said, and then "You want to hear what else they have to say about the Avengers — or Harry Potter."

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