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What's making us happy: A guide to your weekend viewing, reading and listening

Heléne Yorke and Drew Tarver on <em>The Other Two</em>, which was renewed for a third season this past fall.
Greg Endries /HBO Max
Heléne Yorke and Drew Tarver on The Other Two, which was renewed for a third season this past fall.

This week, Dolly Parton was voted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, we looked back on the time NPR had a Star Wars radio drama, and comic book fans prepared for Saturday – the return of free comic book day.

Here's what NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.

Hercule Poirot novels by Agatha Christie

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
/ William Morrow
/
William Morrow

During this pandemic, my anxiety has manifested itself in a bunch of different ways, including, for the better part of the last two years, not being able to read anything longer than a long-ish article. And it's not that I haven't wanted to read, but I would pick up all these books that interested me, get two sentences in, and my brain would just go 'nah.'

But these last few weeks, I've finally been able to read again as I make my way through Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot books. I was so excited to watch Death on the Nile, even though I knew it wouldn't be very good because I love those kinds of mysteries. So I decided to dig into these classics, and it's been so fun. As her biographies will constantly remind you, Agatha Christie is the best-selling author of all time and has been outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible, and these books are really entertaining and easy to read. I thought the language might be a little stiff, but it's light and fun, and it reminds me a lot of The Gilded Age. —Daisy Rosario

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life by George Saunders
/ Random House Publishing Group
/
Random House Publishing Group

I have a new podcast coming out with Hector Navarro called Comic Con Meta*Pod, which I'm so excited about. There'll be new episodes every Wednesday, and we'll talk about comic books, the latest movies and TV shows, and all sorts of other nerdy things. We've got an interview with Giancarlo Esposito for our premiere episode, and it's going to be amazing.

But putting together a show is very stressful, especially when you're hosting, so I've been trying very hard to keep my creativity up and push forward. So I've been reading A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life. The book is essentially a workbook where Saunders has you read a page of a classic Russian short story and explore how the story works and why you're impacted by it. It's been a godsend because it also encourages you to bring those impactful moments to your own work and writing. It's such a light, easy read for something that sounds so laborious and heavy. It really made me miss school. —Joelle Monique

Elden Ring

Elden Ring is a gorgeous open-world game filled with these crumbling, beautifully overgrown ruins and impossible architecture. But it is also festooned with boss battles — with enemies who are impossible to defeat unless you memorize their exact movements and move in whenever they have a very brief window of vulnerability, so you inevitably end up dying a lot in this game. This is not something I enjoy and I tend to avoid these battles as I trot around on my little horsey and gaze at vistas.

I was thinking about all the death, frustration and rage that Elden Ring boss battles inspire in me the other day, and I went to YouTube and typed in the words "Elden Ring die react." Up popped video after video of people playing Elden Ring, and you see their faces as they get so close to ending a boss's final form before the boss completely smokes them, or they fall off a bridge that the boss can somehow not fall off of, or they get so excited that they fall off their horse. It makes me so happy.

I can still look at the beautiful world of Elden Ring, but instead of rage and frustration, I'm sitting there giggling. Because while all these hardworking strangers are screaming and throwing the controller and falling off their chairs, you know who's not doing that? Me. —Glen Weldon

The Other Two on HBO Max

Early in the pandemic, everyone was talking about Schitt's Creek and how much they enjoyed watching this family, which was going through all sorts of wild and embarrassing scenarios but still loved each other very much. It just captured that cozy comedy feel that we all needed.

Well, I finally got around to taking Glen Weldon and my partner's recommendations and watching The Other Two, which I'm so glad I did --because the show really scratches the Schitt's Creek itch. The comedy follows three siblings. One of them is a 13-year-old boy who becomes an overnight Justin Bieber-style pop sensation, and "the other two" are his millennial siblings who are struggling to find their place in the world, and must contend with the fact that their little brother is suddenly a massively famous person. It is so funny right out of the gate, and crucially, everyone likes each other – the older siblings want to protect their kid brother, and their mother loves all of her children equally and thinks they have equal potential. Just trust me and stream it this weekend because it is so sweet and wonderful. —Stephen Thompson

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

  • I have gotten very into the podcast Normal Gossip, from Defector Media, in which Kelsey McKinney talks to guests about ... well, normal, mundane gossip with guests like Sam Sanders and Josh Gondelman. It's one of the few things where I can honestly say I've never heard anything quite like it. 
  • I also really liked the episode of The Experiment from WNYC in which Peter Bresnan looks at the legacy of Judge Judy. In particular, it's great to hear from Petri Hawkins-Byrd, Judy's longtime bailiff, who is wise and humane in a way that the show, unfortunately, wasn't. 
  • I read the romance Rosaline Palmer Takes The Cake by Alexis Hall this week, and was so glad I did. It's playful with tropes and expectations while telling the story of a woman who becomes a contestant on what is not quite The Great British Baking Show but will, shall we say, remind you of it. 
  • Take the time to read this deeply reported piece in Vice about TV showrunners and how their work has been affected by everything from streaming to COVID, and the effects of those things on their output and on the longstanding lack of any kind of real inclusion among showrunners. The headline calls the current situation a crisis, and it's hard to disagree. —Linda Holmes

  • NPR intern Fi O'Reilly adapted the Pop Culture Happy Hour segment "What's Making Us Happy" into a digital page. If you like these suggestions, consider signing up for our newsletter to get recommendations every week. And listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

    Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Daisy Rosario
    Joelle Monique
    Glen Weldon is a host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He reviews books, movies, comics and more for the NPR Arts Desk.
    Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)
    Fi O'Reilly
    Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.