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What's Making Us Happy: A guide to your weekend reading, viewing and listening

Bob the Drag Queen and JujuBee in the upcoming<em> Dungeons and Drag Queens</em>
Kate Elliott
Bob the Drag Queen and JujuBee in the upcoming Dungeons and Drag Queens

This week we listened to some Kelly Clarkson, solved someRubik's cubes, and stayed up 'till midnight.

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

Beware the Woman

/ G. P. Putnam's Sons
G. P. Putnam's Sons

There's a little bit of a mini trend, I think, of stories that are kind of about the mystery of what being pregnant is like that crosses over a bit with controversies in the news over reproductive rights and things like that. And so this is a book that is kind of a thriller about a woman who is pregnant and goes with her husband to visit his father. And it's just a story where she gets there and stuff starts to get creepy, and then it gets creepier, and it gets creepier, and it gets creepier. It's really terrific. — Linda Holmes

Dungeons and Drag Queens

What's making me happy this week is Dungeons and Drag Queens. Hey, who has got two thumbs and feels ruthlessly targeted? Who feels heavily marketed to? It's this guy. It will premiere on June 28 on Dropout, which — I never know how to explain this kind of stuff — but it's an independent, nerdy comedy streaming service app. And the players of this game of Dungeons and Dragons are Bob the Drag Queen, Monét X Change, Jujubee and Alaska. That is a solid group. And maybe more importantly, the GM, the game master, the guy who's taking them through the world of the game will be Brennan Lee Mulligan, who is very, very, very good at what he does. Haven't seen it yet, to be clear, but the Dropout people know what they're doing. — Glen Weldon

The menu from The Social Network DVD

Recently I saw a tweet from someone who said that they used to put on the DVD of The Social Network in the background and just watch and listen to the DVD menu over and over. And so then I was like, "Oh yeah, that was a really good DVD menu." So then I just found it on YouTube because I didn't feel like digging out my own Social Network DVD, which is in the basement somewhere ... and I was like, "This is amazing."

There's the sound of, like, a luxurious envelope sliding under a door. There's ambient noise in the Harvard campus. There's a clacky keyboard, which to me was very like proto-ASMR. And then there's a few bars of the Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' score. This is what's making me happy because it was something I hadn't thought about in a long time, that when I discovered it gave me a very simple moment of pleasure. And like, the DVD menu itself seems like a piece of pop culture ephemera that's getting memory holed because we don't really have physical media anymore. And like, one day, I'm going to be trying to explain what the DVD menu is to my grandkids. It's going to be that meme where it's like, "OK, Grandma, let's get you to bed." And I'll be like, "No, you don't understand. You heard like one bar of music from the score of The Social Network, and it was amazing." — Wailin Wong

The Last Action Heroes: The Triumphs, Flops, and Feuds of Hollywood's Kings of Carnage

<em>The Last Action Heroes </em>by Nick de Semlyen
/ Crown
The Last Action Heroes by Nick de Semlyen

Sometimes I like to come in, as I occasionally do, to endorse a book that I wish I had thought to write. That is the case this time. What is making me happy and deeply envious is Nick de Semlyen's The Last Action Heroes: The Triumphs, Flops, and Feuds of Hollywood's Kings of Carnage. This is a series of profiles. It's Stallone, it's Bruce Willis, but also some people who came to the United States to make it big in action movies. So we get Jackie Chan, we get Jean-Claude Van Damme. I did learn the origin of the famous shot in Predator when Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers greet each other, and then there's the close-up of their bulging biceps as they're clasping hands. — Chris Klimek

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Linda Holmes

My pal Kat Kinsman is hosting a new podcast for Food & Wine called Tinfoil Swans, in which she interviews chefs. Kat is exceptionally good at making people comfortable and getting them talking, and her first episode is a discussion with Guy Fieri. They talk about his philanthropy, his early-life hustles, and how he once worked as a "flambé captain."

The Prime Video docuseries Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets has a title that might suggest it's as pulpy as the TLC shows it's covering. But it is an interesting piece of work, especially when it comes to exploring the ways that seemingly upbeat television shows can be very exploitative behind the scenes, particularly of young people.

I spent a lot of time this week listening to Elvis Costello (in part because of The Bear, discussed below). If you've never given a good listen to the album Imperial Bedroom, or if you haven't in a while, give it a spin.

NPR's Tilda Wilson 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 2023 NPR. To see more, visit

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.
Wailin Wong
Wailin Wong is a long-time business and economics journalist who's reported from a Chilean mountaintop, an embalming fluid factory and lots of places in between. She is a host of The Indicator from Planet Money. Previously, she launched and co-hosted two branded podcasts for a software company and covered tech and startups for the Chicago Tribune. Wailin started her career as a correspondent for Dow Jones Newswires in Buenos Aires. In her spare time, she plays violin in one of the oldest community orchestras in the U.S.
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.
Chris Klimek
Tilda Wilson