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

"Subspace Rhapsody" is a special musical episode of <em>Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. </em>It's episode 9 of Season 2, and most shows wait a bit longer to pull out a stunt like this — but turns out it actually works.
Paramount+
"Subspace Rhapsody" is a special musical episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. It's episode 9 of Season 2, and most shows wait a bit longer to pull out a stunt like this — but turns out it actually works.

This week we paid homage to an epic summer trifecta, saw new efforts to unionize in Hollywood, and bid farewell to DJ Casper, William Friedkin and Mark Margolis.

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

Burn It Down by Maureen Ryan

/ HarperCollins
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HarperCollins

I have been reading Burn It Down: Power, Complicity and a Call for Change in Hollywood by Maureen Ryan. It is one of those books that, while you read, you're screaming, you're gasping, you're tearing your hair out. You're running to Reddit to see if you can try to unravel who these anonymous sources are and what project they're talking about. It is just one of those books that you want to talk to everybody about. It is an incredible feat of reporting of how many sources Ryan talked to, how much knowledge she has collected, and how carefully she's thought about a lot of these issues. If you are a lover of media, this is recommended reading. — Cyrena Touros

The film crowdfunding site Seed&Spark

/ Seed&Spark
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Seed&Spark

There's a website called Seed&Spark where the mission is to help independent filmmakers create long careers through developing audiences who support them, either financially, or through trading and offering services. The films that are coming out of there are so sweet, and beautiful, and passionate, and weird, and funny. It encouraged me to start going back into filmmaking — I haven't made a film since I graduated from film school. It's been a really incredible experience to watch people succeed, thrive and launch careers that are sustainable through this space. If you're the kind of person who just wants to support films I highly recommend Seed&Spark. — Joelle Monique

"All Over Again" from Brandy Clark's self-titled album

Lately we've been hearing a lot about the culture wars playing out in country music. As someone who's from the South and is a country music fan, I don't want those things to overshadow the amazing musicians who are making just phenomenal country music. What's making me happy in the last couple months is the new album by Brandy Clark. She is one of the most impressive songwriters — she writes for herself and others. She's also queer and her self-titled album, Brandy Clark, is one of my favorites of the year. — Jeffrey Masters

The musical episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

"Subspace Rhapsody" is a musical episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which isstreaming on Paramount+. In it, the crew of the Enterprise encounters — wait for it — a strange space anomaly that causes them to burst into song and reveal their most closely held secrets to each other. If you think: Well, that sounds an awful lot like the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode, you're right — and they know it. They acknowledge it several times in the episode with fun little shout outs I won't spoil. It's got a terrific opening number and a grand finale that is corny as hell — but that kind of kind of works, right? They've got several great singers in the cast, including Celia Rose Gooding, who was nominated for a Tony for Jagged Little Pill on Broadway. Most shows wait a bit longer to pull out a stunt like this, but Strange New Worlds has always had a really good sense of humor about itself, and it really pays off here. — Glen Weldon

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Linda Holmes

Eric Deggans had a terrific piece this week about brawl memes and folding chairs.

Also from our team at NPR, Bilal Qureshi looked at the billion-dollar summer of Taylor Swift, Barbie and Beyoncé.

I very much like the HBO docuseries Telemarketers, which premieres on Sunday. Focused on the Civic Development Group, a telemarketing outfit that did a lot of those "I'm calling on behalf of injured police officers" calls, it starts out seeming like it's about one thing — the grift of pretending to be representing the police — and ends up being about a bunch of other things. It's also a highly entertaining character portrait of some guys from New Jersey who you just need to watch to fully understand. It will also make you never answer a call again if you don't know who's on the line.

Emma Cline's The Guest is a very buzzy book right now, about a woman who gets kicked out of her rich boyfriend's house and has to figure out how to survive for a few days in the Hamptons with no resources except her ability to weasel into people's lives. I liked it a lot, and it gets its work done economically.


Beth Noveyadapted the Pop Culture Happy Hour segment "What's Making Us Happy" for the Web. 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 https://www.npr.org.

Cyrena Touros
Joelle Monique
Jeffrey Masters
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.