What's making us happy: A guide to your weekend listening and viewing
Here's what the NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.
For All Mankind
If you've spoken with me in real life for five minutes or less in the past couple of months, you've already heard me rave about For All Mankind on Apple TV+. I feel like not enough people are talking about this show. Ron Moore, the showrunner, did a lot of Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica, which is going to get some people really excited and probably turn off other people.
What I will say, though, is that the show is much less sci-fi and much more excellent drama that often happens to take place in space. It's an alternate history, and the premise from episode one is, "What would have happened if the Soviets had beaten the U.S. to the moon?" The United States, NASA, ends up being the underdog, which means they have to work a lot harder and actually come to a lot more scientific achievements faster.
It's in the midst of season three right now, so if you haven't seen any of it, you've got a whole bunch of episodes to catch up on, which is delightful. Now it's in the nineties and there's a race to Mars happening, and it's just fascinating. Also, I do not mind living in a completely different version of America right now, so that works pretty well for me.
But this show seriously has everything. All the characters are great. There are lady astronauts. The costumes are great. It's got espionage, scorned lovers, secrets, and high-stakes drama. And the soundtrack is perfect. This is such a great show to watch. — Greta Johnsen, host of WBEZ's Nerdette podcast
I recently had a touch of COVID, which meant I was able to quarantine in my basement and could only watch things that I wanted to watch. So I watched 16 hours of The Witcher, and this show is way more terrific than I had been led to believe. By season two, it was like Game of Thrones with 98% less rape.
It's filled with tropes in a deliciously juicy way. The fight scenes are beautifully choreographed. Henry Cavill plays Geralt of Rivia in a D+ wig with an A+ jawline. I could watch him fight a town full of angry villagers any day. The show might not have received the most critical acclaim, but — it's funny — it reminded me of how I felt on weekends watching Hercules and Xena.
I have a follow-up recommendation to this: I have now read all of the books you can read of The Witcher, by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. The books are written in a sort of short story format and are filled with deeply Eastern European fairy tales.
You can stream the show and other companion pieces on Netflix. There is also a video game to which I have watched all the cutscenes on YouTube, which I loved. So I did the whole thing. — Barrie Hardymon
While my colleagues are recommending gigantic cinematic universes and deep mythologies, I am recommending the smallest possible representation of the world: the social media app BeReal. I have not started my own account yet, but my partner swears by it and I have been living vicariously through her and a small circle of her friends.
BeReal is an app that you use once a day. You get a warning, it gives you a little ping, and you have two minutes to take two pictures simultaneously. One is a selfie, and one is what you're looking at.
The idea is that this is not Instagram. You are not staging lavish spectacles of, "Look at me in Ibiza. Look at me in Barcelona as I sip a $27 cocktail and look out at the beach." This is your actual boring-ass life.
What is beautiful about it is you feel like you're in touch with your friends in a way that you don't get as much with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Maybe your friends are playing with the dog, playing a game, or making soup. And that is what gives you that sense of connection you want from social media but haven't gotten in years.
I remember when Twitter first came out everybody was just like, "I'm eating breakfast right now, who cares?" Well I miss breakfast, and I do care if my friends are eating breakfast. I love my friends. So download BeReal, get a little circle of friends, and find out that they're making soup. — Stephen Thompson
More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter
by Linda Holmes
On Pop Culture Happy Hour, we talked a few weeks ago about the exceptionally good show This Is Going To Hurt, which stars Ben Whishaw as a struggling young OB/GYN in a National Health Service hospital in London. The episodes are all available now on AMC+ or Sundance Now, and I've had a few people reach out to me to say how impressed they've been with it and how glad they are that we helped guide them to it – while expressing frustration that because it's not on one of the bigger services, they don't have that many people to talk about it with. Which is all my way of saying: Grabbing one of those services, even for just a month, to binge this particular show might be as good an expenditure of your money as any movie ticket. I'm just saying.
It's a good time to catch up on some of the people who got Emmy nominations, as well as some of the people who made news for not getting them – because either way, it's work somebody likes. Can I recommend you catch up on some great shows and then their accompanying Pop Culture Happy Hour episodes, like maybe Severance, Reservation Dogs, Yellowjackets, Pachinko or Abbott Elementary?
I want you to know that the Before trilogy – Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight – are all currently available on the Criterion Channel, and I recommend them vigorously. If you like, you could even read the piece I wrote about them years ago.
NPR's Maison Tran 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.
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