Pop Culture Happy Hour Hosts Share What Brings Them Joy: NPR
This week we caught up with Punxsutawney Phil, revisited childhood friendships, and were inspired by new YA books about identity and overcoming hardship.
Here’s what NPR’s pop culture happy hour team was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.
The last of us
What makes me happy is this new HBO series called The last of us. I don’t play video games anymore, but at the time I was a big fan of video games. It was one of the last games I played and I remember being really moved by the story. I think that’s one of the great stories in a video game. There’s this idea that video game adaptations are awful and can’t be done.
The series is now in its third episode and is created by the creator of the miniseries Chernobyl. It is also co-created by the game creator himself. I think they just made a very strong and moving series so far.
It’s a post-apocalyptic story. This fungus, which is based on reality, usually infects ants and things. It mutates and infects humans and devastates the world. Only a few survivors remain. I think a lot of apocalyptic or dystopian dramas revel in the societal decay and brutality that an apocalypse would bring. I think this show takes another route. There’s not a lot of violence. I think it focuses on: “What are we left with morally at the end of the world?” The last episode had this really wonderful love story between these two men. It’s one of the happiest episodes of dystopia I’ve ever seen, and it’s the biggest departure from the game so far – I think it’s a really successful departure. So far, the show is all about the things we choose to cling to and the lives we choose to create for ourselves, even when there’s not much left.
The Looney Tunes Show
I always watch cartoons. It’s kind of like one of my stuff, but it made me think, “What are some cartoons that an adult can watch and enjoy that does really smart things, like punch above their weight?” One of those shows that I think a lot of people have missed is The Looney Tunes Show. It aired on Cartoon Network for a few years. I think the problem with this show is that it didn’t really find its audience, because it aired on Cartoon Network for kids.
But when you watch it, it’s like a sitcom with Bugs and Daffy as roommates. All the other characters are like their neighbors or friends, and it’s really almost like Seinfeld. Many jokes are just jokes that an adult would enjoy.
I’ve always loved the show…and just went back to it because it does so many things you wouldn’t expect with a kids show and it’s not rated R. I have l It feels like adult cartoons lean into hotness, but you don’t have to be hot to be funny. I don’t mind being hot, but hot for hot doesn’t work for me. Kristen Wiig played Lola Bunny. I feel like with shows that can appeal to adults, you don’t even have to be that mean, you can just be funny. I watch it on the Boomerang app.
— Ayesha Rascoe
ice cream vendors
Oscar-nominated animated shorts, as they always are, are very mixed. My favorite is ice cream vendors by Joao Gonzalez. This is an entirely wordless animated short about a man and his son who live in a house literally on the side of a cliff high above a town. They do business with the city. In a weird way, it’s beautiful. If you’re afraid of heights it can be unnerving, but it’s so easy, delightfully beautiful and warm in a weird way and sneaks up on you. The ending might not hit you. The end fell on me. I was surprised that was the case. You can find ice cream vendors on YouTube or also on the new yorkerselection site.
More Recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour Newsletter
by Linda Holmes
You may know Jen Agg from her restaurants, her food reviews or her book, I heard she’s a real female dog. But she wrote really beautifully this week about her experience as a caregiver and spouse after her husband had a stroke early in the COVID outbreak.
If you don’t listen to the If books could kill podcast, which is a version of terrible airport books over the years and hosted by Michael Hobbes (also from Maintenance phase) and Peter Shamshiri (also from 5-4), I really recommend it. Yes, it’s a great, feisty takedown of all sorts of pseudoscientific nonsense, but I also laughed and laughed listening to them. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. In particular, they look at how John Gray was writing about his own issues with women, and it’s really, really funny.
Conversations about opinion columns are often unproductive, and I was fascinated by this effort to combat a recent New York Times op-ed by truly writing the note one would write as an editor. It might not be as satisfying as a wild takedown in the typical sense, but at least it’s something new.
NPR’s Teresa Xie adapted the Pop Culture Happy Hour segment “What’s Making Us Happy” into a digital page. If you like these suggestions, consider subscribe to our newsletter for recommendations each week. And listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour on Apple podcast and Spotify.