What's making us happy: A guide to your weekend reading, 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.
Fake Doctors, Real Friends
I'm coordinating my first live show for one of my podcasts. The show is calledFake Doctors Real Friendswith Zach Braff and Donald Faison. So they're real-life besties, you may know them from the show Scrubs. They've been doing a podcast since the pandemic. We started, I think, May of 2020. And we recap Scrubs. So when we do the live show in Seattle, we're going to recap the musical episode of Scrubs, one of the most popular amongst fans. We're, fingers crossed, going to get to watch it with a live audience, so we'll react with them. And then we'll do a full recap of it. So it's going to be fun. There may be some surprise guests. ... I hope people come outand it's a great show and maybe we get to do some more.
- Joelle Monique
This comedy on Peacock starring Pete Davidson playing himself — it's like a Gen Z version of Curb Your Enthusiasm, set in Staten Island. And Pete Davidson is playing Pete Davidson, living in the basement of his mother's home like he did. And on the surface, it's really knuckle-headed comedy. But when you watch a few of the episodes ... he himself is kind of astonished at this life that he's living, and he's trying to figure out why he's lonely, why he's angry, why his life doesn't fit together, and why the public seems to hate on him so much.
Joe Pesci is wonderful as his grandfather, Edie Falco is wonderful as his mother. Bobby Cannavale and Brad Garrett play his relatives. They're really great, too. I was surprised by how much I like this show.
- Eric Deggans
Unicorn: Warriors Eternal
Unicorn: Warrior's Eternal is a new animated series from Genndy Tartakovsky, who did Dexter's Laboratory and Samurai Jack and Primal. The show is about three immortal spirits who, whenever an ancient evil returns, inhabit and transform the bodies of some normal people to fight against it. This time out, the evil arises in a kind of alt universe, steampunk London, and something goes wrong. And this time, the three warrior spirits, which are a sorceress, a monk and a knight, end up inhabiting the bodies of kids and teenagers for some reason. And as a result, they are ... wait for it ... not in control of their powers. Yada, yada, yada. Metaphor, adolescence, metaphor, blah.
But the show parcels out the relationships between the characters, and you get some interesting twists and connections as the show progresses. If you know Tartakovsky's work, you know that this guy designs worlds you just want to live in. This time out, he's riffing on old-school animation, classic Disney. Max Fleischer. There's some Betty Boop, some Felix the Cat, a little Asterix in there. Episodes premiere on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block, but will end up streaming on HBO Max the next day.
Ranking 'Weird Al' Yankovic's Songs on NPR Music
I have spent the last several weeks listening to every song ever released by Weird Al Yankovic, so that I could put together a 5,600 word omnibus ranking of the 40 greatest Weird Al Yankovic songs for NPR Music's website. The news peg that we're hanging this on is the 40th anniversary of the release of Weird Al Yankovic's self-titled debut album. If you've got, I don't know, what did it take? About 12 hours to listen to every single song he's released? He has 14 studio albums, plus an album of rarities that's on a box set, and a few other kind of stray singles here and there.
It is really interesting to go back and listen to everything he has ever released in chronological order and hear the way that he has evolved as a satirist, as a songwriter, as a performer, how his band has evolved into this incredible Swiss Army knife that can reproduce any sound. It is a really fascinating bit of cultural archaeology, and you will get such a snapshot of popular music for the last 40 years. Please justify the time that I spent researching and writing it. ... I'm so happy with it.
- Stephen Thompson
More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter
by Linda Holmes
I definitely recommend keeping up with all the funny writers' strike picket signs, which may tide you over while you're waiting for writers to start working again. Speaking of the strike, you can get a solid explainer from the writers' perspective from this piece from Josh Gondelman.
Sometimes, I feel like if something wildly catchy is stuck in my head, the only way to get it out is to share it with you. So I am going to share with you this song called "Big Stretch," from the creator of the Instagram feed "puppysongs." Do I sing it to my dog now? I do. Do I also sing it while brushing my teeth, making coffee, starting the car, and immediately upon waking? I do. And I hope now you do, too. (You may have heard his song "Cheese Tax," but I find "Big Stretch" even more compelling.)
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.
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