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What's Making Us Happy: A Guide For Your Weekend Watching, Listening And Reading

Brad Simon (Adam Demos) and Billie Connelly (Sarah Shahi) in <em>Sex/Life</em> on Netflix.
Amanda Matlovich
Brad Simon (Adam Demos) and Billie Connelly (Sarah Shahi) in Sex/Life on Netflix.

It's been a hot week full of court documents and news drops. And now, we're ready for a calmer and cooler break with time to breathe. And fortunately, we've got recommendations for podcasts, binge-able television and good reading for your holiday weekend.

Sex/Life, Netflix

Netflix has a show called Sex/Life and the reason I am interested in it is that it is yet another example of Netflix's strange positioning in the streaming wars. It's sort of like if you took Fifty Shades of Grey but actually put sex in it, but then also overlaid a Lifetime movie on that. It has that feeling of softcore Showtime from the '80s. It's funny as hell, and campy, and silly ... and you know, they don't make movies like that anymore — your Sliversand your Basic Instincts — your sex thriller or your disaffected housewife infidelity film.

The '90s had a whole world of that and Netflix is weirdly jumping in that pool and maybe that's not such a bad thing. Maybe streaming is bringing back a diversity of programming — like all these little genres that kind of fell away under the Marvel steamroller. So I can't recommend Sex/Life, necessarily — but I'm happy that the streaming wars are still bringing us new things. I like that we're in that moment. – Audie Cornish

The Jean Smart Renaissance

What's making me happy is the Jean Smart-ification of HBO. The fact that she stars in the amazing comedyHacks. She's got a juicy, completely different role in the drama Mare of Easttown. She killed it in Watchmen. Jean Smart has been doing the work for decades. I was a fan back in the Designing Women days. She was incredible in the season of Fargo where she played the mother of a Jewish organized crime family. She is such a good actor with such a wide range. And right now she's everywhere and I'm thrilled about it. Give me more Jean Smart — comedy, drama, thriller. I don't care. All of it. I'll take it.

There is an amazing YouTube video in which the comedian Megan Stalter — who has a bit part in Hacks and is also having a moment — interviews all the members of the cast of Hacks and just bulldozes them and does her thing and there is a genius moment where she's interviewing Jean Smart and it becomes clear that she is confusing Jean Smart with Kim Cattrall from Sex in the City. And to see Jean Smart's reaction in the moment, it's perfect comedy. — Ari Shapiro

@jay.nedaj on Instagram

There's this guy named Jay Nedaj on Instagram. He has this cornucopia of wigs and outfits, and I came across this video he did where he was reenacting '90s girl group videos and all the tropes of those videos — the wind blowing the hair and the shifting, the posing they do in "Say My Name."

Lately he has been doing these great videos, to try and get the attention of Beyoncé. He is just taking clips from her various live performances and he's in his living room — sometimes his dog is in the background just being like, "What are you doing?" And he's just lip-syncing these moments.

It really just makes my heart warm. I love seeing all of the different outfits and the commitment. It's desperate and it's also just filled with so much love. I highly recommend if you're a Beyoncé fan and also love random parodies of Black movies and TV shows and Black music — followJay.nedaj. — Aisha Harris

New ways to discover music at and Arooj Aftab's album, Vulture Prince

NPR Music just launched a new blog calledNow Playingwhere you can get quick recommendations of new songs. We're trying to take the fire hydrant of new music and turn it into a fire hose of new music. I've been contributing to that — everybody at NPR Music has — and there's tons of great music there already.

We also just launched a package with the best music of the year so far,which gave me a chance to finally write about my favorite album of 2021 — Vulture Prince from Arooj Aftab. She was born in Pakistan, and is based in Brooklyn, and she's kind of reimagined South Asian music. She grew up listening to singers likeNusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and she creates these absolutely hypnotic and breathtaking songs. I have been marinating in this album for days, and days, and days now. – Stephen Thompson

And a couple more bonus picks from Linda Holmes:

The Plot Thickens podcast, with Julie Salamon
Julie Salamon's book The Devil's Candy, about the making of the movie The Bonfire of the Vanities, is a favorite of mine. I was delighted to hear that Salamon herself was making and narrating a new season of the Turner Classic Movies podcast The Plot Thickens, which tells the story in podcast form. The first episode is entertaining — and just as juicy as the book.

@Ryan_Ken_Acts on Twitter
One of my favorite recent Twitter follows is Ryan Ken, a master of the "looks easy to get right, is actually hard to get right" captioned video comedy format. Their stuff is often not just funny, but provocative and insightful.

All That Glitters, HBO MaxLast weekend, I binge-watched the HBO Max (originally BBC) show All That Glitters, which is meant to be the jewelry-making equivalent of The Great British Baking Show or The Great Pottery Throw Down or the glass-blowing show Blown Away. While it didn't thrill me quite as much as some comparable programs do, it was a very enjoyable afternoon of viewing, and I know a lot more about bracelets than I used to.

"John Benjamin Hickey Is Still Figuring Out What It Means to Be an 'Elder' " by Dave Holmes, Esquire
The terrific actor John Benjamin Hickey talked to the terrific writer Dave Holmes for Esquire about getting older as a gay man, and their conversation is a great read.

There's more where this came from! Five days a week, Pop Culture Happy Hour serves you recommendations and commentary on the buzziest movies, TV, music, books, videogames and more. Subscribe here >>

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Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
Over two decades of journalism, Audie Cornish has become a recognized and trusted voice on the airwaves as co-host of NPR's flagship news program, All Things Considered.
Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)
Aisha Harris is a host of Pop Culture Happy Hour.