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What's making us happy: A guide to your weekend reading, listening and viewing

Harriet Tubman, Joan of Arc and Frida Kahlo in the animated series <em>Clone High.</em>
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Harriet Tubman, Joan of Arc and Frida Kahlo in the animated series Clone High.

This week we looked at some art, found some summer reads, and did some Shiv Roy psychoanalysis.

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

Clone High

So [director-duo] Lord and Miller have an animated project, Clone High. If you were a teen in the late '90s, early 2000, you probably remember that weird show on MTV. The core idea of it is a scientist digs up a bunch of very famous people, clones them, and puts them in a high school as a way of like using all of their brainpower to make a better earth or something. But mostly it was just a comedy.

And in the remake, they were like, what if we compared a late '90s, early 2000s teenagers versus Gen Z teenagers. What if we put them in the same high school and had them try to figure out what does it mean – not just to be a teenager, but like, who do we want to be as people?

And they bring in people like Frida Kahlo and Harriet Tubman. And they're now the cool kids. And Cleopatra from the early 2000s is confused as to how these girls with body hair can be appreciated for who they are as people. And they have to deal with these things. And it's so brilliant. I had no idea what to expect. Bill Lawrence, who's also the showrunner for Ted Lasso and creator of Scrubs, partnered with Lord and Miller when they were very young and starting in the industry. So all of them had come back, brought their brains together to create the show, and it's just delightful. — Joelle Monique

ICYMI and the Thursday Murder Club mystery series

/ Penguin Random House
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Penguin Random House

I've got two things. ... I now have the great pleasure of working with former Pop Culture Happy Hour producer Candice Lim, as she is the new co-host on a show that I work with over at Slate, which is called ICYMI, In Case You Missed It. It's our show about Internet culture.

And then the other thing that I'm loving, and that I've really been enjoying, is a series of books called "Thursday Murder Club" by a British writer named Richard Osman. He is a quiz show TV presenter guy over there. He writes these cozy mysteries that are set in a retirement community. And they are so charming. They're about murder. They are a genuine treat to read. So if you like a good mystery but also want to laugh and go "aw," the "Thursday Murder Club" books by Richard Osman are definitely for you. -- Daisy Rosario

Mel Mitchell (aka TheBaddestMitch)

There is an entire genre of podcasts that has arisen in the last decade or so and become very, very popular ... They often feature a rapper who had like one hit maybe 20 years ago, and is now known for giving quote unquote relationship advice. It's really just caveman mentality about gendered roles and hetero relationships. ... And they're very popular and I hate them so much ... Which is why I love the comedian Mel who goes by @TheBaddestMitch on Tik-Tok and on Twitter.

She has this whole series of short videos called "Misogynistic Podcast Be Like." And what I love about this is that in any given clip, she's playing three different characters. There's that rapper host who has nothing but terrible things to say. Then there's the hype man who contributes nothing but like ad libs, things like "bro" and "that's crazy." And then there's the lone woman co-host who like co-signs on all the misogynistic junk that these guys are spewing.

I just love what she's been able to do because even in some cases, it's like parody. But then if you go and actually watch some of the actual podcasts she's like lifting for line. So it's sad, but also, I'm so glad that we have comedians like her who really like just calling it out and challenging it. -- Aisha Harris

Luke Combs' cover of Tracy Chapman's Fast Car

Tracy Chapman's Fast Car, I maintain, is maybe the best song ever written? And the country singer Luke Combs released a cover ... and the first time I heard it on the radio, I cocked an eye and sort of glared suspiciously. Why is Luke Combs covering Fast Car by Tracy Chapman? What gives you the right, etc.? But it's beautiful. It clearly, deeply respects the source material to the point where Luke Combs, who's a big guy with a beard and a guitar, does not change the line "So I work in a market as a checkout girl."

So I'm delighted to hear this song given the respect that it's due, available to new generations of people. Is it as good as having actual Tracy Chapman appear on Country radio? It is not. But the fact that people are rediscovering her, the fact that the song is so deeply respected makes me very, very happy. It made me dig out Tracy Chapman's brilliant 1988 self-titled debut and listen to it again for the 600,000th time. It made me very, very happy. -- Stephen Thompson

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Linda Holmes

This week, Vanity Fair published an excerpt from the upcoming book Burn It Down, by Maureen Ryan (who is a friend of mine), that details deeply upsetting allegations about the set of the much-loved show Lost.

We'll have an episode about Celine Song's wonderful film Past Lives next week, but if you're in a place where it's in theaters, I strongly recommend you go out and track it down.

Sometimes I like to offer a recommendation for something a bit outside my usual purview. This week, it's Merlin Bird ID, the app that I've been using to identify the many birds in my backyard. Forget AI — some of the most exciting uses of technology in my life are ways to borrow other people's hard-earned knowledge to enrich my own days.


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.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joelle Monique
Daisy Rosario
Aisha Harris is a host of Pop Culture Happy Hour.
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.)
Tilda Wilson

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