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What's Making Us Happy: A guide to your weekend viewing and listening

Thuso Mbedu as Cora Randall in <em>The Underground Railroad.</em>
Kyle Kaplan
Amazon Studios
Thuso Mbedu as Cora Randall in The Underground Railroad.

This week, we got 20 new entries in the genus "Genius," we got yet another list of Best Things, and your social media was flooded with images taken inside a giant golf ball on molly.

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

How It's Made, streaming on Tubi

Lately, I've been falling asleep to shows on Tubi and I think the greatest show of all time — and nobody's talking about it anymore — is How It's Made. It's a 2001 documentary series that explains how items you use everyday are created and manufactured. Perfect, smooth brain content. It doesn't overdo it on the narration. It lets you sit in these things and watch them happen. It's perfect to fall asleep to. — Reanna Cruz

The Underground Railroad, streaming on Prime Video

Underground Railroadcame a little too late — it came after a number of more sensationalized depictions of Black suffering and pain — Them and Lovecraft Countryand Antebellum. There was a fatigue with works that dealt in that matter. I would hope that people would give this show a chance because it is not just about the suffering. There's so much humanity and beauty in this show that Barry Jenkins has created.

When I watch the show, I think of William Faulkner. I think of Alice in Wonderland. I think of sculptor Elizabeth Catlett. I think of filmmakers like Wong Kar-wai. It feels like Barry Jenkins is really in communion with the past and with the ancestors in a way that is just so beautiful. Give Underground Railroad a chance. It is unlike any show on television. Marc Rivers

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Omar Apollo's new EP, Live For Me, and the song "Ice Slippin"

The singer-songwriter Omar Apollo has a new EP out called Live for Me. Omar Apollo has been kicking around for a few years. He started out as kind of a SoundCloud artist, recorded these songs from his bedroom in Hobart, Ind., and is now becoming this multi-genre superstar. If you haven't seen his Tiny Desk concert, I really, really recommend it — he comes out with an 11-piece band and brings in all of these different genres in beautiful ways.

There's a song on this EP called "Ice Slippin." It is so beautiful and sad and dark — but sweet. It's about the experience of coming out to his family and not getting the feedback that he wants and deserves. I'm loving watching this kid become a superstar. — Stephen Thompson

The Americans, streaming on Hulu

This week finally, at long last, I began watching The Americans -- the series about two KGB spies (played by Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) living in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. I was working at Vulture in the peak of that show, and I managed to avoid every. single. spoiler. about it. I'm going in totally blank. — Jordan Crucchiola

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter (the Edgar Allan Poe edition)

by Glen Weldon

Lookit, Linda's on vacation and I'm writing the newsletter so all the recommendations this week are gonna be Edgar Allan Poe-related. Viva la Poeissance! First up: Mike Flanagan isn't the first creator to use Poe's work as a jumping-off point. There's a slew of Roger Corman films starring Vincent Price you can find streaming that deliver Poe-y chills on a budget: The Pit and the Pendulum (on PlutoTV), The Tomb of Ligeia (on Vudu), Tales of Terror (on PlutoTV), the weirdly gorgeous The Masque of the Red Death (on PlutoTV) and my personal favorite, The Raven (on Prime), which is the campiest of them all, featuring Price, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff as a trio of queer-coded wizards bickering with each other. Think Edgar Allan Poe: Untucked.

Austria's entry in this year's Eurovision Song Contest was "Who the Hell is Edgar?," a total banger sung from the point of view of someone possessed by Edgar Allan Poe's spirit, which causes them to crank out hit tunes like ... "Who the Hell is Edgar?" Key lyric: "Poe, Poe, Poe, Poe, Poe/Poe, Poe, Poe, Poe, Poe/Poe, Poe, Poe, Poe, Poe/Edgar Allen, Edgar Allen/(repeat)." It came in 15th.

Lots of the world's most gifted thespians have read Poe's "The Raven," over the years. Christopher Lee. Vincent Price. James Earl Jones. Basil Rathbone. But The Simpsons tackled it in the very first Treehouse of Horror episode (Season 2, Episode 3), and you haven't lived until you've heard the spin Homer Simpson (Dan Castellaneta) puts on "QUAFF, OH QUAFF THIS KIND NEPENTHE AND FORGET THIS LOST LENORE!"

Remember Poe? Her 1995 debut album featured several charting singles, including "Angry Johnny" and the title track "Hello." "Hello" holds up, gotta say! Musically at least. Lyrically, it holds up as well as any song that includes the line, "I'm cut off ... like a disconnected modem" could reasonably be expected to.

Beth Noveyadapted the Pop Culture Happy Hour segment "What's Making Us Happy" for the Web. 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.

Reanna Cruz
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Jordan Crucchiola
Marc Rivers
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Stephen Thompson
Stephen Thompson is a host, writer and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist and guest host on All Songs Considered. Thompson also co-hosts the daily NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created with NPR's Linda Holmes in 2010. 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.)
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