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Commercial Break

Oct 28, 2016

Refill the popcorn bowl and settle in: Jonathan Coulton and They Might Be Giants alter classic TV theme songs to be about more recent series. Then New Yorker critic Emily Nussbaum tells Ophira Eisenberg what it's like to get paid to watch TV (spoiler: it's awesome) before leading a game featuring excerpts from her own reviews. Heard on TV Favorites Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: It's almost unfair to talk to comedian Tracey Ullman...

Opening Credits

Oct 28, 2016

Sit back and relax as we revisit "Spin-offs," a mash-up game featuring *brilliant* spin-off pitches for popular TV shows, and "You Call That An Ending?", a game examining questionable TV series finales. Heard on TV Favorites Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: It's almost unfair to talk to comedian Tracey Ullman on the radio. She's best known for her spot-on impersonations in which she doesn't just sound like - she also looks like -...

Cliffhanger Ending

Oct 28, 2016

First, enjoy an all-new game with a phone contestant whose knowledge of popular TV characters is put to the test. Then, we hear terrible 80s TV plots, and are reminded Who's The (TV) Boss. You might want to readjust your recliner for this one. Heard on TV Favorites Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: It's almost unfair to talk to comedian Tracey Ullman on the radio. She's best known for her spot-on impersonations in which she doesn't...

As you read this, we at Pop Culture Happy Hour are preparing for our final west coast stop at the Now Hear This podcast festival in Anaheim on Saturday, October 29, after the four shows we recently did in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles. We had an enormous amount of fun with our fourth chairs: Audie Cornish in Seattle and Portland, Mallory Ortberg in San Francisco, and Kumail Nanjiani in L.A. And this week, we're bringing you a mix of two segments from those shows. First up,...

Artist Ragnar Kjartansson stands surrounded by women in gold strapless gowns. One by one, the women climb onto a slowly rotating pedestal to practice their performance: strumming an E minor chord on a golden guitar for two and a half hours. The group is rehearsing in a cavernous gallery at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. The piece, Woman in E , is a new-ish work by Kjartansson, one of the art world's biggest stars.
"It's so ridiculously simple," he...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. KELLY MCEVERS, HOST: If you talk to cops about people's reaction to videos of police shootings, they say people just don't understand how policing really works. And the reason, they say, is that most of what people know about policing comes from movies, books and TV. ALYSSA ROSENBERG: "Dragnet," "The Untouchables," "The Andy Griffith Show," "The Mod Squad," "Hawaii Five-0..." MCEVERS: Washington Post columnist Alyssa Rosenberg took a...

It might seem that Dan Brown takes his art-history/conspiracy thrillers very seriously. Yet there's one clue, hidden in plain sight, that he doesn't: He keeps letting director Ron Howard turn them into silly movies. Maybe it's Howard or producer Brian Grazer who's nervous about the moderately subversive elements in Brown's cleverly plotted, clunkily written novels. Or perhaps it's star Tom Hanks, the usually gung-ho actor who plays Brown's hero, Harvard professor Robert Langdon, with an...

Iggy Pop cares very deeply about things that are cool. This is clear throughout Gimme Danger , the new documentary about the legendary rock band The Stooges, just based on the choices their wild, writhing, frequently shirtless frontman makes at every stage of his career: jumping into the crowd during his shows, squatting in a house in Detroit after the 1967 riots, taking advantage of a post-breakup contract with David Bowie to reunite the band on someone else's dime. But his love of...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: Long before there was "Transparent" or "Modern Family," there was "Falsettos," a frank, funny musical about a Jewish New Yorker who leaves his wife and son for a man. This causes big reverberations in his family. The show, parts of which are 35 years old, is getting a revival on Broadway. Jeff Lunden has this report on how well it's held up, but first a note - you'll hear slang from the '80s which some consider...

As the host of the Peabody Award-winning series Parts Unknown, Anthony Bourdain has visited conflict zones like Beirut, Congo, Gaza and Libya — places his CNN colleagues routinely cover. But Bourdain is clear that he doesn't want to be mistaken for a journalist. "Journalists drop into a situation, ask a question, and people sort of tighten up," he tells Fresh Air 's Dave Davies. "Whereas if you sit down with people and just say, 'Hey what makes...

I think often about cities and the stories we tell about them. Some cities are gravity wells of story: The more we read about them, the more we write about them. London, New York, Paris, Los Angeles — these places are so often movie sets, so often represented in novels and songs, that people are drawn to visit, photograph, and write about them in turn. We form relationships with these cities: just as we pave their streets with layers of history and names out of books, so do images of them...

Gruel, glop, cooked mush. The English language has been less than kind in describing porridge. Which seems a tad ungrateful, really, considering that grains cooked in water or milk fed our earliest civilizations. But now, this stalwart dish is staging a culinary comeback. Think steaming, cumin-scented millet topped with coarsely grated Gruyere cheese. Buckwheat cooked in coconut milk, with buttered dates and cinnamon. Teff polenta garlanded with diced dandelion greens and freshly grated...

Amazon's new 10-part series Good Girls Revolt was inspired by a landmark 1970 case involving a group of women working at Newsweek magazine who sued their employers for gender discrimination. At the show's fictitious News of the Week magazine, women begin to rise up, too. As the Vietnam War, the counterculture, civil rights and the Black Panthers make headlines, the hierarchy of the newsroom is clear: the men are reporters, the women are researchers. As one female...

Imagine: the chance to live on an uninhabited tropical island for a month, off the grid, creating art. No phone, no television, no Internet. Instead, spectacular night skies, crystalline turquoise waters and extraordinary marine life on the coral reef just a short swim from your back door. For one month a year, Dry Tortugas National Park is home to a pair of artists in residence . The park is made up of seven islands in the Gulf of Mexico , 70 miles from Key West, Fla., accessible only by...

This week, Alt.Latino takes a literary turn as we explore the world of Latino noir. Good guys, bad guys and cops who are both; murder, intrigue and gallows humor; highly stylized writing — it's all there, as with any noir fiction. But these books and stories are written by Latinx authors. Our guide through this wonderful world of crime fiction is writer Carmen Amato. She's the author of a thrilling series featuring a detective named Emilia Cruz, the first female detective on the...

What The Real Witches Of America Eat

Oct 26, 2016

What do witches eat? If you're thinking of blood and feathers and cauldrons bubbling with eye of newt and toe of frog, you couldn't be more off-menu. The correct, and disappointingly dull, answer is pizza, bread, fruit, nuts, granola bars, Cornish hens, Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks coffee, leg of lamb, beer, cheese, Merlot, frozen cheesecake and other supermarket comestibles. The banal diet of the neighborhood witch is one of several stereotype-busting nuggets to be found in Alex Mar's book

I Shall Faint: 'Unmentionable' Unpacks Victorian Womanhood

Oct 26, 2016

Victorian manners occupy a space both sublimely funny and quietly horrific. With deeply specific and often counter-intuitive advice, Victorian pundits attempted to establish class markers and prescribe "acceptable" behavior that tended to come down harder on women than on men. How specific and stifling? When at a dinner party, a lady eyeing the dessert course would have to hope a man was willing to cut her pear for her, as she was implicitly discouraged from doing it herself. In theory, such...

After a bruising career in the rough and tumble NHL, who could blame a guy for wanting to take it easy? At age 55, Wayne Gretzky is still playing charity games with other old timers, but "I'm getting older and slower," he says with a laugh. Sports are not just about numbers, but the numbers Gretzky put up in his two decades in the NHL are astonishing. He holds 61 different records, including: most goals in a season, most assists in a season, most goals in the playoffs, and — to top it all off...

We keep hearing that this election is like no other, but when I watch old movies, I often hear echoes of what's going on in the campaign. The guy who opines in A Face in the Crowd (1957), say, that in the then-new age of television, "instead of long-winded public debates, people want capsule slogans." Though the stellar ratings for this year's presidential debates suggest that people are actually looking for a little long-windedness these days, his thoughts on sloganeering still...

Book Review: 'Garden Time,' W.S. Merwin

Oct 25, 2016

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: We keep hearing that this election is like no other. But is that really true? Listen to this from the 1957 movie "A Face In The Crowd." (SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A FACE IN THE CROWD") PERCY WARAM: (As General Haynesworth) Politics have entered a new stage, the television stage. Instead of long-winded public debates, the people want capsule slogans. Time for a change. SIEGEL: Six decades later, what was true at the...

In the early '90s, the highly publicized Biosphere 2 project in Arizona ignited the nation's imagination. Its attempt to create a hermetically sealed environment — something that might be found on another planet, should the human race make it that far — was beset by problems, and after two missions, it was abandoned. Biosphere left the world with some big questions: Was it a noble attempt at adapting Homo sapiens to an uncertain future? Or was it a flawed, hubristic media stunt? Furthermore,...

Lipton tea can be found in almost any grocery store, and the brand is just about synonymous with industrial Big Tea. So tea enthusiasts who sniff at the familiar square bags might be surprised that once upon a time, Lipton was known as the "farm to table" of the tea world. In fact, it was sold with the catchy slogan "direct from tea garden to tea pot." So how did Thomas Lipton build this tea empire? Lipton was already a self-made millionaire before he ever entered the tea trade. He was the...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: It's a big day for Christopher Marlowe, who unfortunately cannot enjoy it, having been dead since 1593. The Elizabethan playwright will get credit from Oxford University Press as co-author of three histories, "Henry VI, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3." Until now, those plays have been credited solely to William Shakespeare. Joining us to explain this decision is Gary Taylor, who's one of the general editors of "The...

(It should almost go without saying; there are going to be some serious spoilers in this piece about Sunday's pivotal, bruising episode of The Walking Dead .) They finally did it. I'm not talking about the decision by producers of The Walking Dead to kill two important characters in Sunday's gut-wrenching episode. Fans knew since the cliffhanger ending of season six back in April that super-psycho bad guy Negan was going to beat someone they cared about...

Remembering Steve Dillon, Co-Creator Of 'Preacher'

Oct 24, 2016

Making comics for adults — not stolid, "highbrow" comics, but explosive, shocking comics that tickle grownup palates — is a challenge for many creators, but it's one that artist Steve Dillon embraced with gusto. Dillon, known for his work on such pathbreaking titles as DC Comics/Vertigo's Preacher , died this weekend in New York City at the age of 54. His passing was confirmed on Twitter Saturday by his brother, fellow artist Glyn Dillon, who wrote, "Sad to confirm the death of Steve...

Comic Chris Gethard knows what it's like to feel hopeless and alone. He tells Fresh Air 's Terry Gross that he has experienced depression so severe that it led to suicidal thoughts. "I didn't like who I was," he says. "I spent a lot of my life regretting who I was, which is a sad thing to say." Gethard relives some of his darkest moments in the one-man show, Career Suicide , which is billed as "a new comedy about suicide, depression, alcoholism, and all the other funniest...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3N0FY-fe_hA When scientists recently announced that they had discovered a new planet orbiting our closest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centuri, they also released an artist's conception of the planet. The picture of a craggy canyon, illuminated by a reddish-orange sunset, looked like an image that could have been taken on Mars by one of NASA's rovers. But the alien scene was actually completely made-up. It's part of an ever-increasing gallery of images depicting...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. MICHEL MARTIN, HOST: We're going to hear about another location in the ongoing migrant crisis through a new documentary called "Fire At Sea." The film focuses on the Italian island of Lampedusa, which sits in the middle of the Mediterranean between Sicily and the coast of North Africa. The island has been a landing point for migrants from countries from Syria to Nigeria to the Ivory Coast. Here's a clip from the film. It's a distress...

Your reaction to the following words will probably determine whether this book is for you. If your heart speeds up and you find yourself making grabby hands at the screen, maybe hopping in your chair muttering, "Give it to me now ," I'm happy to tell you this book is available and worth your time to read once, possibly twice. Here are the words in question: "Gender-flipped Sherlock Holmes." Still here? Excellent. You want to read this book. You want to reserve at least a few hours of...

From Pamplona, With Love: 'The Sun Also' Turns 90

Oct 22, 2016

Ernest Hemingway, like all writers, means different things to different people. To some, he represents a hunting, drinking, smoking, womanizing machismo that is offputting — to say the least. To my high-school mind, he was just some old white guy going on about a crusty fisherman desperate to snag a marlin — though Ms. Fredericks, my English teacher, had forced us to read The Old Man and the Sea, I didn't come to appreciate it, nor any of Hemingway's books, until much later. But in...

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