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

A <a href="" link-data="{"":{"_ref":"00000178-b770-d41c-a77c-f7f516b10000","_type":"ae3387cc-b875-31b7-b82d-63fd8d758c20"},"cms.content.publishDate":1718991492414,"cms.content.publishUser":{"_ref":"00000186-848c-da4d-ab86-cd9de8290000","_type":"6aa69ae1-35be-30dc-87e9-410da9e1cdcc"},"cms.content.updateDate":1718991492414,"cms.content.updateUser":{"_ref":"00000186-848c-da4d-ab86-cd9de8290000","_type":"6aa69ae1-35be-30dc-87e9-410da9e1cdcc"},"":[],"anchorable.showAnchor":false,"link":{"attributes":[],"":[],"linkText":"new article in Slate","target":"NEW","attachSourceUrl":false,"url":"","_id":"00000190-3be0-d2be-a396-fbec79c80001","_type":"ff658216-e70f-39d0-b660-bdfe57a5599a"},"_id":"00000190-3be0-d2be-a396-fbec79c80000","_type":"809caec9-30e2-3666-8b71-b32ddbffc288"}">new article in Slate</a> takes a closer look at Sabrina Carpenter's "Espresso" and the long-lost genre it represents. Above, Carpenter performs during the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California, on April 12, 2024.
Valerie Macon
AFP via Getty Images

This week, Justin Timberlake was arrested, Donald Sutherland left us and we found out about a Spaceballs ... sequel?

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

Jamtara, on Netflix

Jamtara is a Netflix crime drama set in rural India. It follows a few characters who become a part of this very elaborate phishing scam. It's kind of a villain story, but it's also very interesting to see how meticulously these things are planned. It's also a meditation on human nature — people who are knowledgeable, who are careful — they still fall for scams like this. — Bedatri D. Choudhury 


The movie Ghostlight is about a family that has suffered a tragedy — and the central characters are played by a real-life father, wife and daughter. In the film, the father is a construction worker who is trying to work through grief and he gets roped into a community theater production of Romeo & Juliet. All the amateur actors in the film are played by really seasoned Chicago professionals and are hilarious. It's a wonderfully comic film about tragedy, about how this family tragedy intersects with a Shakespeare tragedy. It’s a really interesting film, and I think the casting is what makes it so exceptional. — Bob Mondello

Sabrina Carpenter’s song 'Espresso' and Dan Charnas’ piece: 'The Musical History Lesson Buried Beneath the Song of the Summer'

There is a super nerdy and fascinating piece in Slate by Dan Charnas that is ostensibly about Sabrina Carpenter’s “Espresso,” but then also explores an entire genre that doesn't quite have a name. He's talking about the post-disco, roller-disco, synth funk era in the early ‘80s — like Carl Carlton's “She's a Bad Mama Jama” and Junior’s “Mama Used to Say” — and he's linking those songs to “Espresso” and how this song really encapsulates all those things. The story also taps into racism within the music industry: How we classify and describe certain musical styles, and also who gets to lead those genres? Who doesn't and who gets the commercial success? — Aisha Harris

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Linda Holmes

I very much enjoyed Ruth Ware's novel One Perfect Couple, the premise of which is basically that the filming of a Love Island-ish reality show is disrupted by a series of terrible events that eventually include deaths. (Dun!) It's a very clever thriller, and I genuinely didn't know where it was going. (Also from my recent reading list and not quite out yet: Liz Moore's God of the Woods, a fabulous sprawling mystery/thriller about a wicked wealthy family, a summer camp, and two disappearances years apart. It comes out in a couple of weeks, and if you preorder it now, you can gobble it up as soon as possible.)

The Netflix documentary Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution explores the history of queer comedy, and it's very, very good. Full of interviews with multiple generations of comics like Lily Tomlin, Scott Thompson, Marsha Warfield, Bob the Drag Queen, and Bruce Vilanch, it also happens to include several friends of PCHH, including Guy Branum, Dave Holmes, Joel Kim Booster and Shar Jossell. It is fascinating and joyful, as well as sometimes quite painful when it turns to the continuing popularity of transphobic jokes. Well worth your time, as is Elizabeth Blair's NPR story about it, featuring director Page Hurwitz.

Do you like quizzes? How about music? NPR's Throughline has a quiz about the origins of house music that might tickle you on a Friday.

NPR's Books We Love is always a highlight of the end of the year, but this year, we've got a mid-year peek at some of our staff and critics' favorite books of the year so far, in both fiction and nonfiction. (I contributed a few, as did PCHH producer Hafsa Fathima.)

Beth Novey adapted 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 2024 NPR

Bedatri D. Choudhury
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.
Aisha Harris is a host of Pop Culture Happy Hour.
Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.