Pop Culture Happy Hour hosts share what’s bringing them joy : NPR


Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy in the film The Menu.

Eric Zachanowich/Searchlight Pictures


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Eric Zachanowich/Searchlight Pictures


Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy in the film The Menu.

Eric Zachanowich/Searchlight Pictures

This week, we looked back on the lives of two greats, a soccer star and a punk princess, we learned how to keep our house clean (enough) and we made a list of resolutions for the new year.

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

The Menu

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The Menu is a little film we didn’t get around to covering this year, but man, I love it. It’s about a bunch of people who go to a very exclusive restaurant on a private island where the chef, played by Ralph Fiennes, serves them a meal they will never forget. This is just a nasty piece of work. Don’t watch the trailer. Never watch the trailer. But if you’ve seen the trailer, you might have some sense of what’s going to happen and you might think, well, that’s just the one thing. How can they keep that going? They keep it going. It is so smartly written. It is well-structured. It builds, it takes you out, it dangles revelations and then pays them off beautifully. It’s funny. It’s dark. Watch it with your most obnoxious foodie friend and you’ll enjoy the hell out of it, even if they might not. If you still can’t catch it in theaters, it is coming out on streaming services Jan. 3 and Blu-ray DVD on Jan. 17. — Glenn Weldon

Kim Hale

Kim Hale is a dancer, teacher, choreographer who I first discovered when some celebrity — it might have been Viola Davis — shared an Instagram video of her dancing to a song by Crime Mob called “Rock Yo Hips.” She is in her 50s. She’s a white lady and her dancing to this very Southern hip hop is jarring, but she is so effervescent and so happy. It led me to her Instagram page, which is just her dancing. She is just a delight. I love her. She is someone who has appeared on Ellen and lots of late night shows. She’s been an assistant choreographer for Debbie Allen. She was actually the assistant choreographer for Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square.

I encourage everyone to go find her on Instagram @mskimhale. She just has so much joy. And I love the fact that she’s in her 50s and is having this moment where she used to be a ballet dancer, apparently lost a little bit of her love for dance at some point and then found it again, going viral on Instagram. She’s a great dancer. But she also just what I love about it is her effervescence and how happy she seems to be dancing all the time. – Aisha Harris

“Girlfriend” by Matthew Sweet

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I’ve been talking about making mixes of ’90s music for my 18-year-old daughter. We recently went on a family road trip and pulled out some of those mixes and we hit the song “Girlfriend” by Matthew Sweet. This song from the album Girlfriend from 1991 is one of my favorite songs of the ’90s. This album is one of my favorite albums of the ’90s. My family did something that a lot of people in my position don’t get to experience, which is my family flipped out about how great this song is and started asking me questions.

“Grandpa, tell me about the good old days. Talk to me about Matthew Sweet. And do people know this album? Do people understand how great this album is?” And I got to be like, “Oh, well, you know, for people of a certain age, Matthew Sweet was quite a songster anyway.”

Hearing my family revel in their discovery of Matthew Sweet’s Girlfriend was a great kind of joy for me, and it made me think for a moment. People who listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour aren’t all 50-year-old rock critics, and maybe they haven’t heard Girlfriend by Matthew Sweet. New people are born every day. I cannot recommend to you enough pulling this album out, rediscovering if you already knew it or discovering if you didn’t. An album that is absolutely 100% perfect, timeless, ageless piece of power pop music. And all of a sudden, everybody, my family’s into Matthew Sweet. What could be better? – Stephen Thompson

Drink Masters

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Drink Masterson Netflix, is sort of like Top Chef for bartenders and mixologists. When I started this, I was a little bit suspicious just because I don’t know nearly as much about cocktail making as I do about cooking. And so I was afraid I was going to be completely lost – and I often was completely lost. Anyone who knows anything about cocktails knows more than me. I went to Twitter at one point and I was like, “This guy just made a thing with artichoke liqueur. Is that a thing?” And people are like, “Yes, absolutely. It’s very good. Here are the 18 ways that you can enjoy artichoke liqueur.”

But the idea – as you would imagine from something like that Top Chef — is that mixologists are assigned to make some sort of interesting cocktail. Part of what I enjoyed about it was I just have no idea what’s good. I did find it fascinating to enter a world in which there are all kinds of assumptions and traditions and things that kind of like everybody knows. And then you’re like, “Oh, I never heard of that in my entire life.” And so it made me curious about cocktails. It made me curious about nonalcoholic cocktails. It made me curious about a great many things.

There is also just a bit of absurd excess that can come into play when you’re talking about these sort of massive setups where you’re supposed to drink this and touch this and bite that and, it’s not your basic tequila shot, it’s more involved than that. There is a hint of absurdity that still respects the deep knowledge and capabilities of the people who are involved. It’s hosted by Tone Bell, who is a really affable, sort of a dude. I liked the contestants for the most part, and it really made me appreciate, obviously, everybody that I’ve ever gone to a bar and been like, I really liked that cocktail that that person made. It made me be like, OK, now I understand a little bit more of what’s going on there and what’s going on when you walk into a bar and it actually has like an interesting, carefully curated cocktail list. So Drink Masters Netflix goes down easy, like a good cocktail. – Linda Holmes

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Linda Holmes


Pink book cover with graphic of women with blue sunglasses and red nails pulling up a turtleneck.  Title in black and red bold font.
Pink book cover with graphic of women with blue sunglasses and red nails pulling up a turtleneck.  Title in black and red bold font.

I recently finished the audiobook of the crime comedy novel Finlay Donovan Is Killing It, by Elle Cosimano. It’s about a woman who is badly misunderstood at a Panera and winds up having to decide whether to become a hired killer. But it’s funny! I promise. It’s also the beginning of a series, the latest book of which is expected in 2023.

Lots of good stuff over at NPR to read or hear: Eric Deggans wrote about bad media trends of 2022; the NPR One team came up with some recommended podcasts to binge; a wrap-up of some of the culture desk’s favorite stories of the year and a look back at the really terrific “I’m Really Into” series that brought people’s hobbies and fascinations to the forefront.

NPR’s Pilar Galvan adapted the Pop Culture Happy Hour segment “What’s Making Us Happy” into a digital page. If you like these suggestions, consider sign up for our newsletter to get recommendations every week. And listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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