What’s Making Us Happy: A guide to your weekend viewing, listening and gaming

By Ryan Mitchell, Linda Holmes, Stephen Thompson, and Daisy Rosario
Richard Gadd in Baby Reindeer on Netflix.
Richard Gadd in Baby Reindeer on Netflix.

This week, musicians pushed back about ticketing, TikTok was the subject of legislation, and Gatsby was on Broadway.

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

Baby Reindeer, on Netflix

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Baby Reindeer — Ryan Mitchell

The podcast Who Killed the Video Star: The Story of MTV

There is no Gen-X complaint more overdone than “they don’t play videos on MTV anymore.” So I didn’t think there was anything left to say about that, but that was before I started to listen to a podcast called Who Killed the Video Star: The Story of MTV. This podcast really gets into the history of MTV’s original model and its limitations. It goes through how originally, when they were not playing Black artists on MTV very much or at all, MTV’s response was: That’s not our format. The audience won’t respond to it. So then Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” comes out and they are completely wrong, and it’s the biggest thing in the history of MTV. The whole thing is hosted by former MTV VJ Dave Holmes (no relation) who has also been a panelist on Pop Culture Happy Hour. He just understands pop culture of my exact vintage in a way that very few people do. It is such a good show. —Linda Holmes

Chappell Roan’s Tiny Desk Concert

Last fall, pop singer Chappell Roan put out a record called The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess. It is joyful and funny and has beautiful, heartfelt ballads on it. I had the privilege of booking and producing her Tiny Desk concert — the set captures the range of her sound because it’s funny, it’s quiet, it’s warm, it’s silly. So what is making me happy is the massive, meteoric, heart-swellingly wonderful rise of Chappell Roan. —Stephen Thompson

Playing retro video games on an Anbernic console

I love retro gaming. So I bought the Anbernic RG35XX H. There are a lot of devices that are sold online that you can play a lot of old games on. But this one doesn’t require the amount of setup that a lot of those do. As someone who enjoys these games but doesn’t actually engage with them as often as I would like, I think I finally cracked the code — and the code was to get the right size device that has the right amount of power. It’s been a lot of fun. — Daisy Rosario

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Linda Holmes

I wrote four years ago about my love of simulator games, including Planet Zoo, which I was playing on a PC despite my general preference for console gaming, because that’s all there was. WELL. I am excited to tell you that Planet Zoo is now available for consoles (as of just a few weeks ago), and I am playing the heck out of it on my PS5. I love the orderliness of it, I love the cute little animals, and I love the part where I yell in my living room, “WHY ARE MY FLAMINGOS SO UNHAPPY?” The best. Real zoos may be controversial, but a conservation-oriented imaginary zoo is a delight. (Also out now: House Flipper 2, the new edition of my favorite game where you clean up and rehab houses.)

I’m a big fan of both Padma Lakshmi and writer Helen Rosner, so I unsurprisingly enthusiastically recommend this terrific profile in The New Yorker.

It’s rare these days to have much that’s good to say about the finances of a publication you treasure, but the surprise news that The Onion was sold to new owners who actually seem to like it was very heartening.


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.
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