This week, Germany returned looted artifacts to Nigeria, we looked back on the weird, wild and wonderful stories you may have missed, and we learned how to be better movie watchers according to film critics.
Here’s what the NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.
Blamo! podcast, Avery Trufelman episode
I listen to this podcast called Blamo! It’s a fashion podcast that is hosted by this guy named Jeremy Kirkland. There was a recent episode that featured Avery Trufelman. She does the Articles of Interest podcast that just dropped a whole season about “prep” and “ivy.” But on this appearance, they started talking about fashion and clothes and how dumb it is to enjoy all these things — something I’ve been thinking a lot about. It’s been interesting to see other people kind of struggle with caring about something that is important — I’m not out here trying to say that shirts aren’t important, because I think a lot about different kinds of shirts all the time. But thinking about that stuff in context with what is happening around you in the world is always interesting to me. —Andrew Limbong
Paris Is Burning, streaming on HBO Max
My partner and I have belatedly, very belatedly, started digging into the treasure trove of RuPaul’s Drag Race. We’re falling in love with new people, getting irritated with new people, diving into this whole new wing of reality TV competition.
And along the way, to get better perspective on the show, I finally sat down for the first time to watch Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary, Paris Is Burning, which is, of course, a massive cultural touchstone, it influenced Madonna’s “Vogue” and Pose, a show I really love, and obviously had a great impact on drag race. It’s a really touching, and sad, and fascinating film. It’s exploring the ’80s, New York City drag balls and the characters who occupy this world. It’s sad, because of the fate of so many of the people in this movie. Only a small handful of people featured in this film are still alive. But there’s also just such joy and credibility. …
If you’re loving RuPaul’s Drag Race, if you’re really celebrating drag culture, as I know our colleague Glen Weldon has been way ahead of me talking about this on the show for years, and years, and years. This film is really worth catching up on if you have somehow missed it. You can still, at least for the moment, find it on HBO Max and other streaming services. And it’s great. Where have I been for the last 32 years? — Stephen Thompson
Sheryl Lee Ralph’s Christmas album, Sleigh.
I enjoy Christmas music a lot. I’m always on the lookout for new Christmas music to enjoy — and, it’s hard out there. There’s not a lot of new, new Christmas music being made. I prefer the ones that are a little bit on the sillier, or fun, and not so staid Starbucks-coffee-shop-versions of holiday albums. And luckily for us, Sheryl Lee Ralph of Abbott Elementary and many, many other things before that, has blessed us with a holiday album called Sleigh and slay she does.
This album is actually kind of in the same vein as RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s giving us a little bit of house music. It’s giving us a little “grown” and sexy. It’s giving us some ballroom culture. There are some original songs. There are also holiday standards like Little Drummer Boy — which I’ve never liked as a song. It’s just not an interesting song. But she takes Little Drummer Boy and she makes it interesting.
This whole album is a little campy. She has an interlude called I Love the Holidays, where it’s just Sheryl Lee Ralph’s saying, “I love the holidays, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah to you. I love them all.” … It’s great background music … while you’re finishing up your wrapping or making your holiday cookies or whatever, it’s fun. Sheryl Lee Ralph is joy. — Aisha Harris
Crash Landing on You
I wasn’t really enthusiastic about a lot of the stuff that I was watching and listening to and reading. And I was kind of bummed. I was starting to think like maybe I’ve lost my capacity to really fall in love with anything. Fortunately, our brilliant producer, Jessica Reedy, was there for me and told me that this was the moment when I needed to get into K-Dramas, which she’s been telling me off and on for a while, and other people have told me off and on for a while.
Jessica recommended to me Crash Landing on You, which is a series that you can find on Netflix. There are 16 episodes. They’re roughly … an hour and a half-ish each. I watched 16 of them in about three+ days, which tells you how much this got me. It is part rom-com. It’s a story of a woman, a South Korean businesswoman, who goes paragliding and glides into North Korea and is discovered by a North Korean soldier. He agrees to hide her and they like each other. It eventually has elements of epic romance. It has elements of politics and military and shootouts. Her family is this rich family. So it has a little bit of Succession-like family scheming going on. There are a bunch of really wonderful friendships in it. He has a little company of guys that work with him who are hugely charming. Plus, there’s a little group of women who live in this village who are like military wives. You get to know them.
I fell in love with it so hard. I adored it. I cried a bunch of times. I kept texting Jessica at different times about things I was crying about. It’s also really funny in places. It’s one of the best mash-ups of lots of different genres and lots of different tones and emotions that I have experienced.
And look, I am painfully, agonizingly late getting on this entire thing, let alone this series, which was a gigantic phenomenon in a number of different countries. But it made me so happy and I felt so relieved to react so enthusiastically to something that I think is both hugely pleasurable and really well done. It’s a whole thing. Crash Landing on You available on Netflix. If you’re anything like me, you will not do anything else, for the next free time you have will be completely devoted to this. — Linda Holmes
More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter
by Linda Holmes
We’ve already done our non-spoilery Glass Onion episode; our spoilery one is to come! And to prepare, you can now see the film on Netflix.
I have not yet seen Hallmark’s Hanukkah on Rye, but I thought I would highlight it as the thing I plan to watch this weekend, because I’ve heard nothing but good things about it — as, according to multiple sources, the best holiday movie of the season. Hallmark will air it again on Dec. 24 at noon EST.
I was talking this week about the 1987 compilation album A Very Special Christmas, and then bam! The Washington Post came out with a swell retrospective about it.
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 signing up for our newsletter to get recommendations every week. And listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.