This week, J.K. Rowling’s new book raised eyebrows, Dolly Parton launched a pet apparel collection, and Taylor Swift broke the internet with the announcement of her new album.
Here’s what NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.
Horror in the High Desert
What’s making me happy is actually something that scared me so bad, I was sitting in my room screaming. It’s called Horror in the High Desert on Amazon. It’s done in a kind of mockumentary style, and it’s about a guy that goes hiking. He doesn’t come back.
It turns out the second to last time he went out, he had seen this very strange place, and he felt like someone was following him. And then, of course, he goes back out to this place.
I love Dateline mysteries, and this is like a Dateline mystery that really sticks the landing. Because most times, they don’t go where you want them to go, like it’s the ex-boyfriend who did it or something. No, this takes it where you want it to go.
The last act and ending are so good with the horror because it’s found footage. I can’t give it away, but oh my goodness, this is why I will never go hiking or camping in my life. That’s it, after Blair Witch and this, I would never do it. I’m done. — Ayesha Rascoe
Claim to Fame
Youngest, “bonus” Jonas brother Frankie Jonas and his brother Kevin Jonas are co-hosts of the ABC show Claim to Fame, and it’s so good. It’s a reality competition, and the premise is that all the contestants are the un-famous relatives of celebrities. So hence the Frankie Jonas involvement.
They all live together in a house, and they don’t know who the other contestants are related to. You have Whoopi Goldberg’s granddaughter, Simone Biles’ sister, and Chuck Norris’ grandson. And this is just in the first episode, so don’t even worry about spoilers.
Their goal is to conceal their celebrity relatives’ identities while trying to figure out everyone else’s. There are elaborate, kind of convoluted games that they play to get clues, and while you’re watching you kind of play along.
When they’re onto someone and that person is in danger of leaving the house, they go into survival mode and start to lash out on all these friends they made over the last few weeks. It’s stressful, it’s messy, and I love it. I have to watch every episode. — J.C. Howard
Beyoncé’s Renaissance, and Kevin Bacon’s cover of “Heated”
It has been just about a month since Beyoncé’s album, Renaissance, was released. I can’t stop playing it, and neither can anybody else.
There’s this wonderful video that Kevin Bacon, yes the Kevin Bacon, posted on social platforms a few days ago. He performs an acoustic rendition of Beyoncé’s “Heated” from the new album with his baby goats all around him, and it’s amazing.
You realize watching Kevin Bacon pay homage to Beyoncé that this album has truly penetrated the zeitgeist, and it is a testament to her wisdom and power some 20 years into her career that she still has this chokehold on us.
I’m obsessed. Beyoncé, I love you. It is your year, your renaissance. — Sam Sanders
Emily the Criminal
I saw this months ago at Sundance, and it has finally come out. It was one of those movies that really stuck with me when I saw it there, and it’s Emily the Criminal, which stars the wonderful, amazing, weird, great Aubrey Plaza.
It’s this very taut thriller-action movie in which she plays a woman who’s true to my soul — tens of thousands of dollars in student debt. She struggles to find a well-paying job because of a past criminal conviction, so she finds herself connected to this credit card fraud ring, and then everything goes wrong.
I think it’s really sharp. It’s got all of the current political commentary going on here, and Aubrey gives this fantastic performance of a person who is both in over their head but is just so desperate and is trying to do what she can just to survive.
It also has some great performances from Gina Gershon and Theo Rossi. You can see it in theaters now, or just note it for later when it reaches VOD. It’s just really fun and thoughtful, and I highly recommend it. Also, it is 90 minutes long, and I love a 90-minute movie. — Aisha Harris
More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter
Fans of romance might enjoy this NPR piece about Gen Z, love stories, and social media (and, of course, Colleen Hoover and Emily Henry).
If you haven’t yet checked out Mo on Netflix, starring Mo Amer and created by Amer and Ramy Youssef (whose terrific show Ramy is over on Hulu), I recommend it highly. Also, we’ll be covering it on the show next week, so you’ll be all ready!
I never miss a chance to read Soraya Nadia McDonald writing about Serena Williams, this time motivated by the question of who will be the film auteur of tennis.
NPR’s own Eric Deggans had a piece last week looking at the memoir of Michael K. Williams, the marvelous actor some of you knew as Omar Little. Williams passed away nearly a year ago with the book close to being finished; it was completed by his co-author.
by Linda Holmes
NPR’s Maison Tran 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.