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We celebrate Black History Month!

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

Sam Lipman-Stern in the HBO docuseries <em>Telemarketers.</em>
HBO
Sam Lipman-Stern in the HBO docuseries Telemarketers.

This week Taylor Swift created a new wrinkle, Adam Driver talked solidarity, and a big book prize named its finalists.

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

Once More with Feeling by Elissa Sussman

/ Dell
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Dell

Elissa Sussman wrote a romance that I really liked calledFunny You Should Ask and this new book, Once More with Feeling, has some similar elements. It's about a woman who was a pop star when she was young. She was dating a guy in a boy band — but she had a thing for a different guy in the same band. She cheated on her boyfriend with this other guy, Cal, who was the guy she really liked. Elissa's books come at these kinds of stories with a wisdom: This scandal is very bad for her yet didn't hurt him — so she carries a lot of resentment about that. They meet up later in life because he is now directing a Broadway show, and both of them are people who dearly love musical theater. It's really a book for musical theater nerds. It has tons of little Easter eggs. I found it to be delightful. She has a really good sense of a book being fun, but also having some heft. — Linda Holmes

Telemarketers, streaming on Max

Telemarketers is a three-part docuseries on Max about this group in New Jersey called Civic Development Group that essentially is part of the origin story of telemarketing as we know it today. There's a group of guys working at this telemarketing company that start filming themselves — and all of these antics are going on. They have a lot of ex-criminals working there making calls and they're working with these different police organizations in order to raise money. And over time it's revealed that it's a scam.

This documentary is also about the relationship between two of the people who used to work at Civic Development Group -- Patrick Pespas and Sam Lipman-Stern. It's very good, very fun. It gets dark at times. I think it comes to a pretty satisfying, if not expected conclusion — but don't go into this looking to see telemarketing be solved. — Ronald Young Jr.

The podcast Celebrity Book Club, and reading recent celebrity memoirs

/ Chelsea Devantez
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Chelsea Devantez

I have always enjoyed celebrity memoirs — I love hearing celebrities spill the trash and name names. But my love of this genre has kicked into overdrive this year — I have read over 50 of them in the last 50 weeks. I like to listen to the audio versions — celebrities telling their own stories in their own voices. Sometimes they'll break into song like Dolly Parton. Sometimes they'll start crying like Jessica Simpson. Sometimes they just deliver it with the greatest gravitas like Viola Davis.

The podcast Celebrity Book Club with Chelsea Devantez is part of the reason why I went hardcore into celebrity memoirs. Chelsea is a comedian and works in TV — she's a great storyteller. On her show she discusses memoirs written by celebrity women, and she does it with such great compassion and humor. I laugh at every episode, but I also feel all the feels. I don't know if I would have read all of these memoirs without her. — Kristen Meinzer

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Linda Holmes

I've started listening to 50 MPH, which is — yes — a planned 50-episode podcast about Speed from film journalist Kris Tapley. Does this sound wildly unnecessary? Yes. Am I extremely excited to hear the many voices promised across the series? Yes. Do I think you should get super-pumped about it and throw yourself into a long story of craft and culture? I do.

Very high on the current Netflix charts is the thriller series Who Is Erin Carter?, which is about a woman whose mysterious past unfurls after she and her daughter are caught in a robbery. Do I think it's great? I do not. But do I think it's highly watchable for people who read that description and think "that sounds like it's up my alley"? Sure.

Strike Force Five, the new podcast from late-night hosts Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, is a little rough around the edges (a couple of those guys need better mic setups, I'm just saying). But it's fun, and they seem to all like each other, and they do tell some pretty good stories in the opening episode.

The series Deadloch is a comedy that's a sendup of grim small-town murder mysteries like Broadchurch, but it also kind of is a grim small-town murder mystery, while also being extremely funny, and I don't know exactly how they pull it off. It's an Australian show set in Tasmania, and you can stream it on Amazon. It's exceedingly hard to describe in a way that does it justice, but give it a shot.


Beth Noveyadapted 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 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ronald Young Jr
Kristen Meinzer
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.