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What's making us happy: A guide to your weekend listening and viewing

Anna Shay, Kane Lim, Kelly Mi Li, Jamie Xie are in season 2 of <em>Bling Empire.</em>
Ser Baffo
Anna Shay, Kane Lim, Kelly Mi Li, Jamie Xie are in season 2 of Bling Empire.

This week, a college student home for break took portraits of shelter animals, Harry Styles told NPR's Leila Fadel she gave "the best commencement address in Northeastern history," and Tom Cruise reminded us that "no one asked Gene Kelly why he danced."

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

I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir by Harvey Fierstein

/ Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Actor, writer and activist Harvey Fierstein has just released his memoir I Was Better Last Night. It's a good read, but it's a great listen because he narrates the audiobook and his voice is so iconic.

And Fierstein's got stories to tell. He talks about coming of age in New York City, Andy Warhol's Factory, off-off-Broadway theater, drag shows, his struggles with alcoholism and, of course, the AIDS epidemic. Fierstein remains righteously angry about straight culture's lack of urgency towards the AIDS crisis, and does a great job documenting the fear that straight people had of him, even as they were throwing him awards. I Was Better Last Night is a chronicle of a history that I don't think we can afford to forget, by someone who lived through it. It's dishy, candid and undoubtedly worth the read. –Glen Weldon

The second season of Bling Empire on Netflix

Bling Empire is sort of like a Crazy Rich Asians reality TV show, but I remember feeling that the first season was trying to do way too much. They were trying to culturally educate audiences while also emphasizing that they were just like any other reality show. It just didn't work.

But in the second season, it seems like they've settled into what the show actually is, which is a trashy reality show. Just very straightforward: someone says something bad about someone else, the person they're talking to takes that piece of information and goes directly to the person being trash talked and everything gets messy. I was pleasantly surprised by the show just serving as enjoyable reality TV and not trying to be more than it is. —Tobin Low

"A Warning From The Future About The Time Traveler's Wife" by Kathryn VanArendonk

Sometimes you have to acknowledge that you have written about something, but someone else has written about it better. I really have to recommend that you read Kathryn VanArendonk's "A Warning From The Future About The Time Traveler's Wife." It is a review of the very strange TV adaptation of the novel The Time Traveler's Wife, which follows the not very well-regarded film adaptation.

It is incredibly difficult to find a way into a disappointing show, but Kathryn found a way by incorporating time travel into her review of The Time Traveler's Wife. She speaks to herself as a critic starting the show, she receives dispatches from herself having watched the entire show, and she speaks to her 2010 self (for a few reasons). It is a wonderful conceit, and I am always here for an inventive, vivacious way of reviewing not-good television. So, while I cannot recommend The Time Traveler's Wife, I can recommend this review. —Linda Holmes

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

  • I've been listening to and enjoying the WNYC Studios podcast Dead End. Very good true crime, if you like that kind of thing. 
  • Want even more true crime (that's also a lot of other things)? I'm also reading Monica Hesse's book American Fire, and that's also very good. 
  • Or if you prefer a very, very lighthearted (and very long) podcast to sink into, try the delightful Screen Drafts episode in which friends of Pop Culture Happy Hour Alan Sepinwall and Dan Fienberg draft the best '70s sports movies for three hours. (I also did Screen Drafts with Alan a while ago; we drafted NASA movies for only about two and a half hours. Efficient!) —Linda Holmes

  • NPR's Fi O'Reilly 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.

    Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit

    Glen Weldon is a host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He reviews books, movies, comics and more for the NPR Arts Desk.
    Tobin Low
    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.
    Fi O'Reilly Sánchez
    Fi O'Reilly is a production assistant for Alt.Latino.