Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pop Culture Happy Hour: A Podcast For Anyone

There are many reason to be thankful when Friday rolls around, but one of my chief reasons is that it is the day a new episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour is released. Hosted by Linda Holmes, who writes the fantastic pop culture blog Monkey See over at NPR, the show is a merry forty minutes of pop culture analysis, debates, and regrettable television pop quizzes.

Aside from Holmes, the show features Stephen Thompson from NPR Music, arts editor Trey Graham, and Glen Weldon who "writes about books and comic books." If one of these regular participants is missing, the show will deploy producer Mike Katzif or pull in some other delightful NPR person to liven up the proceedings. Apparently NPR is just filled to the brim with people who love movies, television, books, or music and can't wait to offer up witty insights into the ever-expanding world of pop culture.

The show has a relentlessly cheery vibe and if you've had a bad day, all you need is to listen in on an episode and laugh. It is an incredibly informative show, with each member bringing their particular area of expertise to the table and providing an in-depth look at a variety of topics ranging from comic book heroes to Shakespeare to music featured in television and the wonders of German art song (OK, that last one may not have been taken so seriously). But this isn't some reverential podcast that aims to provide an elevated pop culture dissertation every week. Each episode is extremely funny, lively, and devolves into silliness quite rapidly. Truly excellent television is discussed alongside the truly terrible, and sometimes they might not all agree as to which category a show belongs to. Stephen Thompson might have to sit out a discussion of some book as he famously does not read, and occasionally everyone might mock Trey Graham for his high-brow tastes (see: German art song). But at the heart of this show is a group of friends who are just having a lovely chat about stuff that they enjoy and they have graciously allowed the rest of the world to listen in.

One of the nice things about PCHH is that every episode ends with "What's Making You Happy This Week," where they go around the table and offer up some pop culture tidbit or life event that brought them joy that week. It might be a YouTube video, a great episode of television, making some pottery, or a win for the Green Bay Packers, but this segment serves as a reminder to savor simple pleasures. So this Friday, head on over to the NPR Monkey See blog and listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour. It will probably become the thing that's making you happy this week.

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