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

Adjani Salmon as Kwabena in<em> Dreaming Whilst Black.</em>
Adjani Salmon as Kwabena in Dreaming Whilst Black.

This week, authors challenged A.I., Taylor Swift asked you to vote, we learned there would be less dancing.

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

Little Fires Everywhere, streaming on Hulu

I recently rewatched Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu and it turns out that show was even better than I remembered. There are some exquisite performances that made me Google if they won any awards. It's such a lovely exploration of motherhood, and grief. There's so many ways it engages with the idea of who is a mother: What do mothers do? What is a mother's role? Reese Witherspoon's character goes on quite the journey over the course of this series as does Kerry Washington's, but you still end up feeling like they've ended up exactly where they were meant to be. — Cate Young

The People Who Report More Stress, by Alejandro Varela

/ Astra House
Astra House

One of my favorite books of last year was The Town of Babylon by Alejandro Varela — it was one of these underdog books that got nominated for the National Book Award. Varela has a new book out this year called The People Who Report More Stress. It's short stories, and they're funny, and sexy, and sometimes heartbreaking. There's one about a gay guy working at the United Nations and he's cruising in the bathroom of the U.N. It's really fantastic if you looking for that post-summer read. — Jeffrey Masters

For the Culture, by Klancy Miller

/ Harvest

Over the pandemic, thisreally awesome food magazine came about that celebrates the Black women who create the food industry. It's written by this really fantastic food writer named Klancy Miller and I was really delighted to see that Klancy has released an entire book calledFor the Culture. It features absolutely stunning portraits of Black women of all ages and what they are doing to change the food industry for the better. There's recipes, there's essays, there's beautiful profiles. It's the sort of book that makes you want to curl up and read it cover to cover. It's such a joyous celebration. — Priya Krishna

Dreaming Whilst Black, on Showtime

Dreaming Whilst Black, the new Showtime series, is like a workplace comedy / going through your late 20s, early 30s comedy. Adjani Salmon is the star and co-creator — you might recognize him from Doctor Who. Here, he plays an aspiring filmmaker who's living with his cousin and his cousin's wife. He's working this pretty unfulfilling job in recruitment, and it delves into some really interesting ideas about what it means to be torn between art and commercialism. It explores drawing from your own personal life as an artist and how that might affect your own family and friends. The characters are all just a pleasure to hang out with and I really enjoyed it. — Aisha Harris

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Linda Holmes

At 4:30 in the morning, my dog woke me up (it's a long story), and I started to watch the new Hulu thriller No One Will Save You, starring Kaitlyn Dever as a young woman alone in a house when creepy things begin to happen. But I got about 10 minutes into it and I thought, "Do I really want to watch a horror movie at 5:00 in the morning that is already giving me the creeps?" This is my way of saying that it unsettled me effectively enough that I'm going to check it out this weekend when I've had more sleep. Is it an unconventional recommendation structure? It is. But we do what we must.

I have many quibbles — many! quibbles! — with this Slate list of the 40 best standalone TV episodes. For one thing, I'm not sure singling out a particular episode of Cheers as a standalone episode when sitcoms are mostly episodic makes a lot of sense. However, it got me thinking about which episodes of ER I would have chosen (instead of the one they chose), and for that reason, I am here to remind you that you can still find on streaming both "Hell and High Water" (season 2, episode 7, a/k/a George Clooney rescues a kid from a drain while wearing a tuxedo) and "Exodus" (season 4, episode 15, a/k/a Carter manages an emergency benzene spill evacuation), both of which are outstanding episodes I would classify as "standalone."

Coming Wednesday, a move that certainly seems related to the content pipeline drying up during the current strikes: Both Survivor and The Amazing Race, CBS competition reality shows that both have 20-plus-year histories, are expanding to 90 minutes for all their episodes so that they fill a full three-hour block. I have no idea what this will bring for these shows, both of which I have watched some but not all of, but I'm going to tune in just to see whether Survivor resorts to a lot more footage of people picking their teeth and staring into the fire in a futile search for meaning.

Eric Deggans reviewed the new series Young Love, and says: "It's a pleasure to sink into a series that is smart, culturally on point and optimistic about the power of family to overcome all obstacles."

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.

Corrected: September 26, 2023 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous version of this story incorrectly said that in Dreaming Whilst Black, Adjani Salmon plays Kwabena, an aspiring filmmaker living with his brother and sister-in-law. In fact, Kwabena lives with his cousin and cousin's wife.
Cate Young
Jeffrey Masters
Priya Krishna
Aisha Harris is a host of Pop Culture Happy Hour.