I discovered podcasts about two years ago. When I finally realized what the purple podcast app on my phone screen was, I began searching for podcasts that would entertain me, make me laugh and pique my interest. That led me on a quest to some pretty trashy, reality-TV and pop-culture obsessed podcasts. While I love those podcasts (and will never, ever let them go), I began wanting a more stimulating option–something I wouldn’t be embarrassed about telling other people I listen to.
Enter NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, a bi-weekly podcast from NPR that breaks down–you guessed it–pop culture in a “fun and freewheeling chat about the latest movies, television, books, comics and music” according to its podcast bio. Co-hosts Linda Holmes, Glen Weldon and Stephen Thompson are joined each episode by other NPR hosts (like Sam Sanders, Gene Demby, Audie Cornish and Bob Mondello) for a 20-minute discussion on the week’s biggest pop culture entertainment. The most recent episodes covered the Oscars, the Netflix reboot of the Queer Eye TV show, Black Panther, The Winter Olympics and The Super Bowl.
With two episodes a week (one on Wednesday and one on Friday), the hosts are able to review multiple pop culture items in a week, and the Friday episode always ends with the segment “What’s making us happy,” where each host takes a few minutes to explain what piece of pop culture is making them happy that week. These choices can be quite broad and can include anything from a new song to a funny Twitter account to a binge-watch of a 10-year-old TV show. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t often reflect on what piece of pop culture entertainment makes me happy after I listen to this segment.
While Pop Culture Happy Hour prides itself on being “fun” and “freewheeling” (it is!) it’s also defined by the quintessential NPR intellectual viewpoint it brings to all of its conversations. That’s what’s so refreshing about this podcast–it educates me (an average listener) while entertaining me and keeping me up to date on the latest movies, TV shows, music and more. It pushes me to think critically about the entertainment I consume–what makes a movie popular? What is it about a certain TV show that draws me to it? What makes most top 40 music so bad? The hosts, experts in entertainment, engage in discussions that are fun, funny and reflective. They answer those questions, and many more, by simply bringing to light a critic’s viewpoint.
Whether you’re a pop-culture junkie, a future critic or you’re just looking for recommendations on what entertainment you should be consuming, this podcast is for you. Besides, who doesn’t love getting into in-depth discussions about the entertainment they love? Happy hour indeed.
Emily Orlando is a podcast lover, a Food Network addict and a senior majoring in professional writing with a focus in editing and publishing—in that order.