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

Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy, Sarah Snook as Shiv Roy and Kieran Culkin as Roman Roy in <em>Succession</em>.
HBO Max
Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy, Sarah Snook as Shiv Roy and Kieran Culkin as Roman Roy in Succession.

This week, we watched a harrowing film about two migrant kids fighting to stay together, talked about soccer as catharsis, and picked our favorite Muppets.

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

Studio Ghibli Fest

I am very happy to report that Studio Ghibli Fest is back. These are films from the Japanese studio that makes all these beautiful animated films like My Neighbor Totoro, which I just saw, and also Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away, and Ponyo. It's a Fathom Events series, so you can go on the Fathom Events website and see when these movies are playing in your town. I really recommend it, even if you've seen these movies a lot of times on DVD or whatever like I have, there's something really magical about seeing them on the big screen, especially if there's kids in the audience.

— Wailin Wong

Succession

Succession is back this week. It was a really tough week for a lot of reasons, so it's good to have something to look forward to on Sunday. For those who don't know the show, it's about this company, Waystar Royco. It's about the controlling head of the company, Logan Roy, and his four children battling over the chance to lead the company after he leaves. It's funny. It's very dramatic. It's gripping. It's horribly cynical. If you're into that sort of thing, it's just all around excellent. It's the fourth and final season, and me and everybody I know on Twitter have been looking forward to the return of Succession.

I do want to give a quick shout out to the Planet Money newsletter too, by the way. Greg Rosalsky put out an excellent story this week about how nepo babies à la Succession hurt big businesses and can cause serious problems with management down the line when you just relegate your company to your first born.

— Sam Kesler

Marvel Snap

Marvel Snap: it got me. I held up as long as I could. I wasn't going to do it, and then last week broke me. Marvel Snap is a surprisingly intuitive mobile game that has a perfect blend of skill and luck, which means you go into it knowing you will not always win. But when you do, it is so satisfying. Now psychologists have a term for that called intermittent reinforcement, and it's why Vegas exists and it's addictive.

You start with a random assortment of cards with Marvel characters on them over several rounds. You play these cards at three different Marvel Universe locations, which change randomly every game. That's the luck. These locations impart various effects that may interact with the cards in some way, because the cards you play also have powers that evoke the character powers, and they cost a certain number of points. You try to win each location by getting the most points.

The game matches you with somebody else at your level, and much of the game is anticipating where your opponent is going to play their cards and what those cards are. I haven't gotten into the thing where you play your friends. I'm not ready for those kind of stakes. I just like picking it up and playing it whenever. Every game takes like two minutes or so. It's better if it's done with anonymous strangers. You don't have to set up a play date, and sometimes I'm playing at three in the morning in bed, which is not healthy. But did I mention it was a bad week? So if you play it and the opponent it finds for you is enchanttambourine, that's me, baby.

— Glen Weldon

Tournament of Champions

This was a very difficult week at NPR, and there were a number of layoffs. It has been an agonizing experience. Like many people at the company, I have turned to escapism to get through it. My method of choice has been Tournament of Champions from Food Network.

If you've been watching any March Madness (we're deep into March Madness season), you love a bracket. This is a bracket style competition among TV chefs. And if you've watched as many cooking competitions as I have, you will know almost all of these faces and names, whether you watch the next Food Network star or Top Chef. A lot of Top Chef alumni pop up on this thing.

It is hosted by, I will continue to stick my stake in the ground and say, the very underrated Guy Fieri. I am a defender of Guy Fieri and always will be. He brings an enormous amount of enthusiasm to this without doing a lot of eating, if that is one of the reasons that you are sometimes put off by Guy Fieri. You're not watching him eat on this show.

It is just the right amount of stakes. There is excitement. There is a timed competition. There's a challenge wheel that kind of randomizes the task, so they can't prepare ahead of time. Nobody's careers are going to be destroyed by this. Nobody's careers are necessarily going to be elevated by this. These are people who do a lot of cooking competitions and they want to extend their streak of the number of times they've won cooking competitions, and that is about the extent of the stakes. It is great fun. Four seasons of it are streaming on Discovery Plus, I highly, highly, highly recommend it.

— Stephen Thompson

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Linda Holmes

If you read this week about the dispute between Disney and Florida over a clause in a document that referred to the descendants of King Charles, you might enjoy my effort to search my brain for the details of the Rule Against Perpetuities, an effort that was only partly successful. (This explainer is for entertainment purposes only.)

It's never the wrong time to talk about Allison Jones.

If you enjoy the very funny Alexandra Petri, I can wholeheartedly endorse preordering her upcoming book, US History: Important American Documents (I Made Up). As someone who grew up in Philadelphia and now lives in Washington D.C., I very much appreciated her withering reference to the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787, and how the May-September period includes "the most fun months to be in Philadelphia wearing layers."

A little bit of news we want to share: The recent layoffs at NPR are affecting our show. Going forward, we'll be in your feed four days a week. We promise it's the same show you know and hopefully love, and we plan to make those four shows ones that you absolutely will not want to miss.


NPR's Teresa Xie 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 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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.
Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)
Wailin Wong
Wailin Wong is a long-time business and economics journalist who's reported from a Chilean mountaintop, an embalming fluid factory and lots of places in between. She is a host of The Indicator from Planet Money. Previously, she launched and co-hosted two branded podcasts for a software company and covered tech and startups for the Chicago Tribune. Wailin started her career as a correspondent for Dow Jones Newswires in Buenos Aires. In her spare time, she plays violin in one of the oldest community orchestras in the U.S.
Sam Kesler
Teresa Xie
Teresa Xie is a reporter who specializes in media and culture writing. She recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied political science and cinema. Outside of NPR, her work can be found in Pitchfork, Vox, Teen Vogue, Bloomberg, Stereogum and other outlets.