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

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in a scene from the 1998 romantic comedy <em>You've Got Mail.</em>
Getty Images
Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in a scene from the 1998 romantic comedy You've Got Mail.

This week, The Bachelor made his final choice amid controversy, the Oscars got earlier and we saw Furiosa.

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

"Christmas Dirtbag" by Wheatus

Is Wheatus' "Teenage Dirtbag" one of the best songs of the aughts? Yes. Is it perfect? Yes. But can it be improved? Perhaps! Wheatus has just released "Christmas Dirtbag,"a holiday version of "Teenage Dirtbag." I'm always on the lookout for a new holiday song every year and this might be the one. Rather than pining after a girl, it's about whether Santa likes them. It's just fun. — Aisha Harris

An oral history of The O.C.

/ Mariner Books
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Mariner Books

A few weeks ago Vanity Fair ran an oral history called "When the O.C. Killed Marissa: 'What have we done?' " It's an excerpt from the book Welcome to the O.C.by my friend Alan Sepinwall who put the book together along with the creators of The O.C. Alan talked to everybody for this book. You get a 360-degree view of what it looked like for the cast when they were preparing to get rid of this character, what the creators were thinking, why they made the decisions they made. And then he actually went back and talked to the people who were recapping the show at the Television Without Pity site — and they look back on how they and their readers engaged with the show. They reflect on how they spoke about this character and how it bled over into how they talked about the actress. — Linda Holmes

Nora Ephron rom-coms, You've Got Mail and When Harry Met Sally

Nora Ephron and Meg Ryan make me happy at this time of year every year. This week, I've been watching and rewatching You've Got Mail and When Harry Met Sally, because what else do you do when it's too cold to go outside? You watch those fall romcoms. Parts of it haven't aged very well — Billy Crystal's character is not that nice a man. But there's something about those films. So, thank you, Nora Ephron, for making me happy. — Bedatri D. Choudhury

The Dick Van Dyke Show

I have been burrowing into my own childhood recently: My husband Carlos was out of town for a few days and I couldn't watch the shows we watch together, so I looked up The Dick Van Dyke Show, Season 1, Episode 1 — I am now on Season 3, Episode 22. That first episode has each of the characters doing all the remarkable things they're going to be doing in the future. When Carlos got back I showed him a particularly hilarious clip (it's about 20 minutes into the first episode) and he said: "OK, I get it now." — Bob Mondello

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Linda Holmes

I watched all of the six-episode Swedish drama series A Nearly Normal Family this week. It's about a young woman who experiences a traumatic event and then another, and how they are (or maybe aren't) intertwined. It's part mystery, unfolding in multiple timelines — admittedly a format I've grown weary of — and part examination of how pain will eventually require healing.

I haven't been doing a lot of holiday movie coverage this year, in part because I've been a little underwhelmed by the ones I've watched. (Hallmark, at least, seems to be ahead of the "nomance" notion that went around this fall, focusing a lot on family stories and friend stories and much less on romantic comedy, which is always what I want.) But I did find one that I really enjoyed, starring Hallmark stalwart Lacey Chabert. Haul Out the Holly: Lit Up is a sequel to, obviously, Haul Out the Holly, and it finds her character (who, let's face it, is always the same character) now happily attached to her boyfriend as the two navigate a highly competitive Christmas decorating season in their neighborhood that's interrupted by the arrival of a couple of cable TV decorating superstars. It's not all that romantic, but I found the dialogue quite snappy and genuinely funny — and this one features the always great Stephen Tobolowsky as one of the neighbors.

A thing to flag that's coming Monday: HBO's miniseries Murder in Boston: Roots, Rampage & Reckoning is about the Charles Stuart case. Stuart was later convicted of shooting his wife in October 1989, but initially, he claimed that they had been carjacked by a Black man (the Stuarts were white). That led to intrusive searches and stops of many Black men in Boston, all in search of a criminal who never existed. The series wisely begins with an examination of segregation and racism in Boston, which helps make it more than simply a look back at a sensational murder case.


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.

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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.
Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.
Aisha Harris
Aisha Harris is a host of Pop Culture Happy Hour.
Bedatri D. Choudhury
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