Audio

Glen Weldon regales the panel with his vacation adventures on the 17th episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour.

Text

Episode 17 - Late-Night War, Merged Freckles, And The Pet-Petter

image

Title: Late-Night War, Merged Freckles, And The Pet-Petter (November 19, 2010)

Glen Weldon returns from the magical land of hammocks and macitas de puerco. He renders his co-panelists helpless with laughter as he riffs about his Welsh heritage, vacation culture, and UV protection.

The A segment considers the premiere of Conan on TBS following the notorious late-night wars that pitted Conan O’Brien against Jay Leno and NBC. The panelists find the first few episodes funny and engaging, though they opine that staples of the late-night format (e.g. topical monologues and celebrity interviews) have become stale and innocuous.

They then tackle the concept of nostalgia in a technological age that allows people to access obscure types of pop culture. Glen brings up the PBS show The Electric Company, and how his nostalgia erased the kitschy aspects of the show in his mind. Trey considers theater as a medium that primarily exists in memory, but some moments (such as Judi Dench’s affecting rendition of Sondheim’s “Send In the Clowns”) can now be available, thanks to recordings.

A recording of the cartoon "The Great Toy Robbery" and sports recordings are the pop culture artifacts that have eluded Stephen. (On the next PCHH episode, the cartoon quest came to a happy conclusion, thanks to an NPR librarian.) He also cites a beloved Nichols and May sketch, which he gifted to his mother Maggie Thompson. Linda cites the TV show It’s Your Move as one of the catalysts of her friendship with Stephen. (“Don’t make it ugly, Glen Weldon.” - Linda)

 What Is Making Them Happy

Glen - He praises BBC One’s Sherlock, particularly the dialogue and chemistry between Martin Freeman (Watson) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Holmes). Much fun is also had regarding Cumberbatch’s J.K. Rowling-esque name.

Trey - Having watched the Country Music Awards for the first time, Trey was moved by the performance of "Coal Miner’s Daughter" for Loretta Lynn, who was honored during the event. It reminded him his special affection for the grand ladies of country music such as Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Tammy Wynette.

Stephen - Dikkers.com, a cartoon website founded by former Onion editor Scott Dikkers. Stephen also mentions a short called "The Astounding World of the Future." He also mentions The Complete Hank Williams Box Set.

Linda - A gag product called the Pet Petter and Linda’s credulity causes Trey to have an extended giggling fit. Linda vigorously defends herself by invoking the Harriet Carter catalog and considers her knowledge of the consumer industry as the thing making her happy.

Some Episode Highlights

Text

Episode 16 - Punching Bags And The A Cappella Smackdown

Title: Punching Bags And The A Cappella Smackdown (November 12, 2010)

Guest panelist Barrie Hardymon (former producer for NPR’s Talk of The Nation) joins the gang once again as Glen Weldon visits a mythical land full of swim-up bars and hammocks. They begin by defending things considered as “pop culture punching bags.”

Stephen and Barrie choose reality television, but they champion completely different genres. Stephen prefers elimination-based shows (Survivor, Amazing Race, The Apprentice), likening their plots to a football season. Meanwhile, Barrie talks about the philosophical lessons gleaned from The Real Housewives franchise, such as the fact that money does not buy happiness or taste.

Trey defends Andrew Lloyd Webber against accusations that he is a schlockmeister for “inflicting Sarah Brightman to an unsuspecting public.” Finally, Linda calls out Ed Helms’s Andy Bernard (The Office) for perpetuating the idea that it’s fine to make fun of college a cappella by creating the fictional group Here Comes Treble. The panel, however, still proceeds with the mockery.

A new installment of the Regrettable Television Pop Quiz features clips from Mario Lopez: Saved by the Baby, Ghost Hunters, and Bridezillas.

What Is Making Them Happy

Barrie - Judith Krantz’s novel Mistral’s Daughter proved to be “truly [satisfying]” amidst the stress of covering the 2010 Senate Elections. She notes regrettable language choices for the ways men and women “interlock.”

Trey - He brings happiness for Stephen Thompson by revealing the trailer for Kung Fu Panda 2. This touches off a discussion of how Stephen has argued that the first Kung Fu Panda is a better movie than Wall-E.

Stephen - Stephen promotes Clem Snide for the first time on the podcast by highlighting Eef Barzelay’s offer to write a personalized song for fans. He mentions their album Soft Spot in order to convince Barrie to commission a song for her baby.

Linda - The now-defunct Extra Hot Great podcast by Tara Ariano, Joe Reid, and Dave Cole. I unfortunately can’t find an archive of past episodes.

Some Episode Highlights

Video

Nick Lowe’s Tiny Desk Concert, sampled in Episode 15 of Pop Culture Happy Hour

Text
Text

Episode 15 - Replacing Zombies And James Franco, Mountaineer

Title: Replacing Zombies And James Franco, Mountaineer (November 5, 2010)

This episode is a free-wheeling discussion of various pop culture events of the time, specifically the critically lauded James Franco vehicle 127 Hours, critic Roger Ebert’s objection to Top 10 lists, and the proliferation of zombies in pop culture as illustrated by the high ratings of AMC’s The Walking Dead.

127 Hours becomes to jump-off point of their discussion of based-on-a-true-story movies and shows such as United 93, The Social Network, and Carlos. For Glen, this is actually a disadvantage for him because he maintains that the act of adaptation already fictionalizing it. All in all, the panel relayed much interest for the Franco vehicle.

They then move on to the proliferation of Top 10 lists and how critics constantly face a lot of recrimination over ranking but the audience still expect them at the end of a given year. At some point, the phrase “The Tyranny of the Thumbs” is uttered.

The panel then formulates their pitch for the next supernatural creature to catch the public’s imagination after vampires and zombies: Skeletons in Top Hats with British Accents Wearing Monocles. They also formulate the romantic storyline where the skeleton falls in love with a librarian in a small Maine town, a la The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

What Is Making Them Happy

Stephen - 1) Brett Favre eating it, 2) Finishing The Hunger Games, which the panel discussed here, 3) Submissions for art renderings of Chiktopus, 4) Nick Lowe’s Tiny Desk Concert (“It’s like being serenaded by your kindly, misanthropic uncle.”)

Glen - He mentions Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, which comes up at PCHH multiples times. The show is about comedians discussing the processes and neuroses of comics. He highlights and episode featuring This American Life's Ira Glass, where Maron experiences a moment of connection with a non-comic and a public radio star.

Trey - Some call-outs to a previous episode: a PCHH fan translating a post in Finnish written by another Finnish fan and another fan reaching out to Glen to identify the creepy musical phrase in “The Headless Horseman" as the Neapolitan chord. His main happy-making thing, however, is a recording of Eva Cassidy singing “Autumn Leaves.”

Linda - Free word jumble game on Kindle (she doesn’t mention the specific name) and Family Feud on Facebook.

Some Episode Highlights

  • Linda begins the show by recounting her experience covering Stewart and Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear. She calls it “surprisingly grueling.” Trey mentions an NPR internal memo regarding the rally, which had caused some controversy.
  • Much fun is had when Trey compares 127 Hours and Titanic. “It’s about the guy cutting his arm off like Titanic is about the fact that the ship sinks.”
  • Trey mentions as story by critic Bob Mondello about movies using restrictive settings as a narrative challenge.
  • They talk about how the creators of The Social Network tries to have it both ways by arguing that they are either eschewing the facts or adhering to them, depending on what serves their defense of their storytelling.
  • Glen brings up the controversy about David Sedaris embellishing his humor pieces, originally written by Alex Heard on The New Republic.
  • Trey mentions Linda’s piece, “Ten Jobs Not Right for Wolverine.”
  • Listicle vs. “Multiple Points of Entry”
  • The panel mentions the Inventory section of The A.V. Club and praises it for being quirky and esoteric, as well as for being commentary in and of themselves.
  • "Ordinarily I love what you do, but this time you’ve gone too far!" - Stephen’s approximation of random internet commenters.
  • The also highlight the McSweeney’s piece “Great Literature Retitled to Boost Website Traffic.”
  • Stephen mentions that the Nick Lowe Tiny Desk Concert was recorded on the same day as Richard Thompson's.
  • Trey relates the story of the piano soloist that performed with Eva Cassidy for “Autumn Leaves.”
  • Glen and Linda goes into a discussion about Linda’s dismissal of the game Angry Birds, with Glen characterizing her action as “a little like bailing at the dwarf tea party.”
  • During the discussion of games, Stephen mentions his quest to find the traditional version of The Oregon Trail for iPhone.
  • "In fact, I’m offended that there isn’t a Trey-voice yet." - This needs no attribution.
Text

Episode 14 - BOO! Halloween Fears And Costume Theory

Title: BOO! Halloween Fears And Costume Theory (October 29, 2010)

Halloween takes up the bulk of this episode’s agenda, beginning with a segment where the panelists bring up some scary pop culture-related memories from their childhood. Glen begins by bringing up Bing Crosby and the 1949 cartoon The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (the entire short is available on Youtube). The part that young Weldon found creepy is the song “The Headless Horseman" where Crosby sings, "So when you’re ridin’ home tonight / Make for the bridge with all your might / He’ll be down in the hollow there / He needs your head / Look out! Beware!"

Trey’s pop culture artifact, on the other hand, is the Barbie Loves Beauty Styling Head.  (I don’t know which iteration Trey is referring to but this comes close to his description.) He is also terrified of “everything.” Stephen’s scary memory comes from a trip to the Universal Studios Theme Park and his encounter the animatronic shark on the Jaws ride. Linda is vague about her fear, the Golden Pictures Story Book Babes in Toyland but she can’t remember which part terrifies her.

They also discuss a Target commercial depicting a young boy who is mortified at his mother’s attempt at creating an Iron Man costume. Trey, Stephen, and Linda object to the message of conformity, and disdain for creativity that the commercial is promoting. Glen strongly disagrees, however, characterizing this as misguided sentimentality. For a young person wanting to dress up as a superhero, it’s all about being as close as possible to the ideal. It comes down to 3 votes for childhood and 1 vote for consumerismverisimilitude.

What Is Making Them Happy

Stephen - He is made happy by his son’s Halloween costume, a banana suit from Target (linked product a conjecture on my part) and the prospect of Chiktopus art. The list of happymaking things also include “Brett Favre eating it,” CMJ music festival, and Whisky Friday at The Onion headquarters.

Trey - The Big C, a Showtime dramedy starring Laura Linney. Trey praises the performance of John Benjamin Hickey, who plays the lead’s homeless brother.

Glen - Glen praises the first season of Top Chef: Just Desserts from Bravo. He notes the new dimension that a baking competition brings to the Top Chef franchise. The also played a clip from the episode where contestant Seth Caro has a meltdown.

Linda - Comedian Dave Holmes get credit for what is making Linda happy: a series of Youtube videos by Katherine Chloe Cahoon produced to promote her book The Single Girl’s Guide to Meeting European Men. Linda highlights a particular gem, her advice for girls who are attending Oktoberfest.

Some Episode Highlights

  • Glen brings up a blog post written in Finnish, which when put through Google Translate’s algorithm, generates phrases such as “squeeze the endcap on this business trip” and “putting a button on people’s ears.” Another Finnish-speaking PCHH-er translated the post on the comments section. (The translation is lost forever due to the recent change in the comment system at NPR.org. Woe.)
  • Glen takes Washington Irving to task by being “no friend to nerds” since the original story of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” focuses on driving the schoolteacher Ichobod Crane out of town.
  • They mentions Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing “Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth.” Stephen calls it his favorite pop culture artifact.
  • In an attempt to cure Trey and Glen’s pop culture phobias, Linda proposes putting the Barbie Loves Beauty Styling Head onto the Headless Horseman to come up with a horseman with fabulous hair.
  • "It’s sort of like being at front row at a Gallagher concert. There’s always the worst possible place to sit if you’re easily startled or four. Or both." - Stephen on his brush with the Jaws shark.
  • Linda’s fear of Babes in Toyland is revisited on a PCHH episode a year later. Stephen’s mother Maggie Thompson gives her with a copy of the book.
  • Stephen talks about his childhood dressing up as Alice Cooper based on his appearance on The Muppet Show (Youtube clip). 
  • During the target commercial discussion, brings up a childhood memory of wanting a Batman costume and having to wear the Ben Cooper Batman costume. He calls the logo stamped on the forehead a “third eye of shame.”
  • Stephen made call for PCHH fans who want to draw the hybrid superbeast Chiktopus to send their art. This eventually resulted to a wonderful gallery of Chiktopusiana.
  • "Come on, friends, do you really think I am being serious?! Of course they are parodies!" - Katherine Chloe Cahoon
Quote
"The final frontier of corporate greed is demanding to be loved."

— Stephen Thompson on Undercover Boss and the show’s extended PR stunt for corporations.

Video

Ma’s Roadhouse, Trey Graham’s contribution to Episode 13’s Regrettable Television Pop Quiz.

Text

Episode 13 - The Menace Of Laughter And A Life-Saving Allergy

Title: The Menace Of Laughter And A Life-Saving Allergy (October 22, 2010)

The crew tackles the challenges of live television in this episode, reviewing a special 30 Rock episode that is acted and filmed in front of a live audience. Linda dislikes this particular episode, characterizing it as a so-so episode Saturday Night Live. They point out that the material is frequently stalled by audience reactions, affecting the rhythms of the show. Trey enjoys the fictional commercials and the difference between the East Coast and West Coast broadcasts. They thought, however, that the Tracy storyline does not work and that the main plot of the episode (Liz Lemon’s birthday) is muddled by the jokes surrounding it.

Regrettable Television Pop Quiz makes a comeback, with the panel bringing their own choice clips. Their TV Show and Tell includes clips from $#*! My Dad Says, Parking Wars, Ma’ Roadhouse, and Undercover Boss. The entire team acknowledges their debt to The Soup, where they mine TV gems such as Gordon Ramsay characterizing a dish as “Gandhi’s flip flop.” (Youtube clip)

What Is Making Them Happy

Trey - Trey offers up happy-making things for the rest of the PCHH crew, including the news that The Hobbit movie has been greenlit, Barack Obama’s appearance on Mythbusters (Youtube clip), and an iPhone case that works as a bottle-opener.

Glen - TLC’s Freaky Eaters, a 30-minute reality show about individuals who eat only one type of food. The clips that Glen plays on the show is about a man who is addicted to pizza. (Youtube clip)

Stephen - Stephen talks about having been recognized by a podcast fan during a post-Happy Hour happy hour. He also recommends two books from his The Onion and The A.V. Club colleagues, Nathan Rabin’s My Year of Flops and A Book of Jean’s Own, written by Maria Schneider’s character Jean Teasdale.

Linda - A particularly bad day caused Linda to rediscover Marshall Crenshaw's music from the 1980s. She plays two songs, “Someday Someway" and "Better Back Off.” (Youtube clips)

Some Episode Highlights

  • Vulture’s article listing the 26 differences between the 30 Rock East Coast and West Coast broadcasts.
  • Glen mentioned Louie C.K.’s cancelled HBO show Lucky Louie. It recalled the sitcom style of The Honeymooners, where the live audience was acknowledged by the characters.
  • Tracy’s storyline references The Carol Burnett Show.
  • "It would be like if you had a friend who chose to run a marathon wearing Crocs and a Storm Trooper costume, finished two hours behind everyone else with a ton of blisters and asked to be congratulated for finishing at all given the circumstances." - Critic Alan Sepinwall on the live 30 Rock episode, quoted by Linda Holmes.
  • Linda proposes that “carbuncle” be included in the list of items the Grinch steals at Christmas.
  • During the discussion of Parking Wars, Glen makes a shout-out to Cops and the officers’ patented monologue of self-justification.
  • Rick Fairless’s Strokers serves as the setting for Ma’s Roadhouse.
  • Episode recap of the Undercover Boss episode about Hooters.
  • As with his screed against Donald Trump’s The Apprentice, Stephen rails against self-aggrandizing CEOs in Undercover Boss.
  • Nathan Rabin also wrote a memoir called The Big Rewind. Apparently, Stephen is lavishly praised in it.
  • Marshall Crenshaw played Buddy Holly in the 1987 movie La Bamba. (Youtube clip from the movie)