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

Maya Erskine voices Mizu in <em>Blue Eye Samurai</em>.
Maya Erskine voices Mizu in Blue Eye Samurai.

This week, Tracy Chapman and Joni Mitchellmade many of us cry happy tears; three of the biggest media companiesjoined forces to corner the sports streaming market; and the country music world bid farewell toToby Keith.

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

Sniper: G.R.I.T. – Global Response & Intelligence Team, on Netflix

The "Sniper" franchise, which started in 1993 on the back of Tom Berenger, is still alive and kicking some 30 years later.Sniper: G.R.I.T.,which came out in 2023, is the most recent installment. This is a decades-long, "Chucky"-level stable mythology that's now on the back of Ryan Robbins and Chad Michael Collins. This is like DTV action at its most tongue-in-cheek fun. You have a "Fast and the Furious"-style family ensemble — and they're making jokes, cracking one-liners, doing cool fight choreography. They've got snipers accomplishing impossible feats of derring-do. This is Dad movie supreme. — Jordan Crucchiola

Get the Picture, by Bianca Bosker

Bianca Bosker previously wrote a book called Cork Dork, which is about exploring the wine world. For her new book, Get the Picture, she set out to better understand the art world. She's trying to figure out things like: How do you know if something is art or not? If there's an object that you sometimes find in someone's house and sometimes find in an art gallery, why, in the context of the art gallery, is it art? If you look at an artwork and say, "I could do that," does it mean that art is necessarily silly?

The easiest thing to do would have been to talk about things in the art world that sound weird or pretentious and invite people to poke fun. But what I love about this book is that instead, she really goes in with a very, very open heart and tries to listen to what people are saying. I learned a lot about art, and I appreciated her approach. I find myself trying to apply it to things that I encounter in the world. — Linda Holmes

The Traitors: UK, on Peacock

We've talked before about The Traitors and now, I'm going to endorse the UK version of the show. Same castle, same challenges, but a completely different vibe. Claudia Winkleman is a much more sympathetic host than Alan Cumming and the players are from all walks of life. There are no reality people — it's just these young men and women who are so emotional. If you're picturing what Brits would be like on this show — it's not that — they're just so open and sweet. So when they get their comeuppance — if they do — it's a lot of very complicated feelings, but it's a lot of fun. — Glen Weldon

Blue Eye Samurai, on Netflix

Blue Eye Samurai is an anime series about a mixed-race samurai named Mizu as she hunts for the four white evil men who might be her father for revenge. This takes place in Japan's Edo period — so think Mamma Mia!, but make it a samurai serial. It does a fascinating job mixing and remixing Western and Eastern influences in art, animation and music. I was having a field day with how many different approaches they took to depicting all of the action and storytelling. The voice cast includes Maya Erskine, Masi Oka, Brenda Song and George Takei. There's already a Season 2 in the works: I'm excited. — Monica Castillo

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Aisha Harris

Last month, I had the opportunity to moderate a conversation with Steven Soderbergh and André Holland at the Sundance Film Festival. This prompted me to finally catch up with their first collaboration,The Knick, a historical drama about a New York City hospital operating at the turn of the 20th century; Holland plays a surgeon who must contend with racism while trying to innovate his field. I missed the series during its original run on Cinemax, but both seasons are streaming on Max now and it's really, really good. It's not for the faint of heart – definitely way more blood and guts than you'll catch on a primetime hospital show – but worth checking out if you love a show like Deadwood and/or are a Clive Owen fan.

As someone who's frequented Las Vegas several times in the last few years, most recently to see Beyoncé, I enjoyed reading our PCHH friend and NPR editor Bilal Qureshi'sexamination of how Sin City has become a sort of career rehabilitation hub for artists like Adele and Usher.

Speaking ofUrsher, baby – NPR Music's Sheldon Pearceunpacked the unique stakes Usher faces as he prepares to take center stage at the Super Bowl Halftime Show this weekend. (Yes, PCHH will be burning the late-night oil to bring you a recap soon after.)

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.

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Jordan Crucchiola
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.
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.