Pop Culture Happy Hour No. 250: 'Magic Mike XXL' And 'Catastrophe'
Just a little less than five years ago, Linda Holmes and I decided to book a studio after-hours and record what we'd call "an audio experiment" — a roundtable discussion of pop culture with the two of us and our pals Trey Graham and Glen Weldon, produced by the essential Mike Katzif. By the time the first recording was complete, we'd decided to come back every week, even though our budget was zero and we'd never asked our bosses for permission.
What's followed has been a blur of fun live shows, wonderful interactions with listeners, remarkable support from NPR executives, shockingly esteemed guest panelists, and... wow, 250 episodes, not counting the dozens of Small Batch editions we've churned out in recent months. We're bound to congratulate ourselves again when we hit the five-year mark on July 16, but 250 is a pretty sweet round number. We'd never, ever have gotten this far without the kindness and enthusiasm of the people who keep tuning in, not to mention the sort of workplace that smiles on experimentation, so we're just feeling incredibly grateful right now.
As for episode No. 250 itself, the great Margaret H. Willison joins Linda, Glen and me to tackle a couple of grown-up topics: the male strippers of Magic Mike XXL and the Amazon Prime comedy series Catastrophe. Magic Mike XXL stars Channing Tatum as part of a gaggle of "male entertainers" who return to the game for one last big performance; if that sounds like a cliche, we're here to tell you that it's a pretty surprising film all around, for reasons ranging from its infectious cheerfulness to its nonexistent stakes to its feminism.
Catastrophe, whose first season is a six-episode run that first aired on British TV, stars Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan as two people who meet in a bar, have a six-day fling, and must then deal with an unplanned pregnancy. A few of us had already praised the show on Pop Culture Happy Hour, and we've raved about Delaney's Twitter feed a bunch of times, but here we get to dig into the details of what makes Catastrophe work: namely, the terrific performances of the two leads (who also write each episode), the puncturing of romantic-comedy cliches, Delaney's resemblance to the Brawny paper-towel guy, and more.
Finally, as always, we close with what's making us happy this week. I've got kind words for NPR Music's roundup of the year's best songs and albums so far, and direct everyone to this Esquire profile of Carrot Top. Glen sings the praises of a podcast he's loved for years. Margaret loves a podcast, too, as well as two newsletters worth seeking out. And Linda is awed by the aftermath of the WTF podcast's biggest booking, not to mention ongoing terrific work by Larry Wilmore and John Oliver.
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