One year ago this week, a small gaggle of yappy writer-editor types converged on a tiny production room at NPR headquarters to record the first-ever episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour. The resulting program was giggly and loose and a little formless, as well as a shade too long — and, come to think of it, it's still all of those things. PCHH is, as NPR shows go, not a very big deal, but it's meant a lot to those of us who've worked on it. For a wide variety of reasons, it came along at the perfect time.
In the weeks leading up to the July 16 anniversary of our first episode's launch, the core PCHH gang — host Linda Holmes, NPR.org movies editor Trey Graham, books/comics blogger Glen Weldon, esteemed producer Mike Katzif, and me — speculated on how we'd mark the occasion. Most of the discussion focused on what we wouldn't do: no clip show, as little self-indulgence as possible, and so on. We mentioned to Mike the idea of dredging up an outtakes reel, and he politely noted the care he puts into taking out the things we say that might get us in trouble. (See, for example, my impromptu casting of "The Fratty & Farty Show," an imagined NPR Morning Zoo for which I couldn't immediately conjure an appropriate co-host.)
What made the most sense for our anniversary was an episode focusing on various forms of appreciation, seeing as how PCHH is already built largely around the people and stuff making us happy on any given day. I proposed — and hereby propose again — the creation of a new holiday I'm calling "Appreciation Day," on which each and every world citizen takes the time to say the nicest possible thing to each of the treasured people who surround us.
The idea isn't to fish for compliments, or to damn the little-liked with faint praise, or to fall back on the joke-cracking that's etched into each individual strand of our DNA; it's to simply say the nicest thing you can truthfully say to each person you know. It's a perfect project to carry out on social media such as Twitter, where the 140-character limit — combined with the username of the person you're praising and the hashtag #appreciationday — enforces the kind of concise sincerity that can be crafted quickly. After all, you've got a lot of people to praise on our makeshift holiday (incidentally, we'd rather you skip us, as we'll derive far more pleasure if you simply extend kindness to others and spread the word), and we want you to get to all of them.
Naturally, as Appreciation Day marches inevitably toward status as a federal paid holiday — replacing the little-loved likes of Presidents Day or Columbus Day — disadvantages will emerge. Instead of getting to grouse that the Post Office is closed for observance of Appreciation Day, you'll feel obligated to leave a nice note thanking your letter carrier for his or her promptness and courtesy, and who needs that? Besides, positivity will inevitably give way to treacle, which will inevitably give way to backlash, which will inevitably give way to a shadow holiday in which smart-alecks on Twitter introduce a special day on which they tell everyone to cram it.
But not you, for you are a beacon of joy unto the world. You're here to shine a light. Come appreciate with us!