GLEN WELDON, HOST:
Today there is just more TV than ever before. And here at POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR, we certainly try to steer you to the best of the best. But in such a crowded landscape, we can't get around to everything. Some stuff is going to fall through the cracks. That's why we wanted to highlight some of the recent shows that we didn't get around to but we still think you might want to check out. I'm Glen Weldon, and today we're catching you up on TV you might have missed on POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR so don't go away.
Joining me today are fellow POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR hosts, Aisha Harris. Hey, Aisha.
AISHA HARRIS, HOST:
WELDON: And Linda Holmes. Hey, Linda.
LINDA HOLMES, HOST:
WELDON: All right, let's not faff around here. Let's get right into it. Linda, what's your first pick?
HOLMES: OK, my first pick is "The Summer I Turned Pretty," which is now streaming on Amazon Prime. You can watch all seven episodes now. "The Summer I Turned Pretty" is based on a series of books by Jenny Han, who is also behind the "To All The Boys" movies that aired on Netflix. In this case, she created and executive produced the show, so she's kind of really taken the reins of this adaptation.
This is the story of a girl named Belly who is almost 16, and she has been going for summers with her family to a beach house with another family. There are these two brothers that she's gotten to know. So of course, there is a sense of, like, is she destined for a romance with one of these brothers? This plays out over several books. I think it's going to play out over several seasons of this show, potentially.
What I would say about this is it's not as much of a rom-com as the "To All The Boys" movies are. This is more of a mix of some romantic drama, some family stuff, certainly some romantic comedy, some kind of just coming-of-age. The ingredients are mixed a little bit differently, but I do think Jenny Han writes with a lot of kind of humanity toward all of her characters. She tends to be a very generous writer. So I did enjoy this.
It's not quite the absolute bomb to me personally that more of a pure rom-com is, but that's a me thing. I think for people who like her writing and who are looking for sort of a solid kind of beach-based YA adaptation with lots of soapy complications, this is a really nice adaptation. And again, it's on Amazon Prime, and all seven are out there.
WELDON: All right. That's "The Summer I Turned Pretty" on Amazon. Now, we're going to be talking about a couple Amazon shows on the show today. And just a quick note that Amazon is among NPR's financial supporters and also distributes certain NPR content. Aisha, your first pick intrigues me. Tell me about it.
HARRIS: Yeah, it is intriguing, I think. My first pick is "Dark Winds," which is a show that is on AMC and also streaming on AMC Plus. And it's based on the Leaphorn and Chee book series by Tony Hillerman, and it's exec produced by George R.R. Martin and Robert Redford. It's six episodes, the first season. It's already been renewed for a second season.
So this is a police procedural. And, you know, as we've talked about on the show, I have feelings, complicated feelings, about police procedurals and where they are in the moment. But what I think makes this different from your typical police procedural is that it has a majority Native Indigenous cast and is set in 1971 in New Mexico. And it actually opens up with this robbery of an armored car that is ultimately going to be connected to this community on a nearby Navajo reservation.
Now, the show stars Zahn McClarnon as a lieutenant of the tribal police - his name is Joe Leaphorn - and Kiowa Gordon as Jim Chee, who is his new and younger deputy who kind of swoops in. And he has a connection to the reservation, which is that he lived there as a kid, went away to college, and he's now returned. They have a very interesting dynamic. And it's fun to watch and also interesting to watch because of that sort of generational divide and also the sort of conversations that I imagine are - have happened between Indigenous peoples and the people who stay versus the people who leave and/or come back. And for those who are Noah Emmerich fans, he shows up here. He's an FBI agent. And Rainn Wilson also shows up briefly as a car dealership owner. But what really makes this stand out, I think, is McClarnon's performance. He's really strong. He's playing this role of a man who's grieving a very significant loss while also trying to repair some of his broken relationships.
I do want to point out that there have been some pretty big critiques of this show from Indigenous people. There's an article in Navajo Times where several language educators are interviewed, and they criticize the show's apparent lack of proper dialect coaching. There is a lot of mispronunciation of words that made it hard for them to understand. There's also accusations of certain rituals that are depicted inaccurately. So this has not necessarily been well received in some respects by some people within the Indigenous community.
But McClarnon has responded. He's talked about how the folks on set are aware of this, and they're hoping to do better in season two. So I think it's worth checking out. There are critiques. But if it's something that sounds of interest to you, if you like police procedurals, you should definitely check out "Dark Winds." And that's on AMC and AMC Plus.
WELDON: Thank you very much. Yeah, I was intrigued by the promos. And then when I found out just now about the Tony Hillerman connection, I'm going to check this out. All right. My first pick is "Loot" on Apple TV Plus. It stars Maya Rudolph. That's it. That's the pitch.
WELDON: What more do you need? You know, Dayenu, Dayenu. So on the show, she plays one of the world's richest women who divorces her billionaire tech-bro husband and then decides to get involved with her charitable foundation about which she knows absolutely nothing. I do recommend checking this show out. I also recommend skipping the pilot. I think the pilot invites you to think of this show as a show that it isn't - as some kind of blistering takedown of, like, the moral emptiness of wealth and privilege, a show about someone who's lived her life in a bubble, and then she's going to be coming into conflict with the regular Joes and Janes who run the charitable foundation. And they're going to rip the scales from her eyes. Boy, this is not that show. This is instead a show about how an insanely privileged woman can teach the regular Joes and Janes at the charitable foundation about things like self-care.
Now, if you find that kind of offensive and irresponsible, I hear you. But have I mentioned Maya Rudolph? - Maya Rudolph, who is charm distilled to its essence. When the show is focusing on her performance, no matter how much you may think that the rich should be, you know, churned up into Soylent Green and fed to the masses, you kind of unfold your arms. Your shoulders, like, relax. You're just in. I was really puzzled by this show at the beginning until the episode where her character goes on the YouTube show "Hot Ones." Now, that's a show - and if you don't know - where celebrities are interviewed as they eat a series of increasingly spicy chicken wings. And that moment for me is when the show unlocks itself because it's just as simple as let Maya be Maya.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOOT")
SEAN EVANS: Shoe's coming off.
MAYA RUDOLPH: (As Molly Wells) Let me tell you something, Sean. I have $87 billion. I could buy you and this whole studio and every [expletive] in it, and I couldn't shut it the [expletive] down. I could kill everybody in here and get away with it.
WELDON: This is not "Veep." This is not a caustic, joke-driven show. This is all "Parks." This is all a surprisingly gentle, character-driven comedy where you can set your watch. At some point in every episode, two secondary characters, who are played by ringers, like Joel Kim Booster and Ron Funches and Nat Faxon and Michaela Jae Rodriguez, are going to have a scene together where it's just two of them being kind to each other. It is the "Schitt's Creek"-ification of comedy. And I'm not going to complain. I think the show is definitely still finding itself, but I also think it's worth checking out. That's "Loot" on Apple TV+.
OK, Linda, second bite of the apple. What do you got?
HOLMES: All right. Now, there are two kinds of people in the world. There are people who know about "Flowers In The Attic," and there are people who don't know about "Flowers In The Attic." "Flowers In The Attic" is a book series that was coming out kind of when I was young. And it is this very - I don't even know how to describe it. It's sort of self-consciously gothy. But it tells this story about these kids who are locked in an attic. And ultimately, like, there's killing. There's incest. And this family is so messed up. Like, these were books for teenagers, or at least partly for teenagers. And it is so bizarre to me that they exist. But they do. And we kind of just existed alongside these V. C. Andrews books.
Now, Lifetime made a series of movies about kind of the main body of this story. They did a series of films. The new series is called "Flowers In The Attic: The Origin," and it is an adaptation of the prequel book "Garden Of Shadows," which tells the story of how these kids' grandmother came to be a terrible person because, spoiler alert, she's a terrible person. So it's kind of telling the story of how she got sucked into her own terrible, weird story. There's more incest, weirdly.
WELDON: Weirdly, really?
WELDON: V. C. Andrews - incest.
HOLMES: I know. I don't even want to get into it. The point is this. This series is creatively, I think, pretty separate - even though it's on Lifetime, it's pretty separate from the previous adaptations of the other books. It's a new group, both on screen and also creatively. But it does have creative crossover with "Jane The Virgin." So you might expect this to be a sort of - a very silly - like, a kind of a - embracing the overblowniness (ph) of "Flowers In The Attic" and how weird that story is. And it is that. But it's played much straighter than "Jane The Virgin." There's not the kind of open winking at the audience. It's more just leaning into the energy of this story and letting it kind of take you away. Because although it does not have those overt winks that "Jane" had, the - most of these actors I was not terribly familiar with.
But there is a performance by the great Kate Mulgrew as the creepy old housekeeper who kind of does these very severe - these very, like - there is - and I actually - I believe I actually sent a clip to Glen.
WELDON: I was about to mention it. Yep.
WELDON: You sent me a clip where this character says the word homosexual, and it takes her, like, a tectonic age of the planet to get out the word.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC: THE ORIGIN")
KATE MULGREW: (As Mrs. Steiner) I'll come by to collect it next weekend, unless, of course, you want the whole world to find out that your boy is a homosexual.
HOLMES: (Imitating Kate Mulgrew) A homosexual.
And then the music sort of goes like bom, bom, bom (ph). And she just stares in this very particular way...
HOLMES: ...At the person she's talking to.
WELDON: And yet you say it's playing it straight. I...
HOLMES: Well, this is what I'm saying. It's not acknowledging it in the same way. But there's no way they don't know what they're doing, right?
HOLMES: Because these are people who have experience, it's different but related. I think everything about how weird it is is intentional. I don't know if I think it's good. I don't know if I think the acting is very good. But I watched the whole thing.
HOLMES: And that's always, to me, kind of the - there are four parts. I had screeners. The fourth one is out July 30. I didn't know how I felt about it, but I watched it all, which kind of at some level - I have always said you can't argue with the fact that you watched the whole thing.
HOLMES: So I don't know how I - I don't know exactly...
WELDON: I watched it all - Linda Holmes, NPR.
HOLMES: I'm fascinated by the idea of this thing. I have not read a ton about it, and, therefore, I have not read a ton of interviews where they talk about what their approach is. But you will never convince me that these people do not know what they are doing or that Kate Mulgrew doesn't know what she is doing, even though it is played relatively straight. That's what I would say. Four episodes - they are on Lifetime TV, or you can watch them on mylifetime.com. See what you think because if you get to that Kate Mulgrew read of the word homosexual, you will not regret it. It is a read - a line reading for the ages.
WELDON: OK. Give me the title again.
HOLMES: It is called "Flowers In The Attic: The Origin," adapted from the book "Garden Of Shadows."
WELDON: OK. All right. This sounds like something - you got a free afternoon, you got a box of blush wine, you're going to have a time.
HOLMES: Yes. I would say if you are a person who enjoys a tipple, a tipple and this probably go well together.
WELDON: All right. You can tell, listeners, that we're all grappling with these recommendations. They're not full-throated recommendations, which might be why we didn't devote a single episode to them and why we're kind of bunching them together. Aisha, is that true for your second pick?
HARRIS: Here's the thing. What if I told you that there's a sharper, shorter, darker and more interesting version of "Inventing Anna" out there?
HARRIS: That would be "Chloe," which is streaming on Amazon Prime.
HARRIS: So this is a British series that was created by Alice Seabright. And it's kind of a psychological thriller that's part scam story, hence the "Inventing Anna" connection, and also, like, part "Single White Female." Basically, Erin Doherty plays Becky, who's this young woman who becomes obsessed with the mysterious death of a well-known socialite. And that socialite is named Chloe. And so Becky cons her way into Chloe's inner circle by assuming a fake identity. And just kind of watching her scam her way into this community is really, really interesting to watch because you kind of want to root for her sometimes because the people are so insufferable in the same way that rich people often can be. But at the same time, clearly, Becky is also unhinged in many ways and doing outrageous things. And I kind of liked that tension that's happening because I feel like, especially in a lot of scamming stories, I'm not necessarily rooting for them. I'm more or less rooting against the rich people. But in this case, I felt empathy, at least, for Becky because as the story unfolds, you kind of learn more and more about her connection to Chloe and what that means. It goes a little bit further beyond, just, like, oh, I was obsessed with this socialite.
There are so many twists. Sometimes the twists are really interesting. Sometimes the twists are, like, twists on top of twists on top of twists. And, like, it feels like a gotcha moment in a way that makes you as a viewer feel like, OK, it feels gratuitous. But for six episodes, I was kind of intrigued the whole time. I think that the Becky character and Doherty's performance are really, really strong. And I just really - if you love scamming stories and if you also love psychological thrillers, I think this is a pretty fun thing to commit to over six episodes. So that's "Chloe," and it's streaming on Amazon Prime.
WELDON: Thank you very much. OK, my second pick is "Trixie Motel" on Discovery Plus, which I assure you is a thing. This is a reality show on which the drag queen Trixie Mattel and her partner David buy a very run-down Palm Springs motel and completely renovate it to become basically an extension of the Trixie Mattel retro, kitschy, hot-pink brand. So every week they renovate one room of the motel and transform it into this themed experience. You know, you've got your outer space, you've got your old West, you got your Barbie Malibu dreamhouse, etc., etc. Now, it has been a while since I watched a renovation show, and you are kind of hit in the face repeatedly with the heavily produced artifice of it all, all in the fakey-fake service of the notion of getting inspiration. You know what I mean? It's like, I am looking for inspiration for the Malibu dream house room, so naturally, I'm going to fly to Malibu and take a surfing lesson with my new friend Belinda Carlisle. It's a lot of that. It's that level. Now, it's all done with a wink, of course. And I guess you could argue, and, in fact, I guess I am arguing that when your show is hosted by a drag queen, that level of artifice - that's a feature, not a bug, right? It's part of the deal.
WELDON: It does not matter if you do not share Trixie's very specific aesthetic, which is this whole Pepto-Bismol pink biasma (ph) that leans very heavily into just some aggressively large murals. It doesn't matter because Trixie is charming. She's funny. You can't help but approach this show as an exercise in brand extension. And in that much at least, it has a lot to teach us. That is "Trixie Motel" on Discovery Plus.
HARRIS: This sounds like something I would watch on a Saturday afternoon.
WELDON: This is a Saturday afternoon binge watch. It's done now so you can watch them all.
Well, we want to know what TV you are watching, maybe that we haven't gotten around to yet. Find us at facebook.com/pchh and on Twitter @pchh. And that brings us to the end of our show. My friends, Aisha Harris, Linda Holmes, thanks to both of you for being here.
HOLMES: Thank you.
HARRIS: Thank you, Glen.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
WELDON: And of course, thank you for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. If you have a second and you're so inclined, please subscribe to our newsletter at npr.org/popculturenewsletter. This episode was produced by Candice Lim and Romel Wood and edited by Jessica Reedy. And Hello Come In provides our theme music, which you might be bobbing your head to right now. If so, and if popping persists for more than four hours, consult a medical professional.
Thanks for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. I'm Glen Weldon, and we'll see you all tomorrow when we will be talking about "The Gray Man."
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
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