Is 'Creed III' a knockout? : Pop Culture Happy Hour In Creed III, Michael B. Jordan is back as Adonis "Donnie" Creed, the scrappy underdog-turned-world champion boxer from the Rocky franchise. Adonis has decided to retire on top and focus on family. But his plans are blown up when an old friend, played by Jonathan Majors, suddenly reappears. The film is also Jordan's directorial debut.

Is 'Creed III' a knockout?

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In "Creed III," Michael B. Jordan is back as Adonis "Donnie" Creed, the scrappy underdog turned world champion boxer from the "Rocky" franchise. Donnie's decided to retire on top and focus on family and promoting up-and-coming fighters. But his plans change when a familiar face from his past suddenly reappears - his old friend, played by the mesmerizing Jonathan Majors. This film is also Michael B. Jordan's directorial debut. I'm Aisha Harris, and today we're talking about "Creed III" on POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. Joining me is one of the hosts of NPR's Code Switch podcast, Gene Demby. Welcome back, Gene.

GENE DEMBY, BYLINE: What's good, Aisha? So glad to be here.

HARRIS: Yes. So glad to have you here. Also joining us is culture writer and critic, Shamira Ibrahim. Great to have you back, too.

SHAMIRA IBRAHIM: Hey, Aisha, thanks for bringing me back.

HARRIS: Hey. And rounding out the panel is writer Chris Klimek. Welcome back to you, too, Chris.

CHRIS KLIMEK: I just want to say one thing. Yo, Aisha, I did it.


HARRIS: Oh, this is going to be a fun conversation. I can tell already. This is great. So in "Creed III," Michael B. Jordan returns as Adonis "Donnie" Creed, the son of the late boxing champ, Apollo Creed, and honorary nephew of Rocky Balboa. Following the events of the previous movie, Donnie's riding high. Several years after clinching the title of heavyweight champion of the world, he's retired and living a cushy life with his wife, Bianca, and daughter, Amara, played by Tessa Thompson and Mila Davis-Kent. He's also helping to train and promote the next generation of boxing stars alongside his former trainer and friend, Little Duke, who's played by Wood Harris.

But then along comes Damian Anderson, played by Jonathan Majors. Damian and Donnie were close when they were kids living together in a juvenile detention center, and Damian had his own dreams of becoming a champion fighter until he landed in prison for 18 years. Newly released, Damian now wants a shot at earning the title, and he expects Donnie to make that happen, no matter the cost.

Phylicia Rashad also returns as Mary-Anne, Donnie's adopted mother. And "Creed III" is Michael B. Jordan's directorial debut with a screenplay by Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin. This is the ninth installment - ninth installment, that's crazy - in the "Rocky" franchise. There's been so many movies. And it's the first without Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, though he is credited as a producer, and I'm sure we will talk a little bit about that, as well. But the movie is in theaters now. And I want to start with Shamira. What are your thoughts on "Creed III?"

IBRAHIM: The movie was definitely a great homage to the physical form. I think we could start there, right?


HARRIS: Understatement, yes.

IBRAHIM: There are a lot of bulging biceps, bulging pectorals. You know, I appreciate that very much as a person of great interest in Jonathan Majors' rise to stardom, right? As an actual cinematic experience, you know, I have mixed feelings about it. There are a lot of interesting things explored. As you said, this is, like, the ninth film, which blows my mind in and of itself, right?

But what Michael B. Jordan and Coogler were trying to do, like, with regards to actually articulating a story around how do you actually sit at the top and reconcile your inner traumas, you know, it makes, like, trauma the actual evil that you have to reconcile in looking back on your past. And it kind of gets really muddled because the storylines become therapy and classism and mass incarceration, right? It kind of hurtles towards, like, a really not reconciled conclusion all throughout because it's trying to have multiple storylines through a really compelling, you know, antagonist, which is Jonathan Majors' Damian character, right? You can tell he's just having so much fun just playing a really, really tense character. But the actual conversations that are really kind of being played throughout in every single camera scene are really convoluted to me, you know? So it's like, all right, do I have an obligation to help out the person who was sitting in jail while I became excessively rich? I mean, maybe? You know?


DEMBY: Yeah. Maybe. Right.

IBRAHIM: I absolutely - like, I mean, yes...


IBRAHIM: ...You were children, right? That part I think is indisputable. But, you know, then you became rich, and you weren't a child, right?


IBRAHIM: So it just becomes, like, a really kind of hard way to navigate, like, something that is supposed to be lighter fare, you know, pound for pound action. The fight scene choreography - impeccably done. I think they were trying to do really, really interesting things with the camera work there, right? Both people who are at peak physical form really show that they were really having fun with each other within the ring, and they're doing innovative things there. But I think with regards to the actual storyline and story arcs themselves, I found just, like, a lot more that I wanted to be explored, and I kind of found myself a little unsatisfied there.

HARRIS: Got you. OK. Thank you, Shamira. Gene, you're our resident Philly native. And while...

DEMBY: Oh, man.

HARRIS: ...This is not set in Philly anymore - he's...

DEMBY: It's not.

HARRIS: ...In LA - I'm sure you have feelings and thoughts, so tell us.

DEMBY: I mean, there's the obligatory "Rocky" montage. And when he ends, you know, his triumphant training run at the top of the Hollywood sign, I'm like, man, get this out of here, man.


DEMBY: Like, it's either art museum steps or bust. Like, come on, we don't - like, I was very annoyed. We need the "Rocky" steps. But yeah. Anyway, I thought it was weird because obviously Coogler and Michael B. Jordan have worked together on a bunch of stuff. Coogler didn't direct this one, but it felt very much to me like, oh, this is a post-Marvel "Rocky" movie. There were so many embellishments in this movie that felt very Marvely (ph) to me - not in terms of, like, the snappiness of dialogue - that's a whole different conversation we have; the dialogue was like, oof - but just the sort of fight choreography had some sort of, like, slow-motion moments where it seemed like Donnie Creed had, like, supernatural perception, right?

He could find the one second when he needed to throw that jab. It was almost like he was, like, you know, "Black Panther" or something like that. I thought that there were some really interesting stuff that was brought up, and it kind of sped by. Like, one of the storylines that went by really quickly, almost as, like, a D plot was Donnie Creed's daughter, who is deaf. We found out that she, like, has a penchant for violence. Like, she likes to beat people up. And I was like, oh. And there's this moment where, like, well, where would she have learned to pick that up from? I was like, her father, who literally beat the mess out of people for a living? Like, you know what I mean? Like, oh, we should talk about that. It goes by really quickly.

But then, you know, the big thing on which so much of the movie rests is this storyline between Donnie and his boy, who was locked up. You could just do a whole movie just narrowly focused on that and sort of even, like, broken the mold and not have done, like, a strict "Rocky" movie, where you have to have the big fight at the end. And so by the time you get to the big fight at the end, and it has all these sort of Marvel embellishments - and I thought it was very interesting - I was like, the tension between these dudes is already literalized. They're in a boxing ring. You don't need to turn the boxing ring into, like, a mindscape.


DEMBY: We got it...

KLIMEK: Right.

DEMBY: ...We know what's happening. They're literally...

KLIMEK: They go to the quantum realm or...

DEMBY: Exactly.

KLIMEK: ...Whatever it is for, like, the middle eight rounds. Like...

DEMBY: Exactly. Oh, is that Ant-Man? Like, it just - so much of it was very super literal. We don't need that sort of embellishment. These movies - the "Creed" movies - so far have been crowd pleasers and, like, really efficient at that. And this one felt like it didn't really deliver on that part of it - like, the part of it that's just, like, a fun, popcorny (ph) thing.


DEMBY: And it introduced some big ideas, but it didn't do a service to those big ideas, either.

IBRAHIM: I did find it funny that with the daughter, they were like, oh, yeah, she's so violent. So let's just resolve this by having her learn how to be violent correctly.


DEMBY: Exactly. Exactly.

HARRIS: You know, channeling her rage.

KLIMEK: I'll defend that, actually. I'll defend that.


HARRIS: OK, Chris.

KLIMEK: I think that discipline goes a long way.

HARRIS: Yeah. Chris, your initial thoughts?

KLIMEK: Well, I'm disappointed. I go into one of these movies always hoping for a "Creed" or a "Rocky" or a "Rocky Balboa." But, you know, I'll take a "Rocky III." I'll take a "Creed II..."


KLIMEK: ...You know, a nice middling entry that checks off the boxes. But this movie let me down profoundly. I think there is a thematic reason, and there is a formal reason. The thematic reason is, like, I did not feel the emotion in this film. And I think what it is is this is a film full of complex emotion - dealing with trauma, dealing with parental concerns.

And what I go to these films for are simple - emotion. And that applies to the plot, too. This is a sort of convoluted plot, and these movies usually have simple plots. Now, speaking to you as an emotionally stunted, 40-something-year-old adolescent who needs to cry a lot more than he ever manages to and who bawled his damn eyes out at "Creed," I sighed a lot watching this movie, but I never came close to crying. The formal surfeit that I feel in this film is much more easily defined. I can say it in four words - train-ing mont-age, OK? All I need from one of these movies is three training montages. This movie gives me one - one training montage. It comes 90 minutes into a movie that is not even two hours long...


KLIMEK: ...And it's crazy. Like, what song from this movie am I going to be using when I am out of gas two miles from home three years from now? I mean, I am not ashamed to say I have used "Gonna Fly Now"...

DEMBY: Yeah.

KLIMEK: ...For that purpose. I have used...


KLIMEK: ..."Eye Of The Tiger" for that purpose. I have used "Bridging The Gap" by...


KLIMEK: ...Nas, "Waiting For My Moment" from "Creed." I have used all those songs for that purpose. There is...


KLIMEK: ...Nothing like that here. There's a...


KLIMEK: ...Weird montage where Donnie's, like, punching a tree like he's Steven Seagal in "Hard To Kill" or something, like...


KLIMEK: ...Trying to break his hands. What are we doing?

IBRAHIM: I felt like that training montage was, like, full camp.


IBRAHIM: By the time that, like, Michael B. Jordan was, like, pulling a plane, I was like...


IBRAHIM: ...You know?

KLIMEK: That was funny.

HARRIS: Granted, it's a small pilot plane, but it's still a plane. It was ridiculous. OK. So I hear you all and I think you all make excellent points. I think I maybe didn't think about this movie as hard as you did because I really - I actually really enjoyed this. Maybe this is in part because I did rewatch the first two movies in the week ahead because I was like, I haven't seen "Creed" in a while, and I haven't seen "Creed II." I've only seen it once since it came out. And "Creed II" is fine. Like, as far as sequels go, it sort of advances Adonis' progress, and it - and they have great scenes between him and Rocky Balboa.

To me, it's kind of forgettable, in a way. And I think that "Creed III," for me, made some interesting choices that I was not expecting, especially Jonathan Majors. I mean, I think, really, the movie does fall on his shoulders, for better and maybe for worse. But, like, he is so electrifying here. He did a movie earlier this year that will come out eventually, and I'm sure we'll talk about it so I won't get too into it, but it's called "Magazine Dreams." It premiered at Sundance. And in that, he, once again, is playing a very bulky guy - same body. But he's, like, an aspiring bodybuilder. It definitely has a lot of similar tones to this role in that he is an up and comer. There's something off about him. There's something scary and menacing about him. But he is playing this character completely different from that character.

DEMBY: Interesting.

HARRIS: So seeing the two different kinds of, like, male, borderline-incel rage that's, like, going on in both of those characters convinced me that Jonathan Majors can do anything and should do everything. And, that, for me, was what made this movie work so well. And when I say, like, it took some interesting choices, I think one of the interesting choices that I do think I wish that Michael B. Jordan and the writers had sort of taken further is that at first I thought this was going to actually turn into one of those sort of '90s Lifetime movies or those thrillers we had where there's just the one character who wants revenge and is going to do everything he can. And so you're finding bunnies and boiling in the pot and...


HARRIS: ...Writing on your mirror in lipstick. Like, I thought...


HARRIS: ...The movie almost goes there, and it goes there to an extent, but it doesn't really follow through on that. And I wish it could have gone in that direction. But I think even the fact that it sort of took a detour from the other - I haven't seen every "Rocky" movie in the franchise, but I have seen the original "Rocky," "Rocky II," and then I've seen these last two "Creed's." So, I mean, I have somewhat of a sense. I don't know where the other movies have gone, but this felt, to me, very different, and I appreciated that it tried to take those steps. But I also agree, like, the daughter was an undeveloped, you know, circumstance. I mean, I guess this is my next question for you, is because this is also the first movie without Rocky, did you feel that absence at all? Because I did think it was weird that...

DEMBY: Yeah.

HARRIS: ...They didn't even really...

KLIMEK: Right.

HARRIS: ...Mention him.

KLIMEK: That was incredibly weird.

HARRIS: I can understand him maybe not wanting to be in the movie, but I was just like, this is weird, right?

DEMBY: Yeah.

KLIMEK: Right. And the fact that there isn't, like, a scene of Donnie going to Rocky's grave or anything like that - like, we just don't hear...

HARRIS: Right.

DEMBY: Exactly.

KLIMEK: ...Anything about how he's not here. I don't think this movie needed to have Stallone in it, but it needs some replacement for that dorky energy that...

DEMBY: Yeah.

KLIMEK: ...Stallone always had. I think it's totally appropriate for Michael B. to take over the series on his own. I think it's the right time, but where I feel the absence is everybody in this movie is just a little bit too cool. And Rocky is a dork. I mean, that's why I think it is the role of his life because when he's not Rocky, Stallone is a very vain and self-conscious actor. But when he is Rocky, he is so corny and so goofy that you can't help but love him. And look at this. I mean, Michael B. Jordan is super cool. Jonathan Majors is super cool. No one is cooler than Tessa Thompson, right?


KLIMEK: And we need someone in this movie to not be cool the way that Sly in these movies is uncool. So that's where I feel the absence.


KLIMEK: I want to ask you guys if I imagined this. There was a moment early in the film when Donnie is at the gym, and he is talking to the younger fighter who he is now, you know, managing and promoting.

HARRIS: Chavez.

KLIMEK: That's it. Right. So Chavez is in the ring sparring, and Donnie comes over to give him a little pep talk. And Donnie says, it's not about how hard you can hit. And right away, I'm thinking, OK, we're - now we're going to hear him say to his guy something that we have heard Rocky say in the other films. It's a little element of continuity. And the Rocky line is it's not how hard you can hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. And Donnie does half the line. He says it's not about how hard you can hit. And then it cuts to a reaction shot of Chavez. And we get, like, what really felt like an ADR moment to me of Donnie going, it's about speed or something like that. And I was like, oh, come on.

DEMBY: Yeah. Exactly.

KLIMEK: Like, what's going on?

IBRAHIM: Like, maybe they thought it was a natural evolution of, like - OK, this is, like, him taking the mantle and changing it. Like, I have no idea.

HARRIS: I don't know, either.

IBRAHIM: These films - I want to enjoy them, right? Like, in general, you want to have that lightness, that goofiness, and then you want the natural, satisfactory beats of, like, a fighters film - those training montages, those emotive beats, right? I think this is a film that, because of all the, like, kind of big moments are touted of Michael B. Jordan's directorial debut, it's a film that also wanted us to take it seriously, right? You know, and because of all that, you kind of end up going down these rabbit holes that kind of detract from us wanting to enjoy it. There are things to enjoy about it, right? You know, Jonathan Majors is having a ball of a time, right? You know, he is camping it up and hamming it up at, like, every single turn, right? There's moments when he's almost going "Fatal Attraction" - right? - you know, in different scenes where, like, he, like - is he about to steal...

DEMBY: Yeah. Yep.

IBRAHIM: ...Like, Michael B. Jordan's wife from him? Like, what is happening?

DEMBY: But I'm thinking like, so what's good, sis? You know what I mean? You with this herb? I really thought that...

HARRIS: That's what I was saying.

DEMBY: Yeah. Exactly.

HARRIS: I wanted more of that. I wanted all of that kind of energy. Yeah.

IBRAHIM: You know, you could see him, just on his different emotional cues, switching on a lark, and it's generally fun, right? You know, when you can see him just switch from, like, huge anger to just, like, real tense, you know, remove - emotional remove and reservation, right? And him just going, oh, you don't know about that? Well, I'll let your husband tell you - and just, like, walk away.

HARRIS: Like, peak dirty macking energy, right? You know what I mean? You know?

DEMBY: Absolutely. Yeah.

IBRAHIM: And that makes it fun, and it makes it give you that, like, real emotional heft that's just light fare and not just rooted in, OK, are we really having these deep talks about trauma and everything else? That also just gives it the, OK, these are people who just do not [expletive] with each other, right?

DEMBY: Right. Exactly. Right.

IBRAHIM: And it's also, like, everybody knows what that is like in real life - right? - you know?

DEMBY: Absolutely.

IBRAHIM: Playing out that tense, toxic dynamic throughout the film in a way that's, like, really tantalizing. But because they kind of try to layer in so many threads that are - become really hard to keep track of simultaneously - Black youth and Black trauma and life in LA and Dodger Stadium. And you're like, OK, whoa. Where are we? You know what I mean?


DEMBY: Right.

IBRAHIM: And the final conclusion becomes so understated, you're like, wait, did we resolve everything? I don't even know, right?

DEMBY: Yeah.

HARRIS: I did want to ask you, is part of the problem with this movie - or what's holding it back - is there not much left for Creed to do? Because when you think about it, the first movie - he's the underdog, and he's really reluctant to let anyone even know that he's the son of Apollo. And then the second movie, it's him sort of trying to get some retribution with Drago after Drago killed his father. So he's fighting Drago's son. In this third movie, it's about Dame and him and this sort of guy who made it and guy who didn't. And at one point, Dame calls Donnie Baby Creed, and that sets him off.


HARRIS: And so my question is, is Creed a nepo baby? And if so...


HARRIS: ...Is he the ideal nepo baby to the point now where it's like, OK, what is there left to do with this character? Like, he's obviously lived up and - or even surpassed his father, but is there anything left to do with this character, or have we run out of ideas, and do we need a new Creed? I can't believe I'm saying this.

KLIMEK: I know. He's going to be training Amara, his daughter, and it's going to be, like, the next "Karate Kid" scenario.

HARRIS: I feel like it might be, which is scary.

DEMBY: So it's two things that sort of jumped out to me as someone who - I'm a sports fan but not a super big boxing person. But, like, one of the things that is so fascinating about the Creed character is that, like, boxing is a sport that is played almost exclusively by poor people, right? Like, the fighters are people who come from - they're impoverished, right? It's, like - obviously, these people are really talented, and they have, like, all these skills. But it's not, like - combat sports do not pull from the same universe as, like, football, right? Like, football sort of, like, cuts across all sorts of class lines, right? You go to rich, fancy private schools. They have football teams they invest all this money in. Rich people don't seem to mind exposing their kids to all sorts of, like, brain trauma in that way. But boxers are only poor people. And so Donnie Creed is already sort of, like, a weird outlier. Like, he's the child of a rich dude. And so he's, like, a strange underdog to begin with. But then you get to this movie. The movie literally starts off with him unifying all the heavyweight belts. And I'm like, bro, where are we going? Here's a rich dude who has - his wife is bad. Like, he has all this money. Like, there is no place to go. And so Donnie Creed, who's, like - what? - late 30s, I guess - it's kind of old for a boxer, right? Like, where's the momentum in this series at this point? Like, all of his stuff was already just about sort of familial trauma to begin with. He seems like he's resolved all that stuff. It's like, I just don't know how much longer we can spend with this character. And this is a thing that has been a very fraught topic in my family WhatsApp chat for a minute. Is Michael B. Jordan - is he a good actor?

HARRIS: Oh, my God. That was going to be my next question.


DEMBY: Because the more we spend - time we spend with Jonathan Majors in this movie, I'm like, he's doing himself...

KLIMEK: Wow. Wow. Wow.

DEMBY: ...A disservice by being - sharing moments with this dude. I don't know. I don't know.

IBRAHIM: I mean, that was what I thought when the film was announced, to be frank, right? You know, I was like, oh, wow. Michael B. Jordan is a brave, brave man. And I'm not saying that to disrespect Michael B. Jordan, but you see that when he's trying to play out microexpressions, right? I think that's when he becomes most poignant - right? - where his wife is challenging him. It's like, OK, you're supposed to be bold here, right? Step up and, like, you know, show your feelings because he's supposed to be reconciling trauma throughout the movie, right? So he's, like, frustrated and hurt and angry and all of that throughout the movie. But, like, his anger is the same as his heartbreak, is the same as his pain...

DEMBY: Yeah.

IBRAHIM: ...Is the same as his excitement. And it's like, well, if it's all the same face, like - and I'm not really, like, trying to be dismissive about it, but it's really, really evident that, like, you can't see those shifts as you can with a Jonathan Majors. That is something that is very distinct between the two of them as performers.


KLIMEK: I mean, the thing I was going to ask - have we been too quick to anoint Jonathan Majors a genius? And I think that's just because it's very unfortunate that this movie and "Ant-Man," which I think is even worse...

DEMBY: Oh, wow.

KLIMEK: ...Coming out right on top of each other with, you know, Majors doing a similar heel turn in both movies. But it does kind of have the unfortunate effect of making it feel like, OK, this is the Majors play. You know, this is what he does. I mean, I saw "The Last Black Man In San Francisco" in 2019. I was like, oh, wow, who is this guy? I saw "Da 5 Bloods" - I was like, I'm going to be watching this guy for 35 years. Like, he's going to have an amazing career. But I don't know. Like, I never doubted Michael B. watching this. You know, I think this is just more like, talk to your agent, Jonathan. You know, be a little more judicious about picking, you know, these franchise movies.

HARRIS: Look, he had to bulk up, and he decided, I'm going to get at least two to three characters out of this body before I don't have to do this anymore. So I don't blame Jonathan Majors for that.

DEMBY: Yeah.

HARRIS: To the Michael B. Jordan point, I think Creed is actually the perfect role for him. And I think that all of those rumblings about whether or not he's a good actor started coming up around "Black Panther." And I understand. Part of it is that he's not, to me, necessarily a villain in a way. But I think when he is playing a character like Creed, who - Michael B. Jordan's cool, but he's cool in, like, a - he would have been one of those kids in high school - granted, he was a child actor - but, like, he would have been one of those kids in high school who was, like, cool but not too cool to maybe do one theater production, you know, and be like, yeah, you know, look at me, like, I'm down with theater kids, too.

IBRAHIM: Right. Right.

HARRIS: So he has that sort of energy that's not too cool for school or too cool for theater. And I like that about him. And I think this role works for him. When he's actually boxing, I'm not as, like - when he's trying to have that swagger of, like, actually beating people up, I'm less convinced. But I do think he works, and I think this is kind of a role that's perfectly tailored to his sensibilities of being able to kind of tap into, ever so slightly, nerdiness, or, like, corniness is probably a better word - like a little bit corny...

DEMBY: Yeah.

HARRIS: ...But, like, also kind of cool at the same time. I don't know. It works for me. I think Michael B. Jordan's a very much a your mileage may vary when it comes to his acting, but I give him the edge. I think he's good.

IBRAHIM: I would like to say that I think they used a really good usage of, like, LA-based music scoring.

DEMBY: The Dr. Dre and the...


DEMBY: Yeah.

IBRAHIM: Dr. Dre, Warren G., Nipsey Hussle, I think - that budget for licensing was definitely hefty, but I think it was well executed.

KLIMEK: The money that they saved by shooting Atlanta for Los Angeles...



KLIMEK: ...They spent on...

DEMBY: Right.

KLIMEK: I was like, I don't think you guys are at Dodger Stadium. I don't know, but...

HARRIS: Yeah, the CGI levels are very high with those, like, fight scenes.

DEMBY: Yeah.

HARRIS: It was looking a little video game at some point, so it's like...

DEMBY: Absolutely.

IBRAHIM: Oh, yeah, yeah.

DEMBY: Yeah. When he ascends to the top of the Hollywood sign, it's like, oh, this is "Creed 2K" for the PS5.


HARRIS: Well, if you do see "Creed 3," you should definitely tell us what you think about it, and you can find us on Facebook at Up next, we'll be talking about what's making us happy this week.

Now it's time for our favorite segment of this week and every week - what's making us happy? Gene, let's start with you.

DEMBY: Well, this is making me sad and happy at the same time. It was announced that "South Side" has been canceled by HBO Max.

HARRIS: Yes. Pour one out.

DEMBY: It is one of the most, like, ridiculous, ambitious, joke-dense shows I've ever seen.


DEMBY: There are so many episodes I've watched and had to rewatch because I'm like, I missed all of these stupid jokes.


DEMBY: It's just so specific. And there are all these moments in the show that go past me, even as I rewatch it, because I'm not a Chicagoan. We interviewed two of the creators of the show at our live show last November, and it was just, like, all of these layers of random sort of, like, visual cues that only make sense to Chicagoans. Like, they just were completely lost on me. It feels like Springfield on "The Simpsons." Like, it's like you have this giant, like, ecosystem of Black folks - mostly Black folks - bouncing off of each other, and of all these different classes and all these different sort of, like, political temperaments and leanings.

It's just really fun and fizzy, and it doesn't - and it's, like, smart and - without being preachy and silly, without being stupid. And I'm sad to see it go. But also, like, y'all should rewatch "South Side." Y'all should - if you haven't watched "South Side" yet, please spend some time watching that show. It was just very, very - a very, very good show. Y'all should holler at "South Side." That's it.

HARRIS: Yes. Heavy plus sign for that. Yes. Wait, wait, Shamira, was that going to be...

IBRAHIM: Yeah, I was going to - it was going to be that. But I already have a backup, so don't worry.

DEMBY: I'm so sorry.

IBRAHIM: Why would you ever apologize for giving "South Side" its props, right? My - the thing that's making me happy, which I can't believe I'm saying this because it's oversaturated, but somehow it continues to be an earworm, which is Ariana DeBose's BAFTA performance.


HARRIS: Yes, the infamous BAFTA performance. Yes.

IBRAHIM: The song that never ends, right?


ARIANA DEBOSE: Angela Bassett did the thing. Viola Davis, my Woman King. Blanchett, Cate, you're a genius. And Jamie Lee, you are all of us.

IBRAHIM: You know, I think we all have a friend that's a musical theater person, right? Or...

HARRIS: That's me.


IBRAHIM: Who just has their own cadence of doing things. And I think every new revelation about this is, like, just a new nugget of pleasure for me, right? It's not just that, OK, she was, like, out of breath and just committed to the bit and kept going - right? - it's that Angela Bassett...


IBRAHIM: ...Was actually intended that way, right? Like, it wasn't...

HARRIS: Oh, yeah (laughter).

IBRAHIM: That cadence wasn't because she was, like, two minutes in and, like, had to keep pace with the beat, right? (Laughter) Like, or the fact that none of the actual iterations of the name made sense, right? It's like, why was it Blanchett Cate, right? And why is...


IBRAHIM: ...Jamie Lee all of us? Like...


IBRAHIM: I don't even understand why.


HARRIS: She was trying really hard to vogue. I think that's what she was channeling, Madonna in "Vogue" maybe.

IBRAHIM: Yeah, yeah. And then just needed to be camp, I guess.


IBRAHIM: And this is guaranteed to be on "Drag Race" next season because that's just how the way things go, right? So I know it's, like, one of those things that, like, the public embarrassment, you know, happens in the first 24 hours. But I hope she's willing to lean into it after a few weeks of just, like, feeling the humiliation of it all, which is inevitable - right? - and realizing, like, you're a queer icon now, right (laughter), you know?

HARRIS: Yeah. If she wasn't already, she is now.


HARRIS: Well, thank you, Shamira. That is great. It is, of course, Ariana DeBose's Angela Bassett did the thing. Chris Klimek (laughter), what is making you happy?

KLIMEK: On the subject of troubled third installments of long-running franchises that I have been obsessed with my whole damn life, what is actually making me happy is a piece I wrote for about the provenance of an artifact at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. It is an egg from the "Alien" series. It shares a display case with Rocky Balboa's Shamrock Meats-sponsored robe from the original "Rocky," so relevance to what we're talking about. But there's a bit of a mystery here.

When this this egg prop was donated to the Smithsonian in 2003, Fox said it was a prop from "Alien," the '79 original. The curator at that time thought it was actually from "Aliens," the 1986 sequel. And Ryan Lintelman, the current curator who oversees this, figured out that this prop was actually built for the semi-famous teaser trailer for 1992's "Alien 3." This is a movie that burned through two directors before it got to David Fincher, who of course has gone on to become one of the biggest directors in Hollywood, but who had a miserable experience making "Alien 3." For 30 years, he has refused to discuss this movie, disavowed it, hates it, want nothing to do with it.


KLIMEK: So I wrote this whole piece about the mystery of figuring out where this egg was from where I also got to talk about the many, many different variants of "Alien 3" that might have been. So you know, it's film history, long-running franchise dating from the '70s, like "Rocky." So the "Alien 3" egg is what's making me happy this week.


DEMBY: That's what's up.

HARRIS: Thank you, Chris. We will definitely link to that in our newsletter. Thank you. So I am a Black millennial who grew up in the suburbs. And somehow, it took me a really long time to get into Paramore. I don't know how. But...

DEMBY: How? You're the target demographic, yeah.

IBRAHIM: (Laughter).

HARRIS: Dude, I don't know.


HARRIS: I don't know. I own it. It's fine. I didn't actually get into them until, like, two years ago during the pandemic.

IBRAHIM: Fascinating. Fascinating.

HARRIS: It's wild. But anyway, I'm a late bloomer to the Paramore - I don't know what their fans are called, but the hive or whatever they're called.

KLIMEK: They should be called paramours, the Paramore paramours.

DEMBY: Yeah, paramours. Yeah.

HARRIS: Oh, you're right.

DEMBY: Yeah, that's right.

HARRIS: The paramours, yes. I'm a latecomer to the paramours. Don't at me if that's not what you're called, but whatever.

DEMBY: (Laughter).

HARRIS: But their new album, "This Is Why," is making me really happy. It was made during the pandemic. And Hayley Williams, the lead singer and sort of the anchor of the group, especially after personnel changes over the years, she's really tapped into sort of the anxieties that a lot of us were feeling during the pandemic and even now, as the pandemic continues in its various forms. And it's been a slow burn for me. But I think my favorite song at the moment is "Running Out Of Time." This song is so relatable because it's basically about having really poor time management and being late for things. And I really like that there's a song that's just about that.


PARAMORE: (Singing) A harsh reality to discover. Ah, I'm always running out of time. She's always running out of time.

HARRIS: It's just really enjoyable and is really fitting my mood, especially when it's been super dreary in the Bay these last few months. It's really helped me out (laughter). So that is what's making me happy, "This Is Why" by Paramore. I'm very happy to be part of the paramours.


HARRIS: That's what I'm calling them.


HARRIS: If you want links for what we recommended, plus some other recommendations, you can sign up for our newsletter at And that brings us to the end of our show. Gene Demby, Chris Klimek and Shamira Ibrahim, thanks so much for being here. This was so much fun. I'm glad we got to talk about this.

DEMBY: It was.

KLIMEK: Thank you.

DEMBY: Appreciate y'all.

IBRAHIM: Thank you.

HARRIS: This episode was produced by Mike Katzif and Lauren Landau Einhorn and edited by Jessica Reedy. Hello Come In provides our theme music. Thanks so much for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. I'm Aisha Harris, and we'll see you all next week.


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