Just a few weeks ago, when Linda Holmes was out of town, we decided to extend the opportunity for a scrappy newcomer named Audie Cornish to get a bit of much-needed NPR airtime. Today? She’s one of the hosts of All Things Considered. (Okay, she was one of the hosts of All Things Considered before we put her on Pop Culture Happy Hour, but stick around. I’m going somewhere with this.)
This week, when Trey Graham was out of town, we enlisted the help of another hungry striver to fill his shoes: NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro, who in his spare time performs and records with the band Pink Martini, as one does. Then, less than 24 hours after he’d recorded this week’s episode, Ari was named NPR’s new London correspondent. Coincidence? Heck, no. We make stars here, people!
Thankfully, we were able to convince Ari to not only sit in on this week’s show, but also prepare for the taping by consuming some truly appalling entertainment. We start, of course, with Sunday night’s MTV Video Music Awards — starting with the twerk endured ‘round the world, then skimming across the 84-second ‘N Sync reunion, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, and the awards given to such countercultural rule-breakers as One Direction, Selena Gomez, and Austin Mahone.
We also got Ari to sit through something worse than the VMAs — the repellent five-month-old action film Olympus Has Fallen — as a way into a discussion of the White House in popular culture. (Because, you see, Ari was a White House correspondent as of early this week.) We talk about what is and isn’t realistic in that film, as well as in The American President, Veep, Scandal, The West Wing, and Homeland.
Then, as always, we wrap up with What’s Making Us Happy: I squee about my kids, as is my wont, before waxing ecstatic about my rediscovery of a much-loved online comic strip. Ari praises something lowbrow (this video mash-up) and something highbrow (this new novel), thus proving that he was born to appear on this show. Glen praises a new, widely liked film. And Linda, who’s spent the last couple weeks painting and moving, hails both silence and this audiobook by a recently departed author.