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What's Making Us Happy: A Guide For Your Weekend Watching, Listening And Reading

Noel, Prue, Paul and Matt with the bakers. The new season of <em>The Great British Baking Show </em>is on Netflix now.
Mark Bourdillon/Love Productions
Noel, Prue, Paul and Matt with the bakers. The new season of The Great British Baking Show is on Netflix now.

Emmy week is over, which means it can't be all that long until ... Oscars week? (Don't worry, it's still quite a while.) While you wait, we've got some suggestions.

What to watch

The Great British Baking Show, Netflix

There's a new season of The Great British Baking Show on Netflix! It's time again to try to correctly make cream puffs! -- Linda Holmes

The L Word,Showtime on Hulu

I came out about a year and a half ago, and in that time, I've been going back to stories that I know and love that contain queer characters. The L Word was always just a cultural blind spot that I had because I was too young to watch it when it first came out. Now that it's available to me, I've kind of mainlined about five seasons in the span of two weeks.

It's been really enjoyable to revisit these characters that I'm only slightly familiar with from the reboot that's currently airing on Showtime, and recognize where they came from, and observe all these characters in their relationships to each other and other queer people in the Bush era. It does not entirely hold up, but it's really interesting to look at it as a time capsule of a specific kind of queer life at a specific time, and how looking at what was possible then is different from what's possible now and how that affects the relationships between these characters and the lives that they dream of. -- Cate Young

Succession, HBO

You still have time to catch up with HBO's Succession before it returns on October 17. I'll just say: It's my favorite drama series. -- Linda Holmes

What to read

Daniel Fienberg's review of Midnight Mass, The Hollywood Reporter

Dan Fienberg at The Hollywood Reporter wrote a sharp and entertaining review of the new Netflix series Midnight Mass, which does a fine job of capturing the show's fundamental ... wackiness. -- Linda Holmes

The Night the Lights Went Out by Drew Magary

This book is not quite out yet, but I do like to set you up for a good pre-order because it helps writers and bookstores. It's called The Night the Lights Went Out by Drew Magary, and it's coming out on October 12. You might know Magary from Deadspin or a variety of other online outlets. This book is a sort of memoir of what happened to him one night following a Deadspin event. He had a traumatic brain injury. It's not exactly clear what happened. He collapsed, he wound up in the hospital and he almost died. The first part of the book is an oral history of his injury and medical disaster. He has interviews with all of his co-workers who were there, his parents, his brother, his sister and his wife.

I am here to tell you it is a riveting piece of writing because after that he goes on to write about his experience of rehab and recovery and the issues that he still has. This is a guy that I knew mostly from really funny things. This is a deeply felt, and often very funny, good book. -- Linda Holmes

Alexander Chee's essay "The Afterlives of E.M. Forster," The New Republic

Writer Alexander Chee has an essay that begins as a review of a new novel by this guy, William di Canzio, called Alec, and that focuses on one of the characters from E.M. Forster's posthumously published novel, Maurice. Chee interrogates the initial reception of Maurice, which was Forster's only novel that really depicted homosexual relationships and a homosexual happy ending. The fascinating thing about the essay is that to E.M. Forster's biggest fans in literary circles who were straight, the novel and Forster's queer identity came as a surprise.

What's fascinating to me, as someone who's thought a lot about the subject of fandom, is you get to see the seeds even in hoity-toity literary circles of the sense of ownership of an author that we would now call toxic fandom. Chee quotes Cynthia Ozick's review at the time. She was a big fan of Forster's novels, but she hated Maurice in a very scathing review.

Chee says, "Forster's reading public did not ever really know him. And for some, like Ozick, this felt like a betrayal, as if he owed his reader any truth other than what was in his novels or any life other than the one he lived in writing them. There was not the slightest bit of anger at what the world had denied Forster and only contempt at what he himself might have denied himself as a result."

He's pointing out that the image that we have that's calcified around Forster as the sad, lonely, closeted gay man has nothing to do with the life he actually lived and everything to do with straight critics who did not understand the danger that Forster would have placed himself in had he published that novel while he lived. It's just a really smart and eye-opening essay. -- Glen Weldon

What else has been making us happy recently?

There's more where this came from! Five days a week, Pop Culture Happy Hour serves you recommendations and commentary on the buzziest movies, TV, music, books, videogames and more. Subscribe here >>

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.
Glen Weldon is a host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He reviews books, movies, comics and more for the NPR Arts Desk.
Cate Young