Glen Weldon

Glen Weldon is a regular panelist on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He reviews books, movies, comics, and more for the NPR Arts Desk.

Over the course of his career, he has spent time as a theater critic, a science writer, an oral historian, a writing teacher, a bookstore clerk, a PR flack, a completely inept marine biologist, and a slightly better-ept competitive swimmer.

Weldon is the author of two cultural histories: Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, and The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture. He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Slate, McSweeney's, and more; his fiction has appeared in several anthologies and other publications. He is the recipient of an NEA Arts Journalism Fellowship, an Amtrak Writers' Residency, a Ragdale Writing Fellowship, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts for Fiction.

In these unsettled, unsettling times, some of us look to things like horror movies and dystopian novels as a means to keep things in perspective. Things are bad, these people think, as they delight in characters meeting various grisly ends, or huddling around barrel-fires in fishnet stockings and fingerless gloves, but they're not this bad.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The first two episodes of Devs drop on FX on Hulu on Thursday, March 5th. The remaining six episodes will be published over the following six weeks.

Slow Burn premieres Sunday February 16th on EPIX.

Slow Burn isn't the first hit podcast to be adapted into a television series, and it won't be the last. In this, the age of streams and verticals, of IPs and platform-agnosticism, we are about to be deluged with content that began life nestled in millions of earbuds.

Avenue 5 premieres on HBO Sunday, January 19th.

"A problem," decrees a character on HBO's sci-fi comedy series Avenue 5, "is just a solution without a solution."

The problem facing the crew and passengers of Avenue 5 — a massive space-cruise-ship in the not too distant future on its maiden 8-week cruise around Saturn — has to do with its trajectory.

The New Pope debuts on HBO Monday, January 13th.

There's an argument to be made that Catholicism is to Paolo Sorrentino's The Young/New Pope television series as Media is to Succession, as Oil was to Dallas and Dynasty, as Wine was to Falcon Crest, as McMansions are to the Real Housewives.

Which is to say: merely the setting, the ostensible backdrop before which the real drama plays out: endless, internecine struggles, betrayals, maneuvers, schemes and retribution.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The thing about the act of plate-spinning is: It's not about the plates. Not really.

NPR's TV critic and Pop Culture Happy Hour hosts pick 19 of their favorite television and streaming series of the year.

Chernobyl (HBO)

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Superman is secretly reporter Clark Kent. Everyone in the real world knows that because as "Superman" superfan Jerry Seinfeld pointed out back in 1979...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

The third season of The Crown drops on Netflix on Sunday, November 17th.

"One just has to get on with it."

That's Elizabeth II (played by Olivia Colman, taking over from Claire Foy), in the first scene of The Crown's third season. She's addressing her assistants, there, who have just unveiled to her the more-current portrait of the Queen set to replace her younger self on a postage stamp.

When a joke would bomb — or rather, when an audience would fail to join him in laughing uproariously at a joke he'd just finished — Rip Taylor would switch off.

For just a second, he'd drop the merry mirthful maniac bit: He'd stop laughing and frown, his handlebar mustache would droop, his woolly-caterpillar eyebrows would knit. He'd look out at the audience, mock-annoyed.

"Folks, I don't dance," he'd say. "This is it. This is the act."

Or

"You'll get these when you get home and laaaaaugh."

Or

In the comics and cartoons — and on film, as played by Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and (checks notes) Jared Leto — the Joker, Batman's archenemy, is an agent of chaos.

The premise was simple. Clean. Direct. If one were feeling uncharitable, one might even say thin.

In a series of 21 videos posted to Will Ferrell's Funny or Die website, comedian Zach Galifianakis played a version of himself, interviewing celebrities. That was it. Now: It was a pinched version of himself. A bored, distracted, irritable Zach Galifianakis, lobbing questions that were condescending and dismissive at best, and jaw-droppingly insulting at worst.

It's an old tradition that endures, even amid the year-round deluge of programming brought to us by the age of streaming. It is the fall TV preview.

Turns out fall is the perfect time to refocus on television after a summer filled with vacations and outdoor distractions. So our pop culture team collected the coolest TV shows coming your way over the next few months as a guide through the madness. We haven't seen all of these programs yet, but we've learned enough to know they're worth checking out.

Call it The Film About Rich People Hunting Poor People ... That Lived.

But that's a mouthful. Maybe The Hunt Strikes Back; it's pithier.

Just two weeks ago, Ready or Not seemed poised to represent a second data point in 2019's "Murderous, Mansion-Dwelling One-Percenters In Film" trend graph, preceded by Craig Zobel's "blue bloods vs. red staters" thriller The Hunt and followed in November by Rian Johnson's latter-day Clue riff, Knives Out.

Warning: This piece discusses events in the series finale of Legion.

When it began, three seasons ago, Legion was a show about a man who possessed the power of telepathy.

By the time it ended last night, Legion had become a show about the power of empathy.

"What if superheroes — but evil?"

It's a bold premise that seems fresh, even astonishing ... if the year is 1982.

That's when writer Alan Moore and various artists took the '50s bog-standard British superhero Marvelman (later, Miracleman) and reimagined him as a superpowered despot who enslaves humanity.

"Well, what if superheroes — but corrupt?"

I have seen the new The Lion King. Pop Culture Happy Hour is devoting a whole show to it this week, so I won't get into a full review here, but just know that, when it comes to one specific aspect of the new film — the one aspect about which I cared most keenly, most deeply, most intensely — the news is not senSAAYtional. It's anything but, in fact.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We've recapped the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones. Spoilers, of course, abound.

I mean ... sure?

I am prepared to die on the ashy hill of They Didn't Lay The Necessary Track To Justify Daenerys' Heel-Turn, but that whole contretemps seems soooo last week. I've made my peace with it and am prepared to dissect the show that they made, not the one we expected/wanted them to.

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

We're recapping the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones; look for these recaps first thing on Monday mornings. Spoilers, of course, abound.

Dany got a raw deal.

Narratively speaking, Game of Thrones did the Mother of Dragons dirty, there's no two ways around it.

We're recapping the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones; look for these recaps first thing on Monday mornings. Spoilers, of course, abound.

After great pain, a formal feeling comes.

That's a quote from Lady Emily of House Dickinson, who might as well have been describing this episode, which probably couldn't help but feel anticlimactic and setty-uppy, coming as it does in the narrative gully that naturally stretches between last week's exultantly fire-and-bloody spectacle and next week's likely disastrous siege of King's Landing.

We're recapping the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones; look for these recaps first thing on Monday mornings. Spoilers, of course, abound.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We're recapping the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones; look for these recaps first thing on Monday mornings. Spoilers, of course, abound.

Welcome back, everyone. It's been two years since last we gathered around the flickering electronic hearth to feast our eyes on this world, and these characters, many of whom – I'm thinking here of the dragons and the ice-zombies mostly – would happily feast on our eyes. Because Winter is Here, and it's shaping up to be a long, cruel one, and Sansa didn't pack away enough provisions for everyone.

It's over.

After four seasons and 157(!) original songs, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend came to an end Friday night, with a supremely satisfying finale that felt both surprising and inevitable, which is precisely the needle that finales need to thread. (And how about that concert special? With the surprise reveal of Michael Hyatt — the show's MVP recurring cast member — at the end? I may have whooped.)

Batman Turns 80

Mar 29, 2019

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

No matter what happens in this unsettling world, at least Batman is on the case.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BATMAN")

WILLIAM DOZIER: (As narrator) Fear not, America. They are still on duty, that legendary duo.

The 2011 art-house actioner Hanna was one odd duck of a flick: part thriller, part coming-of-age tale, studded with propulsive, well-staged fight scenes, standout performances from a coolly evil Cate Blanchett and a then-sixteen-year-old Saoirse Ronan, a driving Chemical Brothers score (remember 2011 you guys?), a febrile color scheme and a fondness for fairy-tale imagery. Ronan played a young woman who'd been raised as the perfect assassin by her ex-intelligence officer father (Eric Bana) deep in some Nordic forest.

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