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Pop Culture Happy Hour: 'The New Black' And Secret Names

Listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour

With host Linda Holmes taking the week off to focus on suffering and nose-blowing, we needed only to ask our beloved producer Jess Gitner into the room with us to complete a full Pop Culture Happy Hour lineup. (In historic Studio 44, Jess is usually sealed in an adjacent room, where she watches us through glass the way one might observe a cage of unruly chimps at the zoo.)

Fortunately, Jess was more than ready for this week's show, which we open with an ecstatic discussion of a new TV series all four of us love with varying degrees of intensity: Orange Is the New Black, a 13-episode dramatic comedy (comedic drama?) which just made its debut on Netflix. Created by Jenji Kohan of Weeds, the show stars Taylor Schilling as an upscale young woman sentenced to 15 months in a minimum-security women's prison for a 10-year-old crime involving drug money. The show captures her fish-out-of-water struggles as a seemingly unlikely inmate (and audience surrogate), but quickly fans out to tell many ancillary stories, most of which we find endlessly compelling. I try to elevate my own commentary beyond a spew of superlatives — seriously, I love this show — and only barely succeed.

Then it's on to a wide-ranging discussion of pseudonyms, inspired by J.K. Rowling's recent acknowledgement that she'd secretly written a recent book, The Cuckoo's Calling, under the name Robert Galbraith. We talk Stephen King, Alan Smithee, Garth Brooks, GWAR, the Brontë Sisters (yeah, yeah, another discussion of GWAR and the Brontë Sisters), Anne Rice, Harlan Ellison and many points in between — and pause to discuss what separates a pseudonym from a character from a disguise.

Finally, as always, we wrap up with What's Making Us Happy: I remind everyone to download a free 6,700-word essay I wrote a while back, and then praise a guy who's making my tiny hometown proud. Trey offers a bit of perspective about a recent tragic death, but is also cheered by the presence of a favorite comedian and singer on the aforementioned Orange Is the New Black. Glen is happy about a comics-industry warhorse (a horse... for war) who's made an auspicious debut on Twitter — and offers a dramatic reading you won't want to miss. And Jess plugs a cool email project before offering some news with which we're only beginning to come to terms. Sniffle.

Find us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter: me, Glen, Trey, Jess, absent Linda and our esteemed producer emeritus and music director, Mike Katzif.

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

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)

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