Glen Weldon

Glen Weldon is a regular panelist on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He also reviews books and movies for NPR.org and is a contributor to NPR's pop culture blog Monkey See, where he posts weekly about comics and comics culture.

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 seriously terrible marine biologist and a slightly better-than-average competitive swimmer.

Weldon is the author of Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, a cultural history of the iconic character. His fiction and criticism have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Slate, Story, McSweeney's, The Dallas Morning News, Washington City Paper and many other publications. He is the recipient of an NEA Arts Journalism Fellowship, a Ragdale Writing Fellowship and a PEW Fellowship in the Arts for Fiction.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

If they are to successfully make the jump to light speed, Star Wars movies require a precisely calibrated fuel mixture: one-third epic space battles, one-third narrow escapes and duly buckled swashes, one-third hooded beardy dudes standing around looking pained while solemnly intoning the cheesiest hokum about Darkness and Light as if it's Hamlet's Yorick speech (which in a way, it is).

There is a scene near the end of Luca Guadagnino's breathless, besotted, achingly intimate — and just plain aching -- Call Me By Your Name that starts like hundreds of others have, and do, and will, in cinematic depictions of same-sex attraction.

The idea is so good, so simple, that it seems inevitable.

After all, superhero comics love teams of angsty teens. They love juicy villains. So when, in 2003, writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Adrian Alphona created the comic Runaways, starring a group of angsty teens who discover, to their horror, that their parents are secretly super-villains, you could practically hear the sound of thousands of comics readers slapping their heads. ("Why didn't I think of that?")

This article discusses plot details of Search Party's first season.

Search Party isn't for everyone.

But of course, nothing worthwhile is.

To determine if it's your kind of thing, here's a litmus test (which seems only fitting, given the series' blithely acidic sense of humor).

We're scattered to the winds this week, so we thought we'd dig one of our favorite episodes from last year out of the vault — the one in which we took a first look at two then-new broadcast television shows that continue to impress: This is Us on NBC, and Speechless on ABC.

Several of us are on vacation this week, so here's one of our favorite — heretofore unheard — segments from last year's Pop Culture Happy tour of the West Coast.

Specifically: The great and good Audie Cornish joined us last October for a show at Seattle's Neptune Theatre, in which we answered listener questions and offered up some pop culture advice on the following topics:

  • Do I need to adjust my ratio of reading articles/listening to podcasts about a given piece of culture vs. personally experiencing that piece of culture?

This article discusses several plot elements of the original Twin Peaks television series, the 2016 book The Secret History of Twin Peaks, as well as this summer's Showtime mini-series, Twin Peaks: The Return.

Twin Peaks — the show and the cultural phenomenon around it — began life as the co-creation of two starkly different men: filmmaker David Lynch and writer Mark Frost.

Let's begin with a sweeping, simplistic and grossly unfair generalization: David Lynch is an artist. Mark Frost is a storyteller.

The television police procedural is a genre, and like any genre, it makes an implicit contract with its audience.

Chiefly, that contract is about plot. Here's what you'll get, it says. Each episode, a crime will be committed, investigated with a certain amount of technical detail, and ultimately solved. That's it. We may introduce some embellishments — a chewy performance here, an out-of-left-field twist there, or maybe a tiny amount of character development — but week in and week out, we'll stick to the parameters.

There is a moment about fifteen minutes into the premiere of the eight-episode Netflix series American Vandal when I knew it had its hooks in me.

It's a scene in which two student documentary filmmakers — Peter (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam (Griffin Gluck) — are examining evidence.

Near the midpoint of director Dome Karukoski's Tom of Finland, artist Touko Laaksonen (Pekka Strang) sits on a bench, catching up with the man who was once his superior officer when they served in the Finnish army during World War II, years before.

"We've started a motorcycle club," he says. Pauses."Without the motorcycles."

"Regaining sanity in a mental hospital is like treating a migraine at a rave."

It's a good line, and one that has the added benefit of being true. Zack McDermott should know; he's been through a few stints at mental institutions as a consequence of his bipolar disorder, which he chronicles, with an affable and often rueful wit, in Gorilla and the Bird: A Memoir of Madness and a Mother's Love.

Writer Jaime Lowe also lives with bipolar disorder; she shares her story — and a great deal more — in Mental: Lithium, Love and Losing My Mind.

After Friday night's two-hour premiere of Marvel's Inhumans on ABC, you can forgive us Marvel nerds for feeling a bit flinchy. That show's a great big slab of cheese — some of the runniest and stinkiest around — so if some of us approach the premiere of FOX's mutant-themed series The Gifted by adopting a kind of collective defensive crouch, understand that it's warranted.

Nerds of the world, I'm here to tell you: You can unclench.

Is the familiar, dutiful, and wholly generic setup of FOX's buddy-paranormal-investigator sitcom Ghosted a bug, or a feature?

That's the question: Is it lazily leaning on the stock narrative framework of a show like The X-Files, or inventively riffing on it?

Monty Hall got it.

Hall, who died today at age 96 according to his agent Mark Measures, was in on the joke. He was you, sitting there at home, clucking your tongue at the lengths to which people would go, the extent to which they would abase themselves, just to get picked to compete on a dumb game show.

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