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Linda Holmes

The Television Critics Association is ... okay, that's the easy part. It's an association of people who write about television, mostly as critics, although many function, either instead or in addition, as reporters. I'm in it, as is NPR's full-time TV critic Eric Deggans, as are a couple hundred other people. And twice a year — once in the summer and once in the winter — we gather in the L.A. area for what's referred to as either "press tour" or "TCA," so that we can hear about what's coming up on TV and get a chance to talk to the people who make it.

We have to posit first that baking itself can feel like magic. A simple loaf of bread might include only flour, water, yeast and salt, and it can still transform from a sticky blob to a pillowy ball with a texture unlike anything else you've ever handled to a final product that's perfectly crisp on the outside, perfectly tender on the inside. Not only that, but it will audibly crackle at you as it cools on the counter. It will pass through a perfect moment for consumption, and then that moment will be gone.

It's strange to describe the apparent purchase and forgiveness of nearly $15 million in medical debt as "impish," but bear with me.

NBC hyped its new Maya & Marty variety series, starring Maya Rudolph and Martin Short, as a sort of whimsical variety show. What actually emerged Tuesday night, on the other hand, was a slack Saturday Night Live imitator for the prime-time summer nights where reruns used to live.

We were very excited to be invited to participate in the Vulture Festival in New York on May 22, where we taped this live episode in front of a fantastic crowd. We wanted to have reliable weapons at our disposal, so in addition to our great producer, Jessica Reedy, who handled all the logistics and other tricks of her trade, we brought Audie Cornish to be our fourth chair.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

One of the best things I've gotten to do while hosting PCHH is have Glen Weldon introduce comics to me. I often don't have time to keep up with even ones I like, but I regularly get the chance for him to show me things I wouldn't otherwise have seen and remind me of just how much there is out there that I'm missing. And our best opportunity to do that is Free Comic Book Day.

Oh, American Idol. You were too good for this world.

OK, maybe not too good. Maybe too rooted in people voting via telephone calls.

Commentators both amateur and professional have turned over the events of the 1994-95 O.J. Simpson trial in their hands for a couple of decades now, trying to figure out how it got so distressingly ugly as a display, let alone as a legal proceeding. The FX series The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, based on Jeffrey Toobin's book The Run Of His Life, has come to the surprisingly compassionate conclusion, over and over, that a significant part of the problem was not malice but excess made worse by public attention.

If you follow Team PCHH on Twitter, you know that a week ago, we all trekked up to Manhattan and saw Hamilton, which we intended to talk about on this week's show. Unfortunately, I was struck down by the weirdest and most potent bout of laryngitis of my lifetime, and we had to postpone that show, which you'll get next week. In the meantime, fortunately, we have three conversations featuring awesome people who have never been on PCHH before. Fresh faces!

As you know if you are interacting with American commerce or popular entertainment at the moment, the Super Bowl is this weekend. Stephen Thompson, as he has explained for NPR in the past, has an annual Super Bowl party and chicken-eating contest called Chicken Bowl. This year will be Chicken Bowl XX — that is, Chicken Bowl 20, for those of you who are not Romans.

This week's show had our toes tapping, you can believe that.

Breaking the fourth wall is like putting gold leaf on a dessert: good for a quick jolt of surprise and superficial specialness, but the more common it becomes in the culture, the less impressive its deployment by any particular creator.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GREASE")

JOHN TRAVOLTA: (As Danny Zuko, singing) Why, this car is automatic. It's systematic. It's hydromatic. Why, it's greased lightning.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

As Stephen mentions early in this episode, the original nut of what became Pop Culture Happy Hour was a conversation he and I had about whether we should take conversations we'd been having in written form about American Idol -- like this one — and have them in audio form instead. So just as without Dawson's Creek (which eventually begat the first place I ever wrote) I would not be writing, without American Idol, there might be no PCHH.

NPR's Weekend Edition has been chatting with TV critics about shows that they believe flew a little too far under the radar in 2015 — Maureen Ryan talked about The 100 last weekend, and Alan Sepinwall talked about Review.

Note: This post discusses the events of Thursday night's episode. Be warned!

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

[Caution: This post discusses the plot of the first and second seasons of Fargo, right up until the end of the second season and the finale that aired the night of Dec. 14. Please don't be surprised that if you haven't yet watched it, it will give away what happens. Again, this is a post about the second season of Fargo and as such discusses all events from the second season of Fargo.]

[You've been warned.]

The title of Maris Kreizman's Slaughterhouse 90210 is, on the one hand, catchy and funny, and it certainly communicates the book's basic conceit: pictures from the world of pop culture paired with quotes from the world of great literature. Based on Kreizman's Tumblr of the same name, the book does its thing with a wink and a dose of wit in many cases, to be sure.

On this week's show, two of us (Bob Mondello and I) are freshly back from the Toronto International Film Festival, so we have news on some of what we saw and what you can expect to see in the near weeks and the less near months to come. Is The Martian spacey enough? Can Tom Hiddleston really play Hank Williams? And whither artsy 3D?

All these questions and lots more are about to be answered. Then in our second segment, we'll return to a favorite regular feature: the fall TV pool, where we gamble on which new shows actually have a chance to win hearts and minds.

The hard numbers on Sunday night's Primetime Emmy Awards told a story that could look a little dull to the glancing eye.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This is one in a series of essays running last week and this week about the state of television in 2015. The series is based on developments at the recent Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., where broadcast and cable networks, along with streaming services like Netflix, presented new and existing shows to TV critics and reporters. The entire series is available here.

Five-plus years into the history of PCHH, this is the first time we've found ourselves recording a full episode with just three of us — in this case me, Stephen and Glen. We gathered this week to talk about the HBO miniseries Show Me A Hero, which I previously reviewed on the blog over here.

This is one in a series of essays running last week and this week about the state of television in 2015. The series is based on developments at the recent Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., where broadcast and cable networks, along with streaming services like Netflix, presented new and existing shows to TV critics and reporters. The entire series is available here.

This is one in a series of essays running last week and this week about the state of television in 2015. The series is based on developments at the recent Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., where broadcast and cable networks, along with streaming services like Netflix, presented new and existing shows to TV critics and reporters. The entire series is available here.

This is one in a series of essays running last week and this week about the state of television in 2015. The series is based on developments at the recent Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., where broadcast and cable networks, along with streaming services like Netflix, presented new and existing shows to TV critics and reporters. The entire series is available here.

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