Staff Picks: All the Pop Culture InsideHook Staffers Recommend This Week – InsideHook

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Here at InsideHook, we do our best to point you to all the latest music, books, movies, TV shows and other miscellaneous pop culture that warrants your attention every week, whether we’re explaining why the It’s Always Sunny Podcast blows every other sitcom rewatch podcast out of the water, chatting up Mark Rylance about his latest movie or explaining why a tragic, seven-year-old novel is suddenly blowing up on TikTok.
However, we are but mere mortals, and there’s only so much we can cram into a given week. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up these staff picks to allow our editors an opportunity to sing the praises of whatever they’ve been digging lately that falls under the broad “arts and entertainment” umbrella — the shows they’ve been binging, the podcasts they’ve got on heavy rotation, the songs they can’t get out of their heads — that they personally recommend checking out. Some of them are new releases, others are decades old, but they’re all worth diving into.
I found myself in a quiet California bookshop perusing the fiction section when a gaggle of fellow bookworms began praising a novel within earshot. Eavesdropping on their approval, I waited patiently for them to leave before snatching up the book they so deeply admired: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty. Winner of the 1986 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, this cowboy novel follows a cast of authentic characters in the waning years of the Old West, exploring themes of age, death, love and friendship along the way. A book I wish I could forget only so that I may read it again, consider this if you’re a fan of Yellowstone1883 or the late-’80s miniseries of the same name. — Cam Vigliotta, Commerce Editor
You might have missed this one when it premiered on HBO Max this past winter. Station Eleven is a 10-episode miniseries, created by Patrick Somerville and based on the best-selling 2014 novel of the same name by Emily St. John Mandel. The premise of the show likely proved an impossible assignment for the HBO Max marketing team; a flu pandemic wipes out 99% of the world’s population, leaving Earth to a few stragglers and their eventual offspring — colloquially referred to as pre-pans and post-pans. It sounds cut from conventional post-apocalyptic cloth, and I’m confident that watching a pandemic play out on TV isn’t at the top of your list right now. But you’d be missing out on what is simply the most beautiful, balanced and unexpectedly hopeful television show I’ve seen in years. Lots of productions these days like to bounce around eras, introduce unreliable memories and swap protagonists. This one makes it look effortless. Everything works. It isn’t “passive watching,” by any means. You will be confused. You will also spend a lot of time around Lake Michigan. In the end, it’s worth every second. Station Eleven doesn’t care much about governments or zombies. It’s more concerned with the things we carry with us when life is on its last legs — and why we even bother. — Tanner Garrity, Senior Editor
I’m not immune to the charms of The Office. I’ve even been in the habit of rewatching some of the various Christmas episodes on a seasonal basis. But despite being off the air for almost a decade, Scranton still seems to have a stranglehold on American TV — and culture as a whole — which is why I’m watching French TV now. Specifically Call My Agent!, which is the workplace dramedy antidote to that curdled era of cutesy television. Known as Dix Pour Cent in France (which translates to “ten percent,” a reference to the rate talent agents get paid for the movie and TV stars they manage), the show follows the employees at an agency in Paris, and every episode features French stars who play themselves (from Jean Dujardin to Monica Bellucci). But the real standout performances are the actors playing the agents and assistants, particularly Camille Cottin as Andréa and Grégory Montel as Gabriel, though everyone is wonderfully insane. In a streaming era full of comedies, it’s refreshing to actually find myself laughing out loud in my home and not simply tweeting about how a show is “so funny lol.” — Alex Lauer, Senior Editor
A recently released album that I’ve been listening to repeatedly is MOTOMAMI, by Rosalía. On it she does a great job at mixing a wide array of genres such as pop, reggaetón, bachata, bolero and opera. Thematically there are a bunch of references to spirituality and transformation, contextualized by using examples from contemporary pop culture. The experimental sounds and subjects remind me of something by M.I.A., one of the artists Rosalía mentions by name on the track “Bulerías.” Overall it’s a very creative and artistic listen, and I look forward to sitting with this album for a while and exploring its depth. — Gabriel Serrano, Visual Designer
For the past few months, I’ve been training for a half marathon, but it wasn’t until very recently that I discovered that the key to wanting to die marginally less on my long runs is actually a good podcast. It’s not a particularly original take, but I’ve found myself cycling through podcasts — particularly of the single topic, story-driven variety — at an almost alarming rate since. Currently, I’m listening to Culpable — an investigative true-crime podcast that explores unsettled cases where those deserving of blame have somehow eluded justice. It’s eerie enough to keep me moving at a good clip, but not so much so that I can’t listen to it on my night runs. — Lindsay Rogers, Assistant Editor
When you listen to one of his projects, you’ll realize pretty quickly that Justice Tripp has a wide range of influences. His start with Trapped Under Ice provides a basis of lean, perfect hardcore punk where later projects like Angel Du$t twist the formula by introducing acoustic guitar pairings and experimentation with other genres. COLD MEGA, his first completely solo release, feels you’re hearing his brain melting out onto an EP. In under 10 minutes, you’ll hear extremely confrontational acoustic riffage, breakbeats, hip-hop samples and a hell of a lot more. Most importantly, it all rocks. — John Hill, Social Media Manager
I picked up Jennifer Saginor’s 2006 memoir of childhood at the Playboy Mansion after her appearance on the recent A&E docuseries, Secrets of Playboy. Saginor, the daughter of Hugh Hefner’s longtime friend and personal doctor, Mark Saginor, details growing up in the Playboy Mansion during the drug-heavy days of the ’70s and ’80s, and her tale of sex, drugs and debauchery is infinitely more scandalous and WTF-inducing than any other Playboy memoir I’ve encountered. — Kayla Kibbe, Associate Editor
Approaching the 25th anniversary of its first episode airing on Comedy Central, South Park is still on its original channel but has also migrated onto HBO Max. The animation looks a bit different, and there are a ton of new characters in Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman’s small Colorado town, but not all that much has changed in the show’s 25th season. South Park is still a raunchy, offensive, animated series that is not for children in spite of being filled with kindergarten-level potty humor, and it’s great. — Evan Bleier, Senior Editor
One day last fall, I randomly came across the Australian band Camp Cope on Spotify. I can’t remember if it was through one of those “people also like”-type suggestions or if I was just scrolling through new releases and I decided to give it a shot. But it turned out they’d just released the song “Blue,” the first single from their then-forthcoming third album, Running With the Hurricane. The album was released just today, so I haven’t even heard the whole thing yet, but that one song sent me down a rabbit hole. The band’s been around for a few years now, with two other albums under their belt, and it seems they’re actually having a bit of a moment with the new one, which sees them drifting away from the noisier, more rambunctious indie-pop of their early days and toward a sunnier, more folk-rock leaning vibe that I enjoy very, very much. — Mike Conklin, Executive Editor
A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers is a mouthwatering read about a food critic gone wild: her descriptions of crusty bread and cheese, gorgeous wines and the luxury hotels her main character trails through (leaving dead men in her wake) are enough to keep you wanting more. Be warned, some cannibalism involved, but her prose makes anything sound good enough to eat. — Trish Rooney, Editorial Fellow
The latest scammer series Bad Vegan and the delightfully silly baking competition Is It Cake? have received more buzz since they recently dropped on Netflix, but there’s another new series on the streaming service that absolutely deserves your attention. Human Resources, the animated spin-off of Big Mouth, features the same raunchy Hormone Monsters and sweet Lovebugs that guide our heroes through puberty on the original Nick Kroll and John Mulaney series, but there are some new creatures — including a Logic Rock (voiced by Randall Park) and an Ambition Goblin (voiced by Rosie Perez) — who work alongside them to guide the thoughts and emotions of more adult characters this time around. It’s all just as funny and insightful as Big Mouth, but episode 9 in particular, about a dying elderly dementia patient and her family’s struggle to cope with the grief of losing her (and featuring a guest appearance by Henry Winkler as “Keith from Grief,” a talking wool sweater who gets larger and more menacing the longer he’s ignored), is one of the best episodes of television you’ll see this season. — Bonnie Stiernberg, Senior Editor
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