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Pop Culture Happy Hour: 'Steven Universe' And The Games We Play

Left to right: Garnet, Amethyst, Steven and Pearl.
Cartoon Network
Left to right: Garnet, Amethyst, Steven and Pearl.

Summer has a way of sending the Pop Culture Happy Hour team hurtling across the country, so this episode required a bit of logistical maneuvering: We actually recorded it several weeks ago, just as Linda Holmes and I were about to jet off on separate West Coast jaunts. Glen Weldon wasn't yet back from Comic-Con, the rest of us aren't in Historic Studio 44... everything's topsy-turvy!

Fortunately, Linda and I were able to land two of our favorite guest panelists — Kat Chow and Gene Demby, both swiped from the Code Switch team — for a discussion of a few relatively evergreen topics. First up is Rebecca Sugar's Cartoon Network series Steven Universe, which is just wrapping up its third season; listeners have been asking for our thoughts on the show for ages now, and we open this episode by giving it a thorough airing. That means delving into its complex mythology and vast cast of characters; its surprisingly nuanced and forward-thinking take on gender, race and sexuality; and its place in an ever-shifting cultural landscape. We get a little emotional.

Then it's on to a generalist take on a topic we covered way back in July 2011: board games, as well as card games and pretty much anything else you play on a tabletop without the aid of electricity. We reference that 2011 episode a couple times, so you can listen here for more — I'm the only holdover between the two shows, so we don't tread much of the same ground twice. This time around, we tackle spades, gin rummy, mahjongg, Kill Doctor Lucky, Clue and Power Grid, while also setting aside a few seconds for quick takedowns of Monopoly and The Game Of Life.

Finally, as always, we close with What's Making Us Happy this week. I love an ambitious 24-hour combination of music and slow-moving visuals, available on YouTube, while also referencing my 17-hour editing playlist on Spotify. Kat loves this podcast and this podcast, with an emphasis on this episode of the latter. Gene loves a recent installment of this Radiolab spinoff. And Linda closes out the proceedings by previewing a string of sitcom appearances by a favorite stage star.

As always, you can find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter: the show, Linda, me, Kat, Gene, producer Jessica, and producer emeritus/music director/pal-for-life Mike.

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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.)