Between movies, music, podcast, books, comics, and the ever-growing glut of TV, there’s a ton of pop culture out there.
It can be a lot to keep up with. So we here at Vox Culture — where we’re currently into a fascinating new true-crime documentary, the heralded return of Twin Peaks, and an excellent deep dive into the fidget spinner craze — have a few suggestions for how to make the best use of your pop culture–consuming time.
Here are some items you should really consider adding to your culture diet this week.
Netflix’s The Keepers is Making a Murderer’s heir apparent
In 2015, Netflix captured lightning in a bottle with its 10-episode true-crime documentary Making a Murderer, and the network’s new true-crime docu-series, The Keepers — which begins streaming Friday, May 19 — taps into the same charged verve.
Much like Making a Murderer, the series sits right at the intersection of its subjects’ frustration, vindication, and anger, while digging into the decades-old murder of a nun and a possible cover-up by the Catholic Church. But The Keepers is a different beast than its predecessor, one that doesn’t prompt its audience to don a tinfoil hat or leave them teetering on a cliffhanger. Instead, it will make you feel a haunting numbness, a triumph of its unique approach to a complicated tale. — Alex Abad-Santos
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is immediately one of the best cookbooks ever published
Most cookbooks are filled with recipes, with or without a central theme. That’s what a cookbook is for, right? A recent batch of cookbooks, including A New Way to Dinner and Home Cooked, have turned this notion on its ear, aiming, instead, to better prepare home cooks to build weekly menus and avoid food waste.
But the best book to come out of this new trend is, to my mind, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by chef Samin Nosrat, with whimsical illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton. The book tackles each topic in its title in turn, showing how they contribute to great cooking, then offers experiments, recipes, and other ways to apply your new knowledge. It’s not just a good cookbook; it’s a good book, period. — Todd VanDerWerff
Nerdwriter’s hilarious take on the fidget spinner explains the craze in a classic Ken Burns style
Video essayist Evan Puschak, a.k.a. the Nerdwriter, is one of YouTube’s most popular cultural critics, and now he’s turned his signature mix of explanation and commentary to one of the world’s current most popular toys: the fidget spinner. If you’ve wondered what the fidget spinner is all about but haven’t been paying much attention, Puschak’s seven-minute mockumentary — made in the style of a Ken Burns documentary, complete with an intermingling of clips from Burns’s masterwork The Civil War — offers an amusing but informative introduction, giving you the toy’s origin story and providing crucial context for the 2017 toy craze no one saw coming. —Aja Romano
Avril Lavigne, one of our blandest celebrities, is the basis for some great internet conspiracy theories
The last time you thought of Avril Lavigne might have been when some TV show used “Girlfriend” in its soundtrack and it took five years for all the “hey hey”s to stop looping continuously through your brain, but I invite you to think of her again today. Specifically, consider the following two conspiracy theories, courtesy of the brilliant hivemind of the internet:
- Is it possible that in the early 2000s, Avril Lavigne died and was replaced by a dress-loving body double with totally different handwriting and subtly different eyes and jawline? Think about it.
- Using the official release date of Lavigne’s 2002 single “Sk8r Boi” and exhaustive research into the airing schedule of MTV’s Total Request Live to establish a timeline, is it possible to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Sk8r Boi is in fact the secret identity of Soulja Boy? (Yes, yes it is.) —Constance Grady
Saturday Night Live wraps up a landmark season with a fascinating oral history in the Hollywood Reporter
This Saturday sees the end of one of the most vital Saturday Night Live seasons in recent memory, with the venerated sketch series leaning hard into political humor during the tail end of the 2016 election and the subsequent Donald Trump presidency. In recognition of the show’s standout 42nd go-round, The Hollywood Reporter has gone all out assembling an oral history of, as the trade magazine calls it, “SNL’s Yuuuge Year.”
As that title suggests, the piece is heavy on discussion of Alec Baldwin’s Trump impression and how it came to be, but the longread is also filled with interesting tidbits and insight about what’s been a strange year for comedy, from cast members, show writers, and guest stars/hosts like Melissa McCarthy, Chris Rock, and Aziz Ansari. The Saturday Night Live tell-all has almost become a genre unto itself at this point, but this one benefits hugely from its laser focus on what’s likely to end up being a historical season for the show. —Genevieve Koski
Former One Directioner Harry Styles makes his solo debut with Harry Styles
Harry Styles’s long-awaited solo debut — arriving about a year and a half after the boy band sensation One Direction called it quits — came out last Friday, and it’s an interesting mix of sweet ballads and Styles’s stabs at rock and roll. The self-titled album contains a few standout tracks: the “Blackbird”-like acoustic “Sweet Creature,” the raucous “Kiwi,” and its final song, “From the Dining Table,” which is so quiet and contemplative it sounds like a poppier take on Iron & Wine.
In a recent Rolling Stone profile, Styles said he wanted Harry Styles to be a departure from his 1D days. “I wanted to write my stories,” the singer said. “The number-one thing was I wanted to be honest. I hadn't done that before." And even if you’re not here for autobiographical songs about Styles’s love life, there’s enough variety for almost anyone to find a song they like — especially because Styles’s voice is so pretty. —Bridgett Henwood
Stream Twin Peaks on Netflix before the legendary show returns on Showtime
Of all the TV reboots and revivals out there right now, Twin Peaks is perhaps the most unlikely one of all. David Lynch’s cult favorite ran for two seasons almost 30 years ago, and has since inspired both obsessive fandom and downright confusion as to how the bizarre, format-breaking series ever made it to broadcast television.
But anything is possible in the era of Peak TV, and lo, Showtime has given Lynch the chance to reassemble his all-star cast (now with the bonus addition of Laura Dern) and blow minds with 18 brand-new episodes, the first of which premieres this Sunday night. If you need a refresher course — or if you haven’t ever visited the small town of Twin Peaks, with all its attendant mysteries and much-cited “damn fine coffee” — the full original series is streaming on Netflix. — Caroline Framke