The ever-growing glut of great new TV, movies, books, music, comics, and podcasts can be a lot to keep up with. So we here at Vox Culture — where our current obsessions include the return of one of our favorite TV comedies, a new music video from the biggest new band in K-pop, and Jake Gyllenhaal’s new movie Stronger — have a few suggestions for how to make the best use of your pop culture–consuming time.
Here are seven items you should really consider adding to your pop culture queue.
Watch: NBC’s weirdo sitcom The Good Place is back for season two, and you need to watch the whole show right now immediately
We’re running out of ways to tell you that The Good Place — NBC’s sitcom about a selfish woman faking her way through heaven — is worth your time. The twisty comedy is just so much fun, filling every episode with jokes and ridiculous reveals while keeping itself afloat with sharp wit and terrific performances across the board. (Special shoutout to TV hall-of-famer Ted Danson for having what is clearly the time of his life in the role of heaven’s neurotic gatekeeper.)
If you haven’t watched the first season yet, stop reading this — or anything else about The Good Place, for that matter — and get thee to Netflix or Hulu to marathon it. If you have watched the first season, good news! Season two started on September 20 and is already great. To say any more would ruin the fun. —Caroline Framke
Listen/watch: the music video for BTS’s (a.k.a. Bangtan Boys’) record-breaking new EP lives up to all the K-hype
Reigning K-pop boy band BTS’s new album, Love Yourself: Her, has turned heads with its savvy distribution model, which involves the rare step of selling a physical CD through major US retailers like Target and Amazon. Released September 18, the album debuted alongside a splashy new music video for the song “DNA,” which looks, feels, and sounds like one of those startling last gasps of summer.
Boasting bright colors, a gorgeous tongue-in-cheek ’90s aesthetic, and more tie-dye than a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper, the video showcases the essence of K-pop’s steamrolling international popularity: talented hot people performing sharp, interesting choreography, and doing it incredibly well, all balanced against a clear visual style that you’ll be thinking about for days. —Aja Romano
Read: GQ’s fascinating profile of the man signing Chance the Rapper’s concerts to life for the deaf
One of the more engaging and overall surprising profiles you’ll read this week comes courtesy of GQ’s Ashley Fetters, who just published a fascinating look into the life and work of Matt Maxey, the man behind DEAFinitely Dope, a.k.a. the man who stands to the side of every Chance the Rapper concert and translates it into American Sign Language. The entire profile is in-depth and packed with gems, but here’s a sample:
A few months back ... a video of a sign-language interpreter at a Waka Flocka show went viral. According to Maxey, this particular interpreter abbreviates too much, boiling down the sentiment "I go hard in the paint" to something more like "I'm great."
"To me, 'going hard in the paint' is like, I'm driving down the lane, about to slam-dunk it," Maxey says. "If it were me interpreting, I'd be like, 'He's driving,' or 'He's going into the paint.'"
Maxey ran into a similar problem trying to sign through Migos's "T-Shirt." "I got to 'neck water faucet' and was like, What the fuck does that mean?" Maxey says. Eventually, it dawned on him: "Water is like diamond. He's got so many diamonds on his neck, he's running like a faucet."
Watch: the new movie Stronger is much better than most inspirational true-life stories
So many movies based on inspirational true-life stories turn out to be duds. They oversell the inspiration through majestic music and over-the-top camerawork. The actors over-emote. The tears fly everywhere, in hopes of eliciting tears from you too. It can all feel a little gross.
Not so with Stronger, a new movie from director David Gordon Green (of George Washington, All the Real Girls, and Pineapple Express fame), which focuses on the story of Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing, and then identified the bombers to authorities, before beginning a long journey back to feeling whole — both physically and mentally.
It’s the “mentally” aspect that sets Stronger apart. Green is far more interested in Jeff’s journey through his PTSD than his journey back to being able to walk again with the help of prosthetics. And he’s got an able cast to aid him, including Jake Gyllenhaal at his best as Jeff, and Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany rising above the “supportive girlfriend” trope as Jeff’s on-again, off-again girlfriend Erin. —Todd VanDerWerff
Listen: Dua Lipa and Gallant honor the late Amy Winehouse with a thrilling cover of “Tears Dry on Their Own”
Last week, Amy Winehouse would have turned 34. The singer, known for that voice — a dusty, smoldering combination of sunshine and cigarettes — changed music before her untimely death in 2011. In honor of her legacy, singer Dua Lipa and singer-songwriter Gallant covered Winehouse’s “Tears Dry on Their Own.” Gallant is splendid, but Lipa is the star here, showcasing a voice that will make you both appreciative of Winehouse’s once-in-a-lifetime talent and excited to see what Lipa can do next. —Alex Abad-Santos
Watch: Netflix’s Strong Island is a touching story of grief and a search for justice
More memoir than “documentary,” Netflix’s Strong Island is a searing personal account of filmmaker Yance Ford’s grief, frustration, and struggle in the wake of the death of his brother William. The film, which premiered to strong reviews at Sundance this past year, is both emotional and pointed, with Ford attempting, on camera, to find out what really happened and determine what it means for self, family, and country when justice is so frequently crossed with prejudice. —Alissa Wilkinson
Listen: the podcast Good Christian Fun offers a funny, welcoming take on Christian culture
There are so many ways that Good Christian Fun, a new podcast dissecting Christian pop culture of the late 20th and early 21st century, could go wrong. It could be too reverential and turn off non-Christians. Or it could go in for easy mockery of those who really, really dig this stuff, because they’re big, obvious targets — and thus become a cheap version of itself.
But Good Christian Fun threads the needle with aplomb across its first three episodes (and shorter preview episode). Hosts Kevin T. Porter (formerly of Gilmore Guys) and Caroline Ely both grew up in this world but have since left it behind (though neither has renounced Christianity entirely), so they’re able to treat it like anything you might have loved as a kid but realize now is ... not what you thought it was. That sense of warm nostalgia, combined with their efforts to reconcile some of the messaging sent by the pop culture they devoured when they were younger, gives the show a great tension that Porter and Ely mine for both humor and occasional profundity.
The chemistry between the hosts is great, the guests are a lot of fun, and the recurring segments are solid. This is the rare podcast I have to listen to exactly when a new episode drops. —TV
Watch: USA’s The Sinner is a (mostly) enjoyable murder mystery
TV is cluttered with murder mysteries. It’s one of the easiest types of stories to crank out, week after week, and there’s something satisfying about watching detectives work their way through a litany of suspects to get to the truth.
But a really well-done murder mystery is harder to find, and USA’s The Sinner, an eight-part limited series examining not who committed a murder, but why it was committed, was one of the best of the summer. Jessica Biel stars as Cora, a normal-seeming wife and mother who suddenly snaps on a public beach and stabs a man she seemingly doesn’t know, over and over. The incident appears to have happened totally out of nowhere; Bill Pullman plays the detective who becomes obsessed with the question of why Cora did this — and whether it can be proved she committed the crime for reasons that won’t lead to life imprisonment.
As you can probably guess, The Sinner can be a little grim, and the particulars of Cora’s past did get a little convoluted for my tastes. But the show’s performances — especially by Biel, Pullman, and Charlie Abbott (as Cora’s husband) — are terrific, as is the series’ direction, which is both terrifying and gorgeous. You might quibble over some plot points, but The Sinner is a very good binge watch. (It’s all available on USA’s website or on demand.) —TV