A Show That Breaks the Curse of ‘Mid TV’

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Welcome back to The Daily’s Sunday culture edition, in which one Atlantic writer or editor reveals what’s keeping them entertained. Today’s special guest is Caroline Mimbs Nyce, a staff writer who used to be the lead writer of The Daily. She has covered the backlash against dog-foster influencers, why AI tends to generate hot people, and the broken-gadget era of consumer AI.

Caroline is grateful for the return of Hacks, a “dry and wry” comedy series that cuts through the noise of the current era of subpar shows. She’s also prone to diving down internet rabbit holes—the danger of summiting Yosemite’s Half Dome is her latest fascination—and, as a tech reporter, she’s also been tracking the real-world fallout of the hit show Baby Reindeer.

First, here are three Sunday reads from The Atlantic:

The Culture Survey: Caroline Mimbs Nyce

What my friends are talking about most right now: Baby Reindeer. As a tech reporter, I’ve been really interested in the real-world fallout—the Netflix series is purportedly based on a true story about a woman who stalked Richard Gadd, the show’s creator. The internet masses have been trying to figure out more information about his actual stalker, and it’s going … about as well as you’d expect it to.

The upcoming event I’m most looking forward to: I just got tickets to visit Luna Luna, an art amusement park from the 1980s that is now in Los Angeles. There’s even a Basquiat Ferris wheel!

The television show I’m most enjoying right now: Thank goodness Hacks is back; this really was starting to feel like the era of mid TV. The Max comedy, now in its third season, is anything but. It’s essentially a platonic, intergenerational love story between a sparkly, jaded older comedian (played by Jean Smart) and a young, progressive writer (Hannah Einbinder) brought in to revamp her career. It’s dry and wry and, as my colleague Shirley Li wrote, refreshingly free of life lessons. [Related: Hacks goes for the jugular.]

The last thing that made me cry: I shouldn’t have cried at One Day! I’ve read the book and seen the 2011 movie; I know how it ends. It still got me.

Best novel I’ve recently read, and the best work of nonfiction: I loved Birnam Wood. It’s about a group of leftist gardeners in New Zealand who sometimes trespass and secretly plant crops on private property (sticking it to the Man!). One such operation puts them directly in the warpath of a ruthless American tech billionaire. This book is far more plotty than my usual choices; the second half turns into a total thriller! The book’s author, Eleanor Catton, has been making the case for more plot in modern fiction. It’s working.

As for nonfiction, what’s more real than death? I’m on my second read of Four Thousand Weeks, by Oliver Burkeman, an extremely practical guide to making the most of our limited human life span (an average of 4,000 weeks, as the book’s title points out). Burkeman cleverly combines philosophy and time-management advice to help you think through choices big and small. (His newsletter is also great if you’re short on time, which, um …)

An author I will read anything by: Gary Shteyngart. When I found out we’d sent him on a cruise, I freaked.

A quiet song that I love, and a loud song that I love: How about one right in the middle? Rina Sawayama’s “Bad Friend” was my most-played song of 2021, and it still shows up in my Spotify Wrapped every year. It sounds the way nostalgia feels; whenever I hear it, I smile, thinking back to the “summer of 2012, burnt in my mind.” [Related: A new generation of pop stars are dancing with the devil.]

A favorite story I’ve read in The Atlantic: Vann Newkirk’s 2020 article on how heat will be the defining human-rights issue of the century. With every heat wave, the story grows more prescient.

My favorite way of wasting time on my phone: Okay, bear with me: My favorite internet rabbit hole is the debate about whether hikers should wear harnesses when summiting Yosemite’s Half Dome, a legendary rock face that sits almost 5,000 feet above the valley floor. To get to the top, many people embark on a relatively dangerous but popular hike using a cable ladder laid down by the Park Service, which helps you ascend the near-vertical parts of the slab. Hundreds of hikers require ranger assistance every year; at least nine people have died.

Prospective hikers (myself included) wonder why people don’t just wear safety equipment. Why not clip oneself to the ladder using a harness-and-carabiner system? Detractors think the physics wouldn’t work (?), and it’d just slow everybody down. I’ve spent hours reading comments on Reddit and obscure forums debating the pros and cons. I still don’t know the right answer!

Something delightful introduced to me by a kid in my life: I have six nieces and nephews, and, come to think of it, they aren’t giving me nearly enough cultural recommendations. Disappointing stuff.

The last thing that made me snort with laughter: This week, John Mulaney hosted Everybody’s in L.A., a livestreamed talk show on Netflix. In one episode, Mulaney interviews a coyote expert and Jerry Seinfeld. Together. A woman calls in and tells a story about waking up to a coyote in her bedroom. “What kind of car do you drive, Eva?” Mulaney quips. “Don’t worry about it,” she replies. None of it makes sense. It’s perfect.

The Week Ahead

  1. Back to Black, a biopic about Amy Winehouse’s tumultuous personal life and the creation of her hit album (in theaters Friday)
  2. Bridgerton, a romance series about a family of eight siblings looking for love in Regency-era England (Season 3 premieres Thursday on Netflix)
  3. Blue Ruin, a novel by Hari Kunzru that follows an undocumented grocery deliverer in the U.S. who confronts his past dream of being an artist (out Tuesday)


photo of teens at prom
Luca Zordan / Gallery Stock

Prom Dresses Are Just Dresses Now

By Hilary George-Parkin

Over the past decade or so, the style divisions among age groups have become far more fluid. Social media has flattened the landscape of influence, so people of all ages are being fed similar content. Retail, meanwhile, has moved away from age-specific brands toward fast-fashion sites and online stores with wide appeal. The assimilation is especially clear in prom style. Teens will wear just about any fancy adult look to the dance, whether it be a relatively casual dress you might see at an Easter brunch, or a jumpsuit fit for the red carpet. This has spurred an existential crisis in teen fashion: What even is a prom dress anymore?

Read the full article.

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Rockets fly over the bell tower of Agios Markos church during Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations on the Eastern Aegean island of Chios in 2008.
Rockets fly over the bell tower of Agios Markos church during Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations on the Eastern Aegean island of Chios in 2008. (Yiorgos Karahalis / Reuters)

Each year, during Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations in the village of Vrontados, members of two rival churches hold a traditional “rocket war” by firing thousands of homemade fireworks toward each other. These images show this year’s battle, along with others from recent years.

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