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Pop Culture Happy Hour: 'Mr. Robot' And Title Sequences

Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson on <em>Mr. Robot</em>.
Sarah Shatz
USA Network
Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson on Mr. Robot.

Last week, when Linda Holmes, Glen Weldon and I gathered to talk about the great summer entertainment we'd neglected to discuss on the show, we came to a realization mid-taping: All three of us had been watching, and loving, the USA Network series Mr. Robot, which aired the last episode of its first season Wednesday night. (It's already been renewed for a second season.)

So we decided to punt our talk of Mr. Robot to this week, when Chris Klimek could join us in singing its praises. Created by Sam Esmail, the series stars Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson, a "vigilante hacker" who becomes embroiled in an ever more complex series of conflicts involving an evil corporation, a network of hackers intent on destroying it, and even a murderous drug dealer. Complicating matters along the way: Elliot isn't the world's most reliable narrator. He abuses morphine, battles severe depression and social anxiety, and even experiences delusions, many of which are presented to the audience in a way that makes it hard to trust everything we see. All four of us are quite fond of Mr. Robot and have much to say about its paranoid thrills, its unconventional cinematography and framing, how much it asks of its audience, and how it uses Malek. (Along the way, Linda references this Buzzfeed article about the actor.)

Then we use Mr. Robot's unconventional use of its title card as a jumping-off point for a discussion of opening-credits sequences in movies, including a breakdown of the funny, inventive, exciting or informative ways smart filmmakers deploy them. Chris Klimek even offers up a taxonomy, as we're so often wont to do, and along the way references Terminator 2, as he is so often wont to do. (We also all recommend you watch the opening credits to Catch Me If You Can.)

Finally, we close with What's Making Us Happy this week. I start by thanking everyone for recommending age-appropriate horror for my 11-year-old daughter — and then wax ecstatic about one of Linda's favorite current TV comedies. Glen praises this Comedy Central series, which he says speaks to him. Chris loves this tribute to Oliver Sacks and this James Bond-themed podcast (and this episode in particular). And Linda appreciates the ecstatic responses she's received to last week's podcast recommendation, and sings the praises of this weird, hypnotically funny YouTube video.

Find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter: the show, Linda, me, Glen, Chris, producer Jessica, and pal and producer emeritus 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.)
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