You Get A Free Pass For Crying At Commercials

Plus: Tiger King, Attempting to Fill The Void, and Quibi

by Linda Holmes
Welcome! It was the week when Modern Family ended. It was the week when The Good Fight returned. And it was the week when a little best picture winner you might have heard of by the name of Parasite made its way to Hulu. Let’s get to it. 

Opening Argument: You Get A Free Pass For Crying At Commercials

There I was, innocently watching Survivor (as innocently as you can watch Survivor), and this ad for Sam’s Club came on. It shows employees in retail stores stocking shelves, cleaning carts, loading cars, and checking out customers. "The Weight" plays, and the names of Sam’s Club employees scroll across the screen, and at the end, it thanks them — and the other "retail heroes." And I started to cry. 

Now, make no mistake: How to feel about Sam’s Club, or any other retailer, does not depend on this kind of thing. How to feel about retailers depends on how they’re treating people. And how empathetic you are to retail employees doesn’t depend on whether you cry at this commercial. It depends on whether you tip them as extravagantly as you can where that applies, you advocate for policies that protect their interests, you do your best to be kind and patient to them, and you apologize for any moments when you, in your own difficult moments, are not. 

But it was the strangest feeling to realize that yes, I sort of believe this. I sort of believe this about retail heroes — not in the distant, untouchable, "calling you a hero means I’ve done my duty to you" kind of way, but in the way that acknowledges that without people who are stocking and delivering and cleaning and processing, I would not be drinking a cup of coffee right now. I’d be, at best, drinking a glass of water. And I am very glad to be drinking a cup of coffee.
 

It’s a very strange time to have a fundamentally corny personality, in that I tend to be a sucker for group singing and I cry at movies and I like romantic movies … and look, this is not the first commercial at which I have cried, okay? Many for much less valiant reasons than this. I’m somewhat used to the experience of becoming emotional at displays of sentimentality (as PCHH’s own Glen Weldon has often said, sentiment is a very different thing from overt sentimentality). Part of me instinctively pulls back from anything that people tell me is inspiring, or uplifting, or beautiful, because I just only have so much emotional energy at the moment, and most of it is spent admiring my dog (as you know if you follow me on Twitter). 

But I think it’s important to recognize that methods of heartstring-tugging were developed over many years of their being, you know, effective. Your defenses may be lower than usual. Your susceptibility may be higher. Maybe it’s a kid singing on YouTube, or a family dancing in the living room, and yes, maybe it’s a commercial that’s not meaningful without more, but that feels meaningful. In this way, as in so many other ways, you are not alone. More of us are cornballs than ever. If it leads you somewhere productive, like vowing to never, ever be a bad tipper again? Then as Lina Lamont said in Singin’ In The Rain, all your tears ain’t been in vain for nothin’. 


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We Recommend:

I really loved this piece from Ashley Reese in Jezebel about black women’s hair and the pandemic.

And the best piece of entertainment writing I’ve read in quite a while is this thorough, loving, beautifully done profile of "Weird Al" Yankovic.  

If you’re looking for another good podcast to keep you company in these hard days, I recommend Home Cooking, with Hrishikesh Hirway and Samin Nosrat. That’s two people who are both good at podcasts and a lot of fun to be with. 

The great Merritt Wever gets a romantic leading role in HBO’s new offbeat comedy Run, also starring Domhnall Gleason. It premieres this Sunday, and I’d also recommend the L.A. Times interview with Wever, who’s a very understated actress. 

What’s more fun than a Tiny Desk (Home) Concert with Black Thought? Nothing, that’s what. 

And if you’re interested in Survivor at all, we’ll be covering it next week, so now’s the time to find it on CBS All Access or on demand.

What We Did This Week:

Netflix
On Wednesday, we talked about Tiger King and invited a couple of our fourth chairs to tell you what’s making them happy this week. 

On Friday, we went through some of the solutions that we’ve found to fill the voids from specific entertainment experiences we’ve been missing. 

Glen and I provided a little review of some of what you’ll find on the newly launched platform Quibi, where everything is short and some things are very weird. 

Glen, of course, provided a wonderful wrap-up of Schitt’s Creek, a show of which he was an early adopter. You can read it on NPR.org, or hear his radio version
 

What’s Making Us Happy:

Every week on the show, we talk about some other things out in the world that have been giving us joy lately. Here they are:
What do you think of today’s email? We’d love to hear your thoughts, questions and feedback: pchh@npr.org
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