Aisha Harris

Aisha Harris is a host of Pop Culture Happy Hour.

From 2012 to 2018, Harris covered culture for Slate Magazine as a staff writer, editor and the host of the film and TV podcast Represent, where she wrote about everything from the history of self-care to Dolly Parton's (formerly Dixie) Stampede and interviewed creators like Barry Jenkins and Greta Gerwig. She joined The New York Times in 2018 as the assistant TV editor on the Culture Desk, producing a variety of pieces, including a feature Q&A with the Exonerated Five and a deep dive into the emotional climax of the Pixar movie Coco. And in 2019, she moved to the Opinion Desk in the role of culture editor, where she wrote or edited a variety of pieces at the intersection of the arts, society and politics.

Born and raised in Connecticut, she earned her bachelor's degree in theatre from Northwestern University and her master's degree in cinema studies from New York University.

Because it was the early '90s, one version of the zippy theme song for the original Animaniacs includes a reference to Bill Clinton playing the sax. Clinton jokes were everywhere in that era, even in cartoons supposedly aimed at kids, and as a show specializing in meta humor and mile-a-minute cultural references, Animaniacs was no different.

The unspoken rules of gathering the cast of a beloved TV show for a reunion special are familiar: Gin up the nostalgia and warm, fuzzy feels. Montages and clip reels highlight the memorable on-screen moments from years past, as everyone jovially reminisces about the time spent playing and creating together on set. If a key member is absent because of behind-the-scenes drama or personal setbacks, try to avoid acknowledging that the person was ever a part of the show in the first place, and/or gloss over any tensions that might spoil the lovefest. Put on a happy face.

There's nothing quite like an intricately designed Mariah Carey lyric. You know it when you hear it, because it involves a kind of vivid wordplay so utterly specific that you can't help but find yourself conjuring images in your own head of blissful romantic entanglements, earnest yearning or the doldrums of deep, intense heartache.

In the dreamy deep cut "Underneath the Stars," for example, she describes a rendezvous with a lover:

One summer night, we ran away for awhile

Laughing, we hurried beneath the sky

The most gripping moment in the HBO miniseries The Undoing involves the most natural of things. It happens in the first episode, between a bunch of wealthy Manhattan moms planning a fundraising event for their hoity-toity private school, and Elena (Matilda De Angelis), the noticeably younger and conventionally hot new mom whose fourth-grade son got in on a scholarship.

In the Hulu horror-comedy Bad Hair, a black woman's weave is more than just a weave. It's a status symbol. It's the key to a promotion. It's ... possessed by an evil spirit intent on sowing chaos?

Likewise, Bad Hair itself is more than a social satire. It's a visual and thematic pastiche of movies like The Fly and Rosemary's Baby. It's a loving sendup of black American pop music in the 1980s. It's a workplace comedy.

The opening credits sequence of Netflix's latest teen melodrama Grand Army is brief, but a perfect distillation of the show's modus operandi. During a montage depicting various young characters' faces, a moody, pulsating thump accompanies a siren's wail. From episode to episode, a different set of phrases flashes across the screen; in the second episode, those phrases are "F—k the f—ing patriarchy," "I'm scared" and "zero tolerance." Grand Army, it says in just a few seconds, is about existential fear in the face of institutional oppression.

Does it even matter that it's fall? We're stuck inside much of the time, anyway, and new TV shows come at us all year round. Well, yes, there's reason to celebrate precisely because of how the pandemic disrupted things. Broadcasters couldn't develop new material, thanks to production being halted. So, viewers watched more streaming services. Even HBO, FX and Showtime were forced to push back some of their best material to ensure they could get through the long summer.

On her 2001 album Britney, Britney Spears declared herself "not a girl, not yet a woman." In that sleepy ballad, the then-19-year-old pop star and sex symbol stressed her need for more time to grow up while cautioning you, the listener, against trying to protect her. "I've seen so much more than you know now/ So don't tell me to shut my eyes," she croons in her signature guttural, Britney-like way.