The Five: Reflections on American history, race — and pop culture

The Five recommendations.
This week on The Five, MPR News director of programming Steph Curtis recommends "The Final Revival of Opal & Nev” by Dawnie Walton, “Spectacle: An Unscripted History of Reality TV,” a podcast by Neon Hum Media and hosted by Mariah Smith, and “A New Leaf” by Elaine May.
Courtesy photos

MPR News director of programming Steph Curtis stopped by with a spring edition of “The Five,” where she recommends things to read, listen to and experience right now.

1) Read “The Final Revival of Opal & Nev” by Dawnie Walton

It is a fictional oral history of a band called Opal & Nev. Opal is a working-class Black woman from Detroit. Nev is a singer-songwriter from England. Together, the interracial duo create music in early 1970s America. It’s a delightful and intriguing investigation into pop culture, American history and race. It makes you question why you’re drawn to the music that you like, forces you to reflect on important moments in pop culture, and makes you think about who gets forgotten over time.

2) Read “The clockwork universe: Is free will an illusion?” by Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian

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The story is about an ongoing metaphysical debate among neuroscientists and philosophers questioning whether we possess free will. It makes you think deeply about injustices we witness and our agency in affecting change.  

3) Listen “Spectacle: An Unscripted History of Reality TV,” a podcast by Neon Hum Media and hosted by Mariah Smith

She’s a comedian and writer who interviews other creators to dissect how reality TV often captures the racial divide in America and shapes pop culture in the process.

4) Watch “A New Leaf” by Elaine May

In her 1971 directorial debut starring May and Walter Matthau, “A New Leaf” is a dark comedy about a couple named Henry and Henrietta. Henry, a once rich playboy gone broke, comes up with a scheme with the help of his butler to maintain his lavish lifestyle. Henry’s plan: find a woman to court, marry her, and then murder her.

5) Listen “Love and Hate in a Different Time” by The Gabriels

The soundtrack of a short film examining the relationship between subjects and and the stories they inspire.

Bonus from Kerri Miller: “Hinterland” on BBC One

A dark, moody and suspenseful crime drama set in the coastal town of Aberystwyth, Wales about a troubled detective trying to escape his past.  

Correction (May 3, 2021): A previous version of this story incorrectly described who the main character in “A New Leaf” works with on a get-rich-quick scheme. The story has been updated.