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Fresh Air with Terry Gross, the Peabody Award-winning weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues, is one of public radio's most popular programs. Each week, nearly 4.5 million people listen to the show's intimate conversations broadcast on more than 450 National Public Radio (NPR) stations across the country, as well as in Europe on the World Radio Network.

Though Fresh Air has been categorized as a "talk show," it hardly fits the mold. Its 1994 Peabody Award citation credits Fresh Air with "probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insights." And a variety of top publications count Gross among the country's leading interviewers. The show gives interviews as much time as needed, and complements them with comments from well-known critics and commentators.

Fresh Air is produced at WHYY-FM in Philadelphia and broadcast nationally by NPR.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

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We're remembering British mystery writer Ruth Rendell, who died last Saturday in London at the age of 85. Rendell was interviewed twice by Terry Gross, first in 1989. Terry asked her to describe her best-known character, Reg Wexford.

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli in for Terry Gross.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STAND BY ME")

In his famous essay, "The Simple Art of Murder," Raymond Chandler put down the classic British mystery, making fun of its arcane killings and hokey air of gentility. He preferred the tough American style and praised Dashiell Hammett for, as he put it, taking murder out of the vicar's rose garden and dropping it in the alley where it belonged.

Editor's note: This conversation discusses plot points from the seventh season of Mad Men.

With just two episodes to go until the AMC series Mad Men wraps for good, Don Draper (Jon Hamm), the series protagonist, seems to have nothing left — no Sterling Cooper ad agency, no apartment, no wife, no lover and no family life.

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The CBS drama series The Good Wife explores the behind-closed-doors drama of a smart female lawyer who stands by, silently supportive, as her husband admits to scandals both political and extramarital. Robert and Michelle King, the real-life husband and wife team who created the show, say that when it came to creating the series' main character, it was a question of art imitating life.

The AMC series The Walking Dead, about a band of survivors in a zombie apocalypse, is known for killing off characters without much warning. But while the show's sudden plot twists keep viewers engaged, they can also create explosions of fan grief and rage on social media. Much of the audience's ire has landed on Scott M. Gimple, the series' executive producer and this season's showrunner.

Columbine; Port Arthur, Australia; The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin; Newtown — the list goes on and on. And, by now, the elements of this type of massacre have become ritualized: usually one, but sometimes more than one, deeply disaffected person, almost always male, who is heavily armed with guns and/or explosives, targets the innocent. In the aftermath, which sometimes includes a trial, the crucial question of "Why?" is never really answered. Instead, most of us are left to wonder how any human being, however twisted, could be capable of such horror.

Journalist Barry Estabrook knows how to enjoy a juicy heritage pork chop. He'll also be the first to tell you what intelligent, sensitive creatures pigs are. "I had no idea how smart they were until I got in the research," Estabrook tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies.

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Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

Louis C.K. On Life And Stand-Up: 'I Live In Service For My Kids': The star of the FX series Louie talks about the pain of his first-ever open mic experience and the "massive gift" of taking care of others before himself.

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

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Two Takes On Billie Holiday

Apr 30, 2015

In honor of Billie Holiday's 100th birthday this month, several artists are releasing out Holiday tribute albums. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead looks at a couple of these by other singers. One he rather likes; the other, not so much.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: California going back to the drawing board to deal with their drought.

It seems like there's always some writer you're supposed to be reading. These days, it's Karl Ove Knausgaard, the 46-year-old Norwegian whose six-volume, 3,600-page autobiographical novel, My Struggle, has become a literary sensation. Over the past couple of years, I haven't been able to go to a social gathering without someone asking what I thought of his work. When I've said that I hadn't read a word, they would look genuinely startled and tell me, "You have to."

Brooklyn Rider Blurs Classical Boundaries On 'Almanac'

Apr 29, 2015

Some 30 years ago, the Kronos Quartet created a sensation by releasing an album of chamber music that included an arrangement of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze." Now Brooklyn Rider, another gifted string quartet, is again blurring the boundaries between classical and more popular kinds of chamber music. Fresh Air classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz says he admires that blur.

On the day before her 17th birthday, in 2003, Amanda Berry disappeared as she made her way home from her job at a Burger King in Cleveland. A year later, another Cleveland teen, 14-year-old Gina DeJesus, vanished while returning from middle school. Searches for both girls came up empty, and as the years passed it seemed less and less likely that either girl would ever be seen again.

In fact, the girls were still in Cleveland. They had been abducted by a man named Ariel Castro, who had kidnapped another young woman, Michelle Knight, in 2002.

After years working the stand-up circuit, Louis C.K. is well established as a comic powerhouse; his FX series Louie is in its fifth season, and C.K. also has a new comedy special that's available as a digital download on his website. But the laughs didn't always come easily. C.K. was a teenager when he first ventured onstage at a local comedy club's open mic night.

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Over the course of Sound & Color, Alabama Shakes messes with what had already, after its first album, become its signature sound. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker has this review.

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HBO's Silicon Valley is back, with its pitch-perfect renderings of the culture and language of the tech world — like at the opening of the "Disrupt" startup competition run by the Tech Crunch website at the end of last season. "We're making the world a better place through scalable fault-tolerant distributed databases" — the show's writers didn't have to exercise their imagination much to come up with those little arias of geeky self-puffery, or with the name Disrupt, which, as it happens, is what the Tech Crunch conferences are actually called.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

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Reporter Gregory Johnsen talks with Fresh Air's Dave Davies about the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and how the chaos is impacting the U.S. fight against al-Qaida. Johnsen describes a country torn apart. "I don't even think it's accurate to speak of Yemen as one country anymore," he says. "I think the country has been definitively and decisively broken in the way that no one will ever be able to put it back together again."

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