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Linda Holmes

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.

Holmes was a writer and editor at Television Without Pity, where she recapped several hundred hours of programming — including both High School Musical movies, for which she did not receive hazard pay. Her first novel, Evvie Drake Starts Over, will be published in the summer of 2019.

The nominees are in, the arguments have been had, and the ceremony is all that's left of Oscar season. (Well, and the griping over what should have won.)

So here we are, many of us in the D.C. area, doing what many in the Northeast — particularly New England — have been doing lately: looking out the window.

A presidential election cycle looms, but one of the men most associated with covering presidential politics since the first election of George W. Bush won't be sitting in his usual spot: Comedy Central confirmed on Tuesday that Jon Stewart is stepping down later this year from his post at The Daily Show.

Fresh Off The Boat, a comedy premiering Wednesday night on ABC, is the rare series that features Asian-American actors in a show about an Asian-American family. It closely resembles ABC's Black-ish not primarily because both shows feature casts of color, but because both shows share a sort of emerging ABC house style, in which slightly hapless but deeply lovable narrators have family adventures while constantly teetering at the edge of a very much heightened reality.

As longtime PCHH listeners know, Stephen Thompson hosts a Super Bowl party every year that keeps him hopping and keeps us from discussing the game in real time as we otherwise would. Therefore, we sat down Monday morning to catch up about the game, including the phenomenon of concluding you've witnessed an inexplicable play call from someone who knows much, much more about football than you do. We also talk about the Katy Perry halftime show, the surprisingly sentimental ads and lots more.

The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) has yet to find its Mad Men or Transparent -- the show that will make it an instant player the way those shows did for AMC and Amazon. But today, they announced that later this year, production will begin on a scripted drama series inspired by the Natalie Baszile novel Queen Sugar, on which Oprah Winfrey will collaborate with Ava DuVernay, the director of Best Picture nominee Selma. The story is about a woman living in Los Angeles who moves to her father's 800-acre sugar cane farm in Louisiana after his death.

On this week's Pop Culture Happy Hour, we're joined from Boston by PCHH's official enthusiastic librarian, Margaret Willison. We begin with a conversation about Broad City, the Comedy Central show that recently kicked off its second season (you can see the event Stephen talks about right here). We talk about some of the show's influences, some of what makes it special, and some of the ways it pushes against the boundaries of typical television.

The wedding of Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) was one of Parks and Recreation's greatest moments. So was the wedding of April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) and Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt). But Tuesday night, Parks spent the second half of its hourlong double episode on its greatest love story: the friendship of Leslie and Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman).

It's perhaps not surprising that the strongest part of The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore on its debut Monday was the part that looked the most like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, with which it shares considerable DNA. Wilmore opened with an observation that the Oscar nominations are "so white a grand jury decided not to indict them," acknowledged Selma and said the words "Eric Garner" and "Ferguson" in the teaser before the show open even rolled. (What was on Colbert's show the "pre-eagle" moment.)

[At the top of this post, you'll find a discussion I had with Stephen Thompson, my Pop Culture Happy Hour co-panelist, about the Oscar nominations. Tomorrow's full PCHH episode more fully covers the film Selma.]

[This piece assumes you've seen the first four seasons of Downton Abbey. As to the fifth, it avoids specific spoilers, but does talk about themes and threads enough that you might be 20 percent less surprised by a couple of developments. It's the best balance I could strike.]

Let us get this out of the way right off: Particularly after its first two seasons, Downton Abbey has been enormously uneven. It's satisfying in some moments, dull in others, and always prone to falling so in love with a particular story beat that it cannot move past it.

The best of comedian and actor Patton Oswalt lies in his ability to truthfully observe what is small but important. That's true in his comedy, but it's true in his writing, too. Here he is in his new memoir Silver Screen Fiend, talking about his desperation to make an impression in his first movie role, a tiny part in the Kelsey Grammer comedy Down Periscope:

It's hard to believe that not only was there no Serial six months ago, there was no Serial three months ago. The hugely popular podcast, a spinoff production of This American Life, didn't even premiere until early October, but since then, it has made its way with great speed into worlds from Sesame Street to Funny Or Die.

Perhaps you are familiar with the oft-quoted wisdom of (allegedly) Coco Chanel that when a woman gets dressed and believes she's ready, she should take off one accessory before she leaves the house.

The Fox comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine was a tiny bit uneven in its first few episodes last year, but it was always clear that it had the goods. Since then, it's become one of the most reliably funny, sharp, and — in the tradition of shows like Parks & Recreation, which creators Michael Schur and Dan Goor also worked on — big-hearted comedies in prime time.

HBO has built a robust and popular online presence over the past couple of years with its app, HBO GO. But to get it — as is the case with many streaming services that offer television over the Internet — you've needed a cable subscription. In other words, HBO GO was an add-on for people who already had HBO, not an alternative way of getting shows for people who didn't.

The pilot of the ABC show Selfie, starring Karen Gillan and John Cho in a Pygmalion update built on the notion that being obsessed with Twitter is the new Flawed But Fixable Personality Problem, is only about 22 minutes long — a little less. Given that pilots always have to contain a certain amount of pure exposition, that barely seems like enough time for the pilot to have both good parts and bad parts.

[This post contains information about where main characters stand relative to each other at the opening of the new seasons of The Mindy Project and New Girl. Be advised.]

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Sunday night, women gave the most memorable performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, and Stephen Thompson and I got together to chat about the provocations of Nicki Minaj, the royal Beyonce and more.

You can check out the video of all the performances for yourself, from the triple threat of Ariana Grande, Jessie J and Nicki Minaj to the 16-minute Beyonce-stravaganza that closed the show.

[Note: The audio above is a conversation about the Emmy Awards I had today with Stephen Thompson, my co-panelist on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast.]

The Emmys are known for one thing more than any other, and that's repetition. Shows winning four times, actors winning three times — the most likely Emmy winner is always the guy who's already won.

I sat down with Linda Wertheimer this morning on Weekend Edition to talk about the Emmys, which will be on Monday night this year, rather than the usual Sunday, so you've got an extra 24 hours to ponder the blurry lines between categories that become more noticeable by the year.

Have you ever heard a cheerleading squad do one of those call-and-response bits where they say, "Seniors yell it!", and then the seniors yell, "Fight! Fight!", and then they say, "Juniors yell it!", and so forth? Top Chef brand extensions are kind of like that: All-Stars yell it! Dessert chefs yell it! Veterans yell it! Healthy chefs yell it! Former contestants yell it!

This week's show is a very special event for us: it's our visit to Comic-Con.

Because Maggie Thompson (mother to PCHH regular Stephen Thompson) was a special guest at San Diego Comic-Con this year, she invited us to do a panel discussion with her. So Stephen, Glen Weldon and I — along with a crucial audio assist from our pal Petra Mayer — set up in one of the rooms upstairs in the convention center and taped a show. (We still don't know what caused the constant thumping. This is what happens when we travel without our producer, Jessica.)

The first time I took one of the online Myers-Briggs inventories and it spit out that I was an introvert, one of my friends questioned the results. Specifically, he said, "Are you sure you weren't holding the test upside-down?"

The Television Critics Association is a funny animal. Its challenge, as well as its strength, is that it includes people with massively different jobs: longtime print critics (both nationally and locally oriented) who have been coming to the annual press tour for decades, reporters who cover the television industry, cultural critics whose beats extend past television, online writers who specialize in weekly criticism — this is a lot of people who quite reasonably look at television differently.

There's a widespread belief that critics hate everything, revel in hating everything, and cannot be pleased. It's widespread and wrong, though.

The Work Of The Devil

Jun 18, 2014

[This piece about the first season of the TV show Fargo will discuss events that took place on the first season of the TV show Fargo.]

The biggest difference between the movie Fargo and the TV show Fargo (which ended its first season Tuesday night) is the devil. One of the charms of Fargo the film is that it has no devil — it focuses on the follies of the weak, the empty, those who have stuffing where a conscience ought to be.

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