Linda Holmes

Linda Holmes writes and edits NPR's entertainment and pop-culture blog, Monkey See. She has several elaborate theories involving pop culture and monkeys, all of which are available on request.

Holmes 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. Since 2003, she has been a contributor to MSNBC.com, where she has written about books, movies, television and pop-culture miscellany.

Holmes' work has also appeared on Vulture (New York magazine's entertainment blog), in TV Guide and in many, many legal documents.

One of the best things about covering film festivals — like the Tribeca Film Festival, where I'll be for a couple of days — is seeing people's work with very little context around it. By the time films are released in theaters, particularly when they're being heavily marketed, I usually know a lot about them. I know something about what to expect, I know a good bit about the directors and actors, and very often, the film has been on various planning calendars for months.

On this week's show, Stephen Thompson takes the week off to tend to his house full of cats while both All Things Considered host Audie Cornish and superlibrarian and Two Bossy Dames co-writer Margaret H. "Hulahoop" Willison join me and Glen Weldon to talk about romantic comedy.

Chatter about Catastrophe, a series that airs on regular TV in the UK and streams on Amazon in the US, often concentrates on how gleefully frank and filthy it is. Written by its stars, Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, the show follows a American man and an Irish (sorry! originally said "British"; I'm a distracted American) woman whose fling leads to a pregnancy, then a marriage and a love affair, in that order.

Chatter about Catastrophe, a series that airs on regular TV in the UK and streams on Amazon in the US, often concentrates on how gleefully frank and filthy it is. Written by its stars, Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, the show follows a American man and an Irish (sorry! originally said "British"; I'm a distracted American) woman whose fling leads to a pregnancy, then a marriage and a love affair, in that order.

It's a fun week at Pop Culture Happy Hour, as we welcome back, as this week's fourth chair, original PCHH panelist Trey Graham, who gives an update on how he's been since he departed NPR. We're so excited to see Trey, and we know a lot of you will be, too.

Oh, American Idol. You were too good for this world.

OK, maybe not too good. Maybe too rooted in people voting via telephone calls.

The pilot of The CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was one of my favorite pieces of TV last year. Energetic and intriguingly unnerving, it set up the story of Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), who leaves her fancy New York lawyer job to move to West Covina, California, on an impulse. The impulse: a deeply felt, consciously irrational (and therefore officially denied) desire to pursue her ex-boyfriend, Josh Chan, who she'd learned was living there.

Every year at about this time, we reclaim our panelist Stephen Thompson from the overwork and burnout perils of South By Southwest and The Austin 100, and he once again becomes the rumpled, good-natured dad we love. But before we let that happen, we always try to capture a little bit of his music brain, and this year, he's joined by additional festival-goers Audie Cornish, who went to her very first SXSW (it was Stephen's 20th!), and NPR Music contributor Katie Presley.

Sometimes, it takes a while to bring a show into being, but we feel like this one was worth the wait. This is the week we get real super nerdy about music, theater, enthusiasm, hashtags, dancing, just ... lots of everything.

Last fall, when our treasured regular panelist Gene Demby started listening to the Hamilton cast album after it showed up over at NPR Music as a First Listen, he started saying things like this.

Commentators both amateur and professional have turned over the events of the 1994-95 O.J. Simpson trial in their hands for a couple of decades now, trying to figure out how it got so distressingly ugly as a display, let alone as a legal proceeding. The FX series The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, based on Jeffrey Toobin's book The Run Of His Life, has come to the surprisingly compassionate conclusion, over and over, that a significant part of the problem was not malice but excess made worse by public attention.

If you follow Team PCHH on Twitter, you know that a week ago, we all trekked up to Manhattan and saw Hamilton, which we intended to talk about on this week's show. Unfortunately, I was struck down by the weirdest and most potent bout of laryngitis of my lifetime, and we had to postpone that show, which you'll get next week. In the meantime, fortunately, we have three conversations featuring awesome people who have never been on PCHH before. Fresh faces!

It's always a good week when Audie Cornish or Barrie Hardymon sit in, but this week, with Stephen off finishing the Austin 100 (which is now available for your ears!), they both stepped into the studio with me and Glen Weldon to talk about the end of Downton Abbey, which ends its run on PBS Sunday night — and which, of course, ended its UK run at Christmas.

I can't say I ever expected to be writing about Donald Trump, Republican frontrunner, back when I was writing about Donald Trump, reality-show guy.

You can say this for Sunday night's Oscars: It seemed like a lot of it was going to be about inclusion or lack thereof, and it was.

We were sad today to learn that Harper Lee, the author of To Kill A Mockingbird (and, much more recently, Go Set A Watchman) had died at 89, so Barrie Hardymon of NPR's Weekend Edition sat down with me to talk about Lee's most famous book and how significant it feels in our respective orbits.

PCHH regular Stephen Thompson had the week off from the show, so I was joined by Glen Weldon as well as our pals Chris Klimek and Bob Mondello to talk about the Coen Brothers' Hail, Caesar!. Chris engagingly reviewed it for NPR, and Bob has covered the Coens plenty of times, so we've got lots to discuss.

In September 2014, Glen Weldon (a great recommendation engine for podcasts) talked in our What's Making Us Happy This Week segment about Pitch, a show I'd never heard of about which I said with some interest, "I'd listen to that." Hit your little fast-forward button and jump about a year and a half, during which we adopted Pitch as one of the things we think is nifty and befriended its producers, Alex Kapelman and

Sure, people fight about superhero movies and sci-fi movies and who was the best James Bond. But if you want to see some deeply felt disagreement, get in a fight about romantic comedies. Or, if you don't care to, just enjoy this Twitter debate I had a couple of weeks ago with actor and comedian Kumail Nanjiani, who has almost as many opinions about such things as I do. (Almost. And I really do think we should have a podcast called "Isn't It Romantic?" where we fight about this weekly, because I think it would take a long time to run out of ideas.)

Sunday night's Super Bowl landed a huge TV audience for its battle between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers, which the Broncos took 24-10. While a football game is a football game, the Super Bowl is also a huge pop culture event, from the halftime show to the buildup and the barrage of advertising. We sat down the Monday morning after to take apart the highs, the lows, and the Beyonce of it all.

As you know if you are interacting with American commerce or popular entertainment at the moment, the Super Bowl is this weekend. Stephen Thompson, as he has explained for NPR in the past, has an annual Super Bowl party and chicken-eating contest called Chicken Bowl. This year will be Chicken Bowl XX — that is, Chicken Bowl 20, for those of you who are not Romans.

This week's show had our toes tapping, you can believe that.

Breaking the fourth wall is like putting gold leaf on a dessert: good for a quick jolt of surprise and superficial specialness, but the more common it becomes in the culture, the less impressive its deployment by any particular creator.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GREASE")

JOHN TRAVOLTA: (As Danny Zuko, singing) Why, this car is automatic. It's systematic. It's hydromatic. Why, it's greased lightning.

This is a fun week for me, as Stephen and Glen and I get to welcome Sarah Bunting, who is not only the East Coast editor of Previously.tv, but also my former boss at Television Without Pity, the first site where I ever wrote professionally. Sarah and I have known each other a long time, and I was excited that we could bring her in to talk about something she cares about a lot: the true crime genre.

Sitting down to talk about a Quentin Tarantino movie — particularly in his modern incarnation in which he puts all kinds of gnarly material on the screen that wrestles, with varying degrees of success, with aspects of identity and politics and identity politics, not to mention history, sociology, and (perhaps most enthusiastically) film and filmmaking. This week, we sat down with Chris Klimek to talk about The Hateful Eight, Tarantino's latest, which finds a collection of folks — tense ones, to say the least — waiting out a blizzard together. There's a lot to unpack.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In recent years, the Golden Globes have been picking up steam as a less stuffy, less predictable awards show than most others. From the marvelous hosting of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler for the past three years to glorious little moments like Emma Thompson tossing her shoes in the air, the Globes were starting to get a little bit of air under them — a fun diversion during awards season.

As Stephen mentions early in this episode, the original nut of what became Pop Culture Happy Hour was a conversation he and I had about whether we should take conversations we'd been having in written form about American Idol -- like this one — and have them in audio form instead. So just as without Dawson's Creek (which eventually begat the first place I ever wrote) I would not be writing, without American Idol, there might be no PCHH.

Every year at this time, we get together to make resolutions and predictions for the coming year — but not before we reckon, almost always embarrassingly, with last year's. Did Stephen quit Diet Coke? Did Glen's very bold box office prediction come to pass?

Because we're all about accountability, we bring back our pal Kat Chow for this conversation, which wanders hither and yon before arriving at the ultimate fact that really, nobody knows anything, but we remain curious as always.

More and more, I eschew end-of-year best-of lists for the simple reason that they're arbitrary and imply a comprehensiveness on which they can never deliver. What works for me is to compile a list that reflects some of the enormous gratitude I feel for getting to enjoy other people's work and art — one that doesn't even pretend to define what is best, but simply to share some of the abundant good stuff I run into.

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