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.

["Spoiler" alert: This review of the season premiere of Mad Men discusses the season premiere of Mad Men.]

There's a saying about lawyers in court, which is that you never ask a question you don't know the answer to. I'm going to warn you now that this is not court, and that at the heart of this piece are a bunch of questions I don't know the answers to.

It remains a sore point in my TV-watching heart that ABC Family's fabulous comedy-drama Bunheads lasted only one season, so I was particularly pleased to see that its star, Tony winner Sutton Foster, was coming back to television. Specifically, she's in a comedy called Younger on TV Land, which premieres Tuesday night but the pilot of which is already available to preview online.

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Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE BREAKFAST CLUB")

ANTHONY MICHAEL HALL: (As Brian Johnson) You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Kumail Nanjiani is a standup comedian, the co-host of the comedy show The Meltdown With Jonah And Kumail for Comedy Central, an actor (including a regular gig on HBO's Silicon Valley), and a popular Twitter presence.

Everything old really is new again. Even aliens.

Fox announced today that The X-Files, which ran on television from 1993 until 2002 and was accompanied by feature films in 1998 and 2008, will be back as a six-episode "event series," with production beginning this summer. Creator and Executive Producer Chris Carter will be in charge once again, and yes, Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) will be, too.

While our pal Stephen Thompson is in Austin, Glen Weldon and I are happy to be spending the week talking to our pals Barrie Hardymon and Chris Klimek about the latest Nick Hornby novel, Funny Girl. It follows the life cycle of a British sitcom born in the 1960s, from its inception through its period of popularity, right through its fade and its status as a piece of nostalgia.

Empire closed out its remarkable first season on Wednesday night with a two-hour finale that proved once again one of the fundamental lessons brought to you by this show: whether this is your cup of tea or not, the people who make Empire really know what they're doing.

In the finale (and if this needs saying, we're about to talk about the finale, so don't claim you weren't warned), we finally got the answers to some of the questions asked in the pilot, while at the same time, it was only entirely clear what was going on about half the time.

Sarah Wendell is the wrangler and editor and general mischief-maker at the site Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, which reviews and discusses romance novels and serves as a home for many devoted romance fans. She's also a fascinating speaker and writer, so when she was in town recently, we had her into the studio. First up is this Small Batch, in which Sarah and I talk about romance readers, e-reading, rating sexy books with numbers of hot peppers, and why there's an optimism at the heart of reading romance.

It was hard not to compare HBO's six-part miniseries The Jinx to the hit podcast Serial. Both featured serialized storytelling from reporters unafraid to be part of the stories they were telling; both were very well received. But the similarities dissipated as the conclusions approached.

Community, producer Dan Harmon's increasingly self-aware sitcom, has become less and less about a band of community-college misfits and more and more about being a television show. Perhaps it's fitting that a show about being a show continues its odd life with a move from NBC to Yahoo Screen, where the first two episodes are now available.

Back in February, when it was terribly icy, we were scheduled to record our Oscars Omnibus live in Studio 1 at NPR HQ. Unfortunately, the weather interfered, and we had to push the show forward. While this meant we didn't have people live in the room to react with glee or horror as Stephen and Glen nearly came to blows over Boyhood, it also meant we got to gather for our rescheduled show with our pal Guy Raz, of the TED Radio Hour, to talk about time.

"Woman gives birth to a gourd."

When we get to talking about HBO and Sling, about cord-cutting and the future of television, we tend to focus on the advantages of being able to pick out only the core channels you watch most; the ones you know you love. Now and then, though, I'm glad for the vast array of channels that are trying different things with different people, serving audiences smaller than the ones for football and Cutthroat Kitchen.

In something of a companion piece to our earlier segment on nerd culture, Stephen and Glen sit down in this edition to chat about the social dynamics at work and at play on TBS's surprisingly charming competition show King Of The Nerds. Glen carefully distinguishes it from its predecessor Beauty And The Geek, then wonders whether when nerds act like reality show contestants, they're using the tactics of the enemy.

Ever since we interviewed the Monopoly iron in 2013, we have occasionally published fever-dream interviews with newsworthy inanimate objects. In light of yesterday's Apple announcement of its smart watch — and in light of the fact that it is neither the first nor the last such watch to be developed — we thought we would check in with a regular, ordinary watch.

On this week's show, we sit down with our good pal Gene Demby for a wide-ranging chat about movies and music.

American Crime opens as a bedraggled, initially almost unrecognizable Timothy Hutton takes the worst possible middle-of-the-night phone call: The police need him to identify the body of what they believe is his murdered son.

My reaction to the initial revelation that Mindy Lahiri, the heroine (?) of Mindy Kaling's The Mindy Project, was pregnant was the same one I think a lot of people had: Oh, brother.

This was the case for two reasons. First, baby stories are notoriously difficult to make interesting, and adding babies to comedies often leads to awkwardness, as people who didn't set out to write stories about babies often like writing about birth and do not like writing about parenting, so after a while, it's like the baby never happened.

Focus, starring Will Smith as a smoothie con man with a heart of gold, is trying very hard to be a kind of film that only works when it seems effortless. Specifically, it seems to be engineered to be a close relative of Steven Soderbergh's 2001 Ocean's Eleven, in which beautiful people participate in tricky schemes dressed in cool clothes in gorgeous surroundings, surprising even the audience with their cleverness.

When Downton Abbey, which wrapped up its fifth-season run on PBS Sunday night, is fun, it's so much fun. And when it's not good, it's usually talking about Mr. Bates and Anna and somebody getting murdered.

Petra Mayer of NPR Books sat down with our regular panelist Glen Weldon to chat about the massive graphic novel The Sculptor, by Scott McCloud. They talk about what the book does and what they wanted from it, and from there, they go on to recommend some other good reads.

Well, now that we're past the Oscars (whew!), this week's show takes us into some quality television, both departing and arriving. It also brings to the table our pal Barrie Hardymon to join me, Stephen Thompson and Glen Weldon for this smaller-screen chat.

The most famous scene in the first season of Survivor, back in the summer of 2000, involved the castaways, who were very hungry indeed, catching and cooking a rat, then tentatively picking meat off the bones. There was also a challenge that involved eating grubs as quickly as possible. This pretty much sealed the fate of the show's reputation early on among people who didn't watch it: it was essentially one big show called Eating Bugs For Money, and its pleasures were purely exploitative, so low of brow that nothing was visible except the bottom of the barrel.

After seven seasons, NBC's gently acerbic, lovingly rendered Parks and Recreation ended its run Tuesday night with an extension of the final season's voyage to 2017. In further flashes to a few years or even decades later, we learned about April and Andy's kids, Garry's future as a beloved eternal mayor with an ageless wife, Tom's many hustles to come, Donna's educational foundation, the park Ron will run, Leslie's brilliant career and the true partnership of equals that is her marriage to Ben.

The rain that fell on Hollywood as the hours of red-carpet coverage wore on may have provided one of the evening's best visuals: actual people running around wearing plastic bags as they guided famous people out of limos, under umbrellas and to the waiting microphones of interviewers who wanted to know who made the dress, the shoes, the jewelry. It was literally the packing up and encasing of humanity to keep reality out: What could be more Oscars than that?

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.)

We didn't get to tape our Oscars Omnibus live the way we planned (stay tuned for a make-up date for ticketholders), but we did get to sit down with our friend Bob Mondello to talk about all eight contenders in the Best Picture race.

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