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, 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.

The regular Pop Culture Happy Hour team is gearing up for our west coast tour, which kicks off Monday, October 17 in Seattle, continues on October 19 in Portland (the only date with tickets still available), October 21 in San Francisco with Mallory Ortberg, and October 23 in Los Angeles with Kumail Nanjiani.

Hooray! I'm so happy to be back this week after some time spent either traveling or under the weather kept me away from the show for a couple of weeks. Fortunately, we were able to get Bob Mondello, All Things Considered film critic, around the table with us to talk about the films he and I saw at the Toronto International Film Festival and to participate in our fall television pool.

Linda Holmes is filing dispatches from the Toronto International Film Festival. These movies will see wider release in the coming months.

Strange Weather

Sure, we live in a world of increasingly seamless integration of sophisticated computer animation and live action. And sure, we've seen amazing technical achievements and advances on television. But wouldn't it be funny to just draw a cartoon on top of a sitcom?

Linda Holmes is filing dispatches from the Toronto International Film Festival. These movies will see wider release in the coming months.

The Promise

The war movie — the war atrocity movie, in particular — is a complicated thing to react to. Invoking real historical agony bestows an inherent respectability of intent; simply to tell a story that needs telling represents a higher purpose than that with which many films grapple. But still, a good film has to be a good film; it cannot only be telling a story with stakes based in tragedy.

Linda Holmes is filing dispatches from the Toronto International Film Festival. These movies will see wider release in the coming months.


Linda Holmes is filing dispatches from the Toronto International Film Festival. These movies will see wider release in the coming months.


Linda Holmes is filing dispatches from the Toronto International Film Festival. These movies will see wider release in the coming months.

Nocturnal Animals

Tom Ford (the fashion designer) surprised a fair number of folks with his very good first feature as a director, A Single Man, in 2009. It was gorgeous to look at, as one might expect, but it was also deeply felt, thanks in part to a strong central performance from Colin Firth.

Linda Holmes is filing dispatches from the Toronto International Film Festival. These movies will see wider release in the coming months.


It would be easy to think abstractly about the state of TV comedy in 2016 and visualize a clear divide between Cool and Uncool, between safe, saccharine broadcast comedies and knife-sharp cable projects that take no prisoners and feel no feelings. But as with so many things, in the move from generality to specificity, divides get more complex. And fortunately, both the more traditionally conceived comedies and the more daring ones have their strengths, and scratch their itches when they're good.

There are television shows — warm and tidy comedies, generic action shows, underbaked procedurals — that feel as if they are made by no one at all. They seem to have simply arisen naturally as a result of the environment in which they exist, like mushrooms growing on a wet log. You look up and they are simply there, being bad, being nothing, and then you look up again and they are gone and no one misses them.

If you doubt that Ryan Lochte is going on Dancing With The Stars to try to change the subject away from what he himself has called his "immature, intoxicated behavior" during the Rio Olympics, where he admits he lied about at least some of his story about being robbed at gunpoint, just ask him. It's not a secret.

This week, we took ourselves to the Disney live-action film Pete's Dragon, currently riding high with (most) critics and answering the question, "Can you really put a line in a movie about capturing a dragon where a guy says, 'Follow that dragon!'?" We talk about how well the film's very sweet and optimistic tone worked on the various members of the panel, including NPR Music's Daoud Tyler-Ameen in the fourth chair. Can Glen make peace with this much earnest sweetness? Oh, he'll tell you.

Who knew the most traditional-feeling romantic comedy this fall might show up on YouTube?

It's not that YouTube hasn't been making strides in original content; they've been pushing forward in that area for some time. But now that they've established YouTube Red, their premium streaming service, they seem to be getting a little bit more serious and direct about competing for a broader range of viewers with straight-up television, both on broadcast and cable and on services like Netflix and Amazon.

The only thing more delightful than being back with my PCHH team this week is that while Glen Weldon takes a week off, we're joined by our former sometimes-producer Kiana Fitzgerald, who's also a DJ and writer and wonderful Twitter follow, as well as Brittany Luse, who hosts Sampler over at Gimlet Media and hosts the fabulous For Colored Nerds podcast with Eric Eddings.

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We're halfway through this year's Television Critics Association press tour. I've been to 77 press conferences and — sadly — only one of them has involved Mariah Carey reclining on a purple chaise longue while drinking champagne. Elsewhere, the assembled reporters and critics have been introduced to devastating documentaries about tragedy, heard the stories behind splashy and expensive new series from familiar creators, and watched a digitally puppeteered cartoon fish sing the Hamilton favorite "My Shot." And there are eight more days to go.

When we first learned that Great Performances would have a film about Hamilton, there were those who hoped it would be a full performance by the original Broadway cast that's gradually been departing in recent weeks and months. It's not; it's a film called Hamilton's America, and PBS presented it at the Television Critics' Association press tour on Thursday, where its director, Alex Horwitz, was joined by Daveed Diggs, who just wrapped up his run as both Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson on Broadway.

Baz Luhrmann seems aware that as an Australian writer-director who first became known for Strictly Ballroom, he isn't the most obvious choice to produce a drama series about the origins of hip-hop in the South Bronx in the late 1970s.

From the moment Netflix announced that it would be bringing back Gilmore Girls for four 90-minute episodes making up a sort of mini-season called Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, fans have wondered how long they'd have to wait and in what shape they'd find Lorelai and Rory Gilmore after years away. On Wednesday, Netflix announced an arrival date of Nov. 25 and showed critics the first two minutes of the first episode, "Winter."

The Television Critics Association is ... okay, that's the easy part. It's an association of people who write about television, mostly as critics, although many function, either instead or in addition, as reporters. I'm in it, as is NPR's full-time TV critic Eric Deggans, as are a couple hundred other people. And twice a year — once in the summer and once in the winter — we gather in the L.A. area for what's referred to as either "press tour" or "TCA," so that we can hear about what's coming up on TV and get a chance to talk to the people who make it.

It's been a busy couple of weeks in the world; how are you doing?

We had the rare opportunity to pull the extremely busy Ari Shapiro into our fourth chair this week, just in time to join us for a chat about Ghostbusters, the latest summer action comedy to bust its way into theaters. We talked about its PG-13-ness, its lineup of very funny women, its place in the impressive Feig/McCarthy canon, and lots more.

I suspect I was about eight years old at the time I'm remembering. I had to go to bed at 8:00 on school nights, except that one night a week, I could stay up until 8:30. I got to pick the night, and I generally picked Tuesdays, because that's when Happy Days was on.

It goes without saying that this has been a very sad week of watching the news unfold around us. On Tuesday, we took some time to chat about movies and sweets, and if that's what you're in the mood for, this is the show for you.

First, we talk about The BFG, the Spielberg adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's book that tries to integrate a live girl with a CGI creature. From there, we pull back a little to discuss the general arc of the Steven Spielberg situation, from fantasy to history to very big, very friendly giants.

There is a myth that the most worshipped woman in popular culture is the one perceived as most perfectly beautiful, but that's not so. What's worshipped the most is the one who threads the needle most precisely such that she is almost impossibly beautiful, but something about her brings her toward you and into focus, close enough that you feel like you could touch her.

As of last weekend, we thought the show we'd be bringing you today would be primarily about Independence Day: Resurgence, which seems like the umpteenth sequel this summer to open with soft box office and exhausted reviews. But then we remembered: we don't have to see it.

We have to posit first that baking itself can feel like magic. A simple loaf of bread might include only flour, water, yeast and salt, and it can still transform from a sticky blob to a pillowy ball with a texture unlike anything else you've ever handled to a final product that's perfectly crisp on the outside, perfectly tender on the inside. Not only that, but it will audibly crackle at you as it cools on the counter. It will pass through a perfect moment for consumption, and then that moment will be gone.

It's a pleasure every week to take a little time to talk about culture, and it's especially a pleasure when we get to welcome a new member to our fourth chair. This week, it's Daisy Rosario of Latino USA, who you might have heard previously during a discussion with me about the upcoming Gilmore Girls return.

The rant is a staple of sports fandom. At Thanksgiving, at the office, in bars, via text, on Twitter — wherever sports fans go, rants go, too.

It makes sense, then, that the biggest headline out of Wednesday's premiere of Bill Simmons' new HBO talk show Any Given Wednesday was a sports rant. And it wasn't from the first guest, Charles Barkley. It was from the second guest, Ben Affleck.

"Specificity is the soul of narrative" is a thing John Hodgman likes to say when he's hearing cases on the smart and funny Judge John Hodgman podcast, and it's applicable to documentary film, too. Documentaries devoted to a topic with heft do better if they can find a particular angle, a particular way into the question.