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.

When I first sat down to talk to Leslie Odom, Jr., I told him that our team had seen him in Hamilton, and then I told him that I suspected that's how many of his conversations started these days. He said that now, it's all about how early people say they saw it. They saw it at the beginning of the run! Before it was a hit! Back when it was at the Public!

Lo these many years, by which I mean since 1984, many have wondered about the answer to a simple question of history. It has echoed off the walls of canyons, burbled in the bubbles of mountain streams, and been shouted into the bottoms of volcanoes, only to be absorbed by hot lava and spit back out as igneous rock. The question: What if Johnny Lawrence hadn't said, "You're all right, LaRusso"?

Netflix is doing a volume business in comedy specials. Just since the start of 2017, they've had specials from Trevor Noah, Patton Oswalt, Ricky Gervais, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Maria Bamford, Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, Jerry Seinfeld, and Marc Maron — and those are just the ones with the higher profiles.

The rise of the true-crime documentary — and the true-crime podcast — has made serialized storytelling about historical controversies seem like a trial, like a presentation of evidence leading to the answer to a question. A person is innocent, or a person is guilty. Someone disappeared this way or that way. A person was a persecuted saint or a nefarious monster.

Fear and dread. Fear and dread.

The first question that faced us before we could complete our Summer Movie Preview was a simple one. What is the summer movie season?

The basic rule of Scandal for seven seasons, under its creator, Shonda Rhimes, has been that absolutely anything can happen, but very little of it really matters.

Wyatt Cenac knows his aesthetic, and his aesthetic seems to be "PBS in the 1970s."

The logo of his new HBO series Wyatt Cenac's Problem Areas looks precisely like the public television of a couple decades ago, with its friendly-looking sans serif lowercase letters in earthy colors. The set is the same way, looking much like one that a host might have wandered around to talk about the beginnings of the world or the ways of the penguin.

Many years ago, at a party where I was very drunk, I asked a much-desired woman of my friendly acquaintance what it was like to be pretty.

Our big summer movie preview is coming to you Friday, and while we get that ready to go, we thought we'd revisit a conversation we had a few years ago about something you can't help arguing about: splits.

A confession: I was not a fan of New Girl when it premiered. Fox leaned hard on its description of Zooey Deschanel's character, Jess, as "adorkable," which is too twee even for network promotional materials. She was presented as inept and ill-equipped to function in the adult world without the help of her three male roommates: Nick (Jake Johnson), Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Winston (Lamorne Morris). The guys were flatly drawn, and the show was too reliant on an underdeveloped take on Jess' appeal.

Comedian Hari Kondabolu made a documentary in 2017 called The Problem With Apu. It's not very long — less than an hour. In it, he interrogates the legacy of Apu, the convenience store owner on The Simpsons voiced by Hank Azaria. Kondabolu talked to other actors and comics who longed for more South Asian representation, only to find that at the time, Apu was just about all there was. And Apu was not only voiced by a white actor, but he was doing what Azaria has acknowledged is a take on Peter Sellers doing an Indian accent in the movie The Party.

The E.M. Forster novel Howards End was successfully adapted in 1992 by Merchant Ivory, and it won Emma Thompson an Oscar. There are people who would argue that it's all the adaptation the book will ever need.

There is no shortage of television shows built on the premise that whatever your home looks like is wrong. The paint is wrong, the furniture is wrong, the floors are wrong, the floor plan is wrong, and it's entirely possible that your plumbing was put in by marauding vandals who cackled gleefully as they connected your upstairs shower to your kitchen sink in a way that has been causing you to unwittingly wash your hair with Dawn for the last 12 years. Someone must fix it! And film it!

There is a fundamental audacity to Jesus Christ Superstar, which was staged as a live "concert" performance on NBC on Sunday night. First released as a concept album in 1970, the work by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice not only imagines a very human story behind the final days in the life of Jesus, but it focuses on that story even when it involves ugliness, vanity, and conflict. It posits that Jesus felt not only frustration, but even resentment and ambivalence — not only about his faith, but about his own followers. On the one hand, it's kind of an obvious choice for Easter.

It makes some sense that the presidency of Donald Trump would bring about the return of Roseanne. One of the few network shows to ever deal thoughtfully with a midwestern working-class family that worried about the electric bill and took second jobs when they had to, Roseanne was set in the kind of place, and even in the kind of home, that reporters have visited over and over again in the last year and a half, convinced that the needs and the fears found there might hold the key to understanding ... well, something.

Barry (Bill Hader) is a hit man, but what he really loves is community theater.

That setup, which opens the new HBO dark comedy Barry, is very nearly a television cliche in the age of the sympathetic mafia family and the meth-dealing high-school science teacher. The fact that Hader and his co-creator Alec Berg (who also makes Silicon Valley) have made something so vexing, so weird and funny and achingly sad, is a pleasant surprise, to say the least.

From the pun in the title to the idea of following a dealer all over New York to watching people smoke in almost every episode, High Maintenance makes it hard to believe that it isn't mostly just a show about weed. But in fact, it's the rare anthology series that isn't plot- or mystery-driven, but fully character-driven. It asks audiences to invest in characters they often only spend a few minutes with, and to empathize with their circumstances. That's part of what makes it so challenging.

Talk shows have been around for decades upon decades. Nerdy ones, silly ones, in late-night and daytime, shows that feature people in conversation have long been both adored and ridiculed. And the skill involved in being the perfect talk show guest has now been turned into a game show in truTV's aptly named Talk Show The Game Show. Its host, Guy Branum, is also the host of Maximum Fun's pop culture podcast Pop Rocket and the author of the upcoming book My Life As A Goddess.

Earlier this week, in the season 22 finale of The Bachelor, Arie Luyendyk Jr. whittled his potential fiancees down to two. But wait — there was twist. Luyendyk proposed to one of them, Becca ... and then he changed his mind and dumped her on-camera because he wanted to date Lauren, the woman he'd rejected. Viewers then saw 14 minutes of Becca crying her eyes out, which lead fans and critics to accuse The Bachelor of "manipulating the finale."

There is a part of a filmgoer who is exhausted by an avalanche of stuff — much of it forgettable, much of it created by committee, much of it branded within an inch of its life and all of it subject to commercial expectations that are either indifferent or hostile to art — that says, "I cannot get on board with a film that delivers wisdom through a giant, glowing Oprah."

It only stands to reason that the most surprising Oscars might be followed by the least surprising Oscars.

The Pop Culture Happy Hour team has been covering the nine films nominated for best picture since last March, when we talked about Get Out.

Every year, just before the Oscars, Team PCHH sits down to gather our thoughts. This year, we're once again joined by All Things Considered film critic Bob Mondello.

The first season of the FX comedy Atlanta didn't just introduce its characters through a series of memorable vignettes about relationships, music, weed and money. It gradually broke down expectations until it could do almost anything. It could cast a black actor to play Justin Bieber without elaborating. It could turn itself into a half-hour send-up of a low-budget cable talk show. It stretched the boundaries in which it existed, and in the second season, it feels more settled — and not in a bad way.

It's been entirely too long since we got to spend time with Audie Cornish, one of the hosts of All Things Considered and one of our favorite people. It's also been a busy time of Oscar preparation and midseason premieres. So what better way to spend a very silly chunk of studio time than with a return to one of our favorite segments?

It's no exaggeration to say the new NBC series Good Girls has one of the most promising casts a network show has sported in a while. It has Retta, one of the indispensable members of the Parks and Recreation ensemble. It has Mae Whitman, who's been a terrific actress since she was tiny. It has Christina Hendricks, who gave such depth to Joan Holloway Harris on Mad Men. It even has Zach Gilford, who played the still-waters-run-deep quarterback Matt Saracen on Friday Night Lights.

Annihilation -- the movie, not the experience — is creepy. Very creepy. There are elements of traditional horror in the latest film from Alex Garland (Ex Machina), which is based not very closely on the Jeff VanderMeer novel of the same name. But more than that, it's a film that capitalizes on its ability to create creeping, visceral dread.

It's one delight of doing a lot of TV criticism: Some shows really sneak up on you. It's just so much fun when it happens.

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