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.

Only a few minutes into Sunday night's Golden Globes red-carpet broadcast on E!, Debra Messing explained to host Giuliana Rancic why nearly all the women were wearing black. (The men were, too, but they always do that.) Messing explained that it was part of the Time's Up initiative, which supports women who suffer from sexual harassment and assault — and not just in Hollywood. She went on to call out the recent departure from E!

The reputation of the Golden Globes is that they're the Oscars' rowdier, tipsier, weirder cousin — sometimes refreshingly so. And while awards season is always the most intense time of year for celebrity fashion, this year the allegations — and, in some cases, admissions — of sexual harassment and assault added a far more serious layer of conversation. Some women said in advance that they would wear black to convey their support for people who have reported abuse.

Note: At the top of this page, you can listen to the Pop Culture Happy Hour episode about Black Mirror, with guests Brittany Luse and Chris Klimek.

Black Mirror is an anthology where technology, at times, might seem like the lurking monster. Originally created for British television and now produced by Netflix, the series imagines leaps forward in software, surveillance, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and biotech that result, usually, in disaster. Not always — but usually.

Standard caveats: I don't watch everything! I am behind on many things. That's just the way the world is. So if something you loved isn't here, it is not a rebuke.

In 1971, The New York Times and then The Washington Post began publishing excerpts from the Pentagon study of American involvement in the Vietnam War that became known as the Pentagon Papers. The new Steven Spielberg film The Post is about the role that paper played in the story, and particularly the decision-making of Post publisher Katharine Graham, played by Meryl Streep.

Before we begin, a note: See how the adjective up there in that headline is "favorite," not "best?" That's intentional.

Sally Hawkins stars as a woman who doesn't speak in the new film The Shape Of Water. Writer-director Guillermo del Toro is highly regarded for films across a spectrum wide enough to encompass Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy and Crimson Peak. But The Shape Of Water is a romantic fable told in soft greens and blues, which co-stars Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon, Doug Jones, and Michael Stuhlbarg. We invited self-described del Toro fangirl Neda Ulaby, of NPR's arts desk, to talk about it with us.

One of the awards contenders that's emerging toward the end of this year is Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. It stars Frances McDormand as a woman named Mildred who sets up the billboards in question to demand action from local police to solve the murder of her daughter. But it slowly shifts focus until it's only partially about Mildred; it's also about the dryly funny family man (Woody Harrelson) who's the police chief and about a viciously racist officer (Sam Rockwell) who's been terrorizing the black population of the town.

Pixar writes about a lot of critters — robots and bugs and toys and fish and so forth. But Coco is about, first and foremost, a kid. Twelve-year-old Miguel wants to be a musician, but his relatives are firmly against it because of a long family history nobody likes to talk about too much. Eventually, this sends him into the Land of the Dead on the holiday Dia de los Muertos.

[This piece does not spoil specifics of the plot of the second season of Stranger Things, but it does discuss the plot of the first season.]

If you first saw Tom Hanks act in Bosom Buddies, you've been watching him for almost 40 years. He has two Oscars. He's played astronauts and soldiers and a widower sending up his voice like a signal flare. He's directed and produced and written films and TV projects, and now he's written a book of short stories, called Uncommon Type.

Whether you will enjoy a rebooted Dynasty depends on just how much of a gold-dusted plate of cheese curds you're ready for it to be — and need it to be.

It's no secret that movie theaters are trying to preserve the theatrical experience as something special — something you can't replicate, even in your tricked-out living room with your home theater system. Theater design is one of the ways they're trying to add value, as consultants and Shark Tank competitors might put it.

But at a recent screening of Blade Runner 2049, I experienced a technology that isn't new but was new to me, and with it, the need to make a plea that I never expected to make. Theaters, I beg you: don't manhandle my physical being.

The Hamilton-inflected logo of the cast of Black-ish silhouetted against a gold background announced, before the premiere of the fourth season even hit its first commercial break, that this was going to be an unusual episode.

Something is gained and something is lost when a full creative work breaks down into familiar pieces that pass from hand to hand like baseball cards. It happened to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it happened to The Simpsons, it happened to The Big Lebowski. And over the 30 years since its release, it happened to The Princess Bride.

Just as the original Will & Grace did in 1998, the new Will & Grace finds our two favorite roommates playing a party game. But while the original scene was more like $25,000 Pyramid ("Driftwood ... John Wayne ... your parents' marriage ..." "Things that are dead!"), this time, they're playing Celebrity — similar, but different. This time, it's a joke about Newt Gingrich looking like a lesbian, one about Melania Trump being a "rich hostage" (thus confused with Patty Hearst) and one about Caitlyn Jenner being hard to like.

[This examination of the season premiere of This Is Us discusses, in detail, everything that has happened on the show up to and including the season premiere, and it also includes what I promise is baseless speculation on my part about what might be coming in the future. — LH]

Law & Order, in some form, has been on the air since 1990. There were 20 seasons of the original series, we're on the 19th season of Law & Order: SVU, there were 10 seasons of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and there was a season each of Law & Order: L.A. and Law & Order: Trial By Jury. The franchise fed the boom in police procedurals and made "chung-chung" (or "donk-donk" or whatever you choose to call its signature sound) as familiar as NBC's own "N-B-C" chimes.

On Tuesday morning, the first announcement went out that in Fall 2018 — only a year away! — Broadway performances will begin of Pretty Woman: The Musical. Prior to that, Chicago will host the world premiere run, beginning in the spring.

Sooooooooooooooooo if you've been wondering when one of Hollywood's most endearing-slash-problematic stories would make it to the stage, it's almost time!

Imagine you're looking at a Venn diagram of people who really liked Darren Aronofsky's mother! and people who watch CBS's The Big Bang Theory. It is a very small circle next to a very big circle. Now, look closer. Closer. Closer. Do you see that tiny area of overlap? Do you see that there is one lonely person inside of it, waving? That's me. I like weird art movies that are maybe about annoying poets and about the Bible and might be saying something about herbalism? And I also like The Big Bang Theory. Well, sort of.

Every year, summer gives way to fall, and in movie theaters, blockbusters give way to awards contenders. On this week's Pop Culture Happy Hour, film critic Bob Mondello of All Things Considered and I spoke with Tasha Robinson of The Verge and film writer Bilal Qureshi about some of what we all saw at the Toronto International Film Festival, which kicks off the fall movie season.

It's one thing to be a Hollywood actor who can respectably warble your way through a karaoke scene now and then. It's another to be able to perform the lead in a Broadway production of a Stephen Sondheim musical. Sondheim's melodies are complicated, the vocal ranges they require are considerable, and the surprises buried in them are startling. They require not only a lot of sound, but a belly full of feeling.

If you've never seen the Property Brothers on television, here's how their show works: Their names are Drew and Jonathan Scott, and they're twins. (Of course they're identical; like television cares about fraternal twins. Fraternal twins might as well be on the radio!) They show prospective housebuyers — invariably a romantic couple — some houses, and the couple picks one.

What is it fair to reveal about Darren Aronofsky's new film, mother!? Certainly what little the trailers and marketing have given away, which is that it stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as a couple (identified only as "Mother" and "Him") living in a house where something is not right.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


Not starting the SpongeBob SquarePants musical cast album with "Whoooooooo lives in a pineapple under the sea?" is like not starting an Abe Lincoln musical with "Four score and seven years ago." Okay, maybe not that. Maybe it's more like not starting an Oscar Meyer musical with "my bologna has a first name."

Hallie Meyers-Shyer's first feature as a writer and director is Home Again, which stars Reese Witherspoon as a freshly separated woman who opens her home to three young filmmakers who need a place to stay. Meyers-Shyer is only 29, but her film lineage goes back decades. Her parents, Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers (now divorced), worked together for years on films including Private Benjamin (1980), Baby Boom (1987) and the updated versions of Father Of The Bride (1991) and The Parent Trap (1998).

While the television season no longer runs neatly from September to May, there's still a rush of new shows — especially on broadcast networks — in the fall. Eric Deggans, NPR's TV critic, joined Pop Culture Happy Hour for our annual fall TV preview, and you can hear that audio by hitting the big PLAY button. (As always, our conversation concludes with our regular weekly segment What's Making Me Happy This Week, which this time around includes a music documentary, a new album, yet another TV show to consider and a podcast on the topic of television.)

The hidden immunity idol. The U-Turn. The Golden Power Of Veto. Last Chance Kitchen. These phrases may not mean much to you, but to viewers of long-running reality franchises (specifically Survivor, The Amazing Race, Big Brother and Top Chef), they reflect a basic tenet of competition shows: Now and then, you have to throw your competitors a ... curve.

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