Linda Holmes

[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.

Long before Transparent, for which she's now Emmy-nominated for her work as Shelly Pfefferman, Judith Light was a soap star when soaps were a much bigger deal than they are now. Playing Karen Wolek on One Life To Live, she won two Daytime Emmys and became known for a devastating performance in a courtroom scene in which Karen was forced to acknowledge publicly that although she was married to a doctor, she was secretly also a sex worker.

Early in the new ESPN documentary Mike And The Mad Dog, Robert Thompson — a designated Talking Head Expert On Pop Culture for decades — says that if you don't live in New York, there's a good chance you don't really know who Mike Francesa and Chris Russo are. But, the documentary argues persuasively, you've seen the results of their work.

The 2016 Tony Awards were fun, but undeniably a little anticlimactic. By then, it was in large part a coronation of Hamilton, a delivery mechanism for the many, many awards we all knew it would win. (And did.)

First, let me remind you: we've still got tickets to see us live in L.A. on June 15, where our fourth chair will be Shereen Marisol Meraji. We've got lots of good fun planned, since we figure everybody can use a night of good fun, so join us!

We've been known to enjoy a mix of the sublime and the ridiculous, and it's a week that's a little bit like that as we take on one of the best shows we've covered in a while and one of the most vexing movies.

You don't need me to tell you how much more television there is than there used to be, or how many more places you can find it. You don't need me to tell you that its population of creatively ambitious and idiosyncratic shows has grown enormously, as has its population of cheaply made UCSs – Undiscovered Channel Shows, where you learn that a show is entering its third season and only then do you realize that (1) it exists and (2) your byzantine cable menu actually does get that channel (although perhaps not in HD).

The first season of Master Of None, the thoughtful Netflix comedy starring Aziz Ansari and created by Ansari and Alan Yang, was one of the best pieces of comedy-drama to come out in 2015. Now, about a year and a half later, they're back with a second season that is even better, more ambitious, more creative and more moving than the first run was.

On this week's show, we have probably the biggest tonal difference between our first and second segments in our history, so stay with me.

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.

First up, let me mention this: one big piece of news out of this week's show is that we announced a live show at the Bell House in Brooklyn on June 6. Tickets will be on sale May 9, and we've been known to sell out pretty quickly sometimes, so be there at noon on Tuesday the 9th and grab your tickets!

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