Linda Holmes

NBC's The Good Place is an unconventional comedy. It begins with death — with Eleanor (Kristen Bell) waking up and being informed by Michael (Ted Danson) that she's in heaven — The Good Place. Eleanor knows she doesn't belong there; she's surrounded by people who seem to be much better than she is. What now?

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.

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.

"I hope he remains loyal. And if he doesn't, let me know, and I'll attack him."

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]

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

OK. We're going to talk a little bit about television now. Maybe you remember a gay lawyer and a straight interior designer who made TV history. Here they are playing a party game in the 1998 pilot of their TV show.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "WILL AND GRACE")

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.

Pop Culture Happy Hour discussed Battle Of The Sexes on this week's episode. To hear the episode, click the play button.

In the story of Billie Jean King beating Bobby Riggs, told again in Battle Of The Sexes, it's often forgotten that she didn't particularly want to do it. In fact, she didn't do it until Riggs had badly beaten Margaret Court, who was one of the greatest players in women's tennis at the time.

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.

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.

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.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

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).

Back in 2013, Lake Bell, an actress known for TV and film roles including Boston Legal, It's Complicated and No Strings Attached, wrote and directed In A World..., a smart comedy about a female voiceover artist trying to land a job narrating a blockbuster movie trailer. (We did a segment about the film, and about voiceovers, as a matter of fact.)

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.)

Steven Soderbergh has made small films and big films, and Logan Lucky opened small. That might be the result of the same confluence of factors that make a lot of movies sag at the box office, but it might also be because Soderbergh made the film in a very unconventional way. That's just one of the things we talk about on this episode with our guests Chris Klimek and Danielle Henderson (while Stephen Thompson drinks some Wisconsin beer).

It's been a summer with a lot of good movies, to be quite honest. Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Girls Trip, The Big Sick. But you need a break from even the best movie binge, especially when some of them are ... you know, kind of sad and explode-y.

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.

This episode brings NPR Music editor Daoud Tyler-Ameen into the studio to talk with us about Dunkirk, the World War II film from The Dark Night and Inception director Christopher Nolan. Starring a big cast that includes Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, and pop star Harry Styles, the film focuses on the drive for cornered men trapped on a beach to survive until they can be rescued.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

This week's show took us, and our guest Audie Cornish, to two very different but very interesting places: high above the streets of New York City and deep inside the recesses of Andy Samberg's brain.

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.

First up on this week's show, Gene Demby of our Code Switch team and Sam Sanders of the new podcast It's Been A Minute join Stephen and me to talk about Baby Driver, Edgar Wright, music, car chases, Ansel Elgort, and why it's so hard for guys who are originally admired by young women to get the respect they deserve.

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