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.

In recent years, the Golden Globes have been picking up steam as a less stuffy, less predictable awards show than most others. From the marvelous hosting of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler for the past three years to glorious little moments like Emma Thompson tossing her shoes in the air, the Globes were starting to get a little bit of air under them — a fun diversion during awards season.

As Stephen mentions early in this episode, the original nut of what became Pop Culture Happy Hour was a conversation he and I had about whether we should take conversations we'd been having in written form about American Idol -- like this one — and have them in audio form instead. So just as without Dawson's Creek (which eventually begat the first place I ever wrote) I would not be writing, without American Idol, there might be no PCHH.

Every year at this time, we get together to make resolutions and predictions for the coming year — but not before we reckon, almost always embarrassingly, with last year's. Did Stephen quit Diet Coke? Did Glen's very bold box office prediction come to pass?

Because we're all about accountability, we bring back our pal Kat Chow for this conversation, which wanders hither and yon before arriving at the ultimate fact that really, nobody knows anything, but we remain curious as always.

More and more, I eschew end-of-year best-of lists for the simple reason that they're arbitrary and imply a comprehensiveness on which they can never deliver. What works for me is to compile a list that reflects some of the enormous gratitude I feel for getting to enjoy other people's work and art — one that doesn't even pretend to define what is best, but simply to share some of the abundant good stuff I run into.

Contains spoilers. No, really: contains spoilers.

When we talked about Star Wars: The Force Awakens on last week's full episode, we were sadly without our pal Glen Weldon. Plus, we were (as always) as absolutely careful as we could be about spoilers.

Is that a trolling headline? Is it intended to bring several million people here to shout "I DON'T NEED TO KNOW ANYTHING!" between sips of something organic and single-sourced?

Oh, maybe. Welcome, appalled people.

NPR's Weekend Edition has been chatting with TV critics about shows that they believe flew a little too far under the radar in 2015 — Maureen Ryan talked about The 100 last weekend, and Alan Sepinwall talked about Review.

This week's show is about exactly what you might expect it to be about: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Screening scheduling left Stephen and me without the delights of Glen Weldon, who will provide super-spoilery thoughts in a Small Batch a little later (stay tuned), but we welcomed Gene Demby and Chris Klimek to bask in the glow.

Note: This post discusses the events of Thursday night's episode. Be warned!

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

There was something about finally sitting in front of the new Star Wars movie that felt like enthusiasm, but there was also something that felt like dread. I'm not a Star Wars-head, particularly, but I have enormous fondness for the original three movies, which I've seen a decent number of times and own on DVD (Regular DVD! Not even Blu-ray! Like I'm a pioneer seeing movies in a covered wagon!).

[Caution: This post discusses the plot of the first and second seasons of Fargo, right up until the end of the second season and the finale that aired the night of Dec. 14. Please don't be surprised that if you haven't yet watched it, it will give away what happens. Again, this is a post about the second season of Fargo and as such discusses all events from the second season of Fargo.]

[You've been warned.]

This week's show brings Gene Demby to our fourth chair to talk with us about Creed, the Rocky sequel that really makes a pretty satisfying film on its own. Directed by Fruitvale Station's Ryan Coogler and starring Michael B. Jordan as the son of Rocky's nemesis/buddy Apollo Creed, it not only shows off how good Jordan is, it gets marvelous work from Sylvester Stallone. We talk about the acting, the style, some of the history, and how much Gene loves some authentic Philadelphia facial hair.

Toy Story, Cars, WALL-E, Up, Finding Nemo, A Bug's Life, Monsters Inc., The Incredibles, Ratatouille ... that's only some of the Pixar films that have come out in the last 20 years. This year, they put out two, and while The Good Dinosaur is not setting the world on fire, Inside Out was as well-received as anything they've ever done.

Tonight (Monday), ABC will air a special at 8 p.m. ET called It's Your 50th Christmas, Charlie Brown, to mark the half-century since A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired in 1965. Then at 9, it will air the special itself.

It's Thanksgiving week, and Team PCHH is enjoying some downtime, which makes it a perfect moment to bring you a special show. On Oct. 31 — a few hours before our live show with Fred Armisen — I sat down for a chat here in Washington with Trevor Noah, who was then about a month into his gig as the host of The Daily Show.

(I should also add that he had his appendix out four days later, so who knows? Maybe this was the very last interview for which his appendix was present.)

This week's show got a fresh news peg when Challenger Deep, the Neal Shusterman YA novel we discuss in our second segment, won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. Our own Glen Weldon had covered the shortlist a couple weeks ago with frequent fourth chair Barrie Hardymon, so we had Barrie back to discuss the book (before we knew it won; we just found it interesting). We talk about the very unusual structure that helps explore a teenage boy's experiences with mental illness, and how form and meaning go hand-in-hand in a fundamentally loving act of storytelling.

[This piece describes plot elements of Misery stretching back to the novel that was published in 1987. Hopefully, you've read it by now, or maybe seen the movie, which is also quite good and is 25 years old. The age of both will hopefully earn a bit of indulgence when it comes to talking about plot.]

Owing to the oddities of taping schedules, this week's show was recorded just before the opening of the World Series, so it's only fitting that we're joined by our former producer, music director, and favorite Kansas City Royals fan, Mike Katzif. As of the taping, Mike was on pins and needles waiting to see what would become of the team he and his family have followed since childhood. Spoiler alert: they won.

We've got a big live show this weekend and lots of other stuff brewing, so this week, we're replaying one of our favorite shows of the last year: the show we did with Gene Demby and Tanya Ballard Brown about the Fox show Empire and a discussion of public radio voices. Here's the post from February, recreated with links intact!

[From February 6, 2015]

Pop Culture Happy Hour listeners know that we invite a variety of NPR folks on the show, and further know that two of our very favorites are Audie Cornish and Ari Shapiro, who are both now hosts on All Things Considered. Despite this position of great dignity, they're lots of fun on the podcast, and this week, they invited Stephen and me to their show to bring a little bit of PCHH to the radio.

We're always pleased as punch when Audie Cornish of All Things Considered joins us in historic Studio 44, and this week, she's here for our talk about Bridge Of Spies, the high-class Steven Spielberg drama starring Tom Hanks as an American lawyer who negotiates a complicated Cold-War-era swap of a Russian spy for an American pilot.

We often think of marketing as being about either awareness or persuasion. It seems impossible that Star Wars: The Force Awakens (which opens December 18) needs either one, given its astronomically high profile and the fact that curiosity alone will drive plenty of ticket sales, even for those who will take pleasure in being recreationally disappointed.

This week, we tackle Steve Jobs, the solid new film about the Apple co-founder, directed by Danny Boyle and written by Aaron Sorkin (who also tackled Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network). Together with Gene Demby of NPR's Code Switch, we talk about the dialogue, the interesting structure, the alternatively devastating and celebratory tone of the film, and the (for us) surprisingly nifty turn from Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak.

We've talked about the novel The Martian on the show a couple of times before, so we rushed out this week to see the new movie (or in my case, to see the movie one more time after Toronto). We talk with our Space Movie And Ronda Rousey And Road House Correspondent Chris Klimek about Matt Damon, Drew Goddard, Ridley Scott, love of science, race and casting, and lots more.

If we're agreed that there's too much good television, then Hulu increasing its presence in scripted originals might seem like just another drop in an already overflowing bucket. But with its new comedy-drama/dramatic-comedy Casual, the first two episodes of which are now available with a Hulu subscription, it makes a pretty good argument for itself.

The title of Maris Kreizman's Slaughterhouse 90210 is, on the one hand, catchy and funny, and it certainly communicates the book's basic conceit: pictures from the world of pop culture paired with quotes from the world of great literature. Based on Kreizman's Tumblr of the same name, the book does its thing with a wink and a dose of wit in many cases, to be sure.

This week, we had the pleasure of welcoming Petra Mayer of NPR Books to our fourth chair for a chat about the comic Ms. Marvel. We must admit, we were more in agreement than we often are, so if you like arguing, you won't find all that much: we really love this series. We talk about Ms. Marvel herself, a/k/a Kamala Khan, from her exploration of identity to her friends and family, and we get into why the book's lively sense of humor hit such a sweet spot for us.

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