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.

Tuesday was the first day of the summer press tour for the Television Critics Association. Press tour is an event that goes on for a couple of weeks, in which TV networks bring in personnel from their new shows (and sometimes their existing shows) for panel press conferences where the convened critics and reporters can ask questions.

Two movies are up to bat this week for our conversation with our pal and producer emeritus Mike Katzif, and the bottom line: we like 'em both.

First up is Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow's Trainwreck, which I wrote about last week (and talked about on the air), but which we have more time to explore here. We talk about the movie's stance toward monogamy, its unavoidable Apatovian looseness, the charms of Bill Hader, the bold (and, for some of us, tear-inducing) vulnerability of Amy Schumer, and lots more. It's a good movie.

To be a lead in a Hollywood romance — especially a female lead — is to be told what's wrong with you. A lot. There's always an assistant or a best friend or, of course, the guy himself to fix you or coach you, because you are broken.

The fact that Amy Schumer's character in Trainwreck — also named Amy — is the reason it's called Trainwreck would make you think she's in for similar treatment. But that's not as much the case as it might seem.

This week's show brings back into the studio — well, remotely anyway — our original producer and music director Mike Katzif, now ensconced in New York working for the lovely people at NPR's Ask Me Another. Mike joins us for a talk about the Netflix comedy BoJack Horseman, which just made its second season available this week. It's an adult-oriented cartoon with a sometimes startling undercurrent of sadness, and you might want to give it a shot.

The new FX comedy Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll* stars Denis Leary as the decaying former singer of a briefly scorching New York band whose speedy self-immolation was brought about by debauchery and betrayal. The band was called The Heathens, because they were heathens. The singer is named Johnny Rock, apparently because it was a rock band and "John" is a popular name.

Where new levels of quality go, new levels of parody are sure to follow. So it makes sense that a strong run of historical sports documentaries, particularly from ESPN's 30 For 30 series, would give rise to a spot-on mock-documentary like HBO's 7 Days In Hell, airing Saturday night.

Pinpointing the most important conversation in Magic Mike XXL is, admittedly, a little like pinpointing the most important zoological computer model in Jurassic World, but let's do it anyway.

During our recent time with charming Bostonian librarian Margaret Willison, we managed to sit her down for a chat about audiobooks. We discovered that while I am a frequent listener to a variety of kinds of books (as I wrote about recently), Margaret uses them in a very different way that might appeal to some of you who like to revisit and reread your favorites.

This week's show finds us cracking open Judy Blume's new adult novel In The Unlikely Event (it's an adult novel as in a-novel-for-adults, not an adult novel as in "too sexy for polite company). Joined by our friend and librarian-in-chief Margaret Willison, we talk about the structure of the book, the character voices, Blume's particular brand of what Margaret calls "emotional immediacy," the balancing of period references in a book set largely in the early 1950s, and lots more.

Villains are staples of stories for kids. Making them bigger, meaner, madder, more impossible to defeat — that's how you build the ideas of fear and then, inevitably, of courage. A small person faces a giant, or a witch, or a wolf, or Jafar, or Cruella De Vil, or the Buy 'N' Large, and by watching that happen, you learn. You learn what it takes to beat the bad guy. You learn that you, too, can beat the bad guy. You learn not to lose heart and not to give up. You use something inside yourself to beat something outside yourself.

I'm just going to tell you right off the bat, you guys: we really liked Inside Out. This does not exactly make us outliers in the critical landscape, but we sit down this week with the great Kat Chow of NPR's Code Switch team to talk about the film. It's a thought-provoking story and visually inventive, so we'll spend some time on the various creative forces at work. At the same time, we ding its one weak scene that unfortunately shows up in a lot of the trailers and we debate who cried the most.

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

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Audiobooks have traditionally been tricky to get right and even harder to make special. Very often, they're literally just books read aloud, to the best of the ability of a single, usually highly skilled reader. In fiction, you get readers who are asked to provide voices for however many characters the author invented.

You may have heard that Jurassic World made more than $500 million worldwide in its opening weekend. That's $500 million, 5-0-0. Its nearly $209 million weekend in the U.S. alone makes it the highest-grossing U.S. opening weekend ever. That's ever, e-ver.

So how's the movie? It's fine. Does it justify having had the biggest domestic box-office opening weekend of all time? That's a pretty tall order for a pretty medium-sized movie, creatively speaking.

HBO's Silicon Valley ends its second season Sunday night with a finale I have seen and will warn you is so tense that I actually skipped forward a little bit at one point. That's how suspenseful I found it. And remember: it's a comedy.

This week, we're lucky enough to welcome our pal Audie Cornish back to the panel for a discussion of Spy, the latest comedy (after The Heat and Bridesmaids) to team Melissa McCarthy with director Paul Feig. (If you're nostalgic, you can listen to our affectionate review of The Heat here. It's also the episode with a whole segment on The Price Is Right. Happy Friday!)

Sydney Lucas didn't happen to win the Tony Award she was nominated for on Sunday night, but it took nothing away from the fact that she was the highlight of the entire broadcast. Lucas plays Small Alison in Fun Home, the musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir about her coming of age that won the award for Best Musical. Lucas sang "Ring Of Keys," which tells the story of Alison seeing a woman who ... well, she'll tell you.

This week is a special one for us at Pop Culture Happy Hour: we invited our pals Barrie Hardymon and Petra Mayer, along with the marvelous and hugely knowledgeable Sarah Wendell, who runs the romance web site Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

Here's what you're really looking for if you're looking at this post: the list of recommendations, both authors and specific books (and a couple other things) that all of us (mostly Sarah) rattled off over the course of this show. So let's just get on with it.

Let's get weepy, people. Seriously, seriously weepy. And ... I mean, spoiler alert, obviously. But this show and movie sort of spoils itself structurally, so.

It's pretty rare for us to spend much time on something with no redeeming qualities at all, but it's also pretty rare to come across something as devoid of redeeming qualities as The Briefcase.

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

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

If you would never watch a television show like "The Bachelor," or if it's your guilty pleasure, well, a new drama called "UnREAL" may be equally appealing.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "UNREAL")

The least promising thing about Lifetime's strong new drama UnREAL, which takes place behind the scenes of a The Bachelor-like show, is its title. Yes, it's capitalized in the self-consciously offbeat way common to overvalued tech startups and adolescents experimenting with identity.

The Brad Bird-directed Tomorrowland didn't make a lot of dough in its opening weekend, despite Bird's impressive reputation and the star power of George Clooney. It didn't get great reviews, either, but one of us (spoiler alert: it was me) liked it more than a lot of people did. We talk on this episode with our friend Bob Mondello about how the film's underlying message about optimism works and doesn't work, and about how its execution of its ambitious concept sometimes lets down the things it's trying to say.

Inevitability has a crucial role in lots of good dramatic works, and every good use of it gives lie to the idea that it's definitionally incompetent to create anything "predictable." From the opening minutes of Nightingale, a new film airing on HBO Friday night starring David Oyelowo (Selma), there is only thick dread about what is going to happen to Peter Snowden, the only character on screen for the nearly 90-minute running time.

[This discussion of the Mad Men finale gives away all kinds of information about the Mad Men finale, so if you don't want to know things about it, please stop reading.]

The hippies were probably inevitable.

This week's show came to you a little late, because that's how much we wanted to drag our pal Petra Mayer of NPR Books to see Pitch Perfect 2 with us before we taped.

[This post about the plot and characters in Avengers: Age Of Ultron discusses the plot and characters in Avengers: Age Of Ultron.]

We were never going to avoid gender politics with a character named "Black Widow."

What's upfronts week, anyway?

Upfronts week is when the broadcast networks, in this order and in general, (1) make final decisions about canceling or keeping existing shows, (2) unveil their schedules for the fall and spring seasons, and (3) present their new shows to advertisers to kick off their ad sales. In other words, "Look at this beautiful show! Wouldn't you like to put your beautiful commercial right between the first and second acts?"

What do we know about new shows at this point?

[Note: Listen to the audio above to hear a conversation I had with Pop Culture Happy Hour team member Stephen Thompson about the end of the show.]

Ahead of its fall programming presentation to advertisers in the afternoon, Fox announced Monday that the 15th season of American Idol, which will begin in January 2016, will be the last.

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