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, 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.

From the time we started Pop Culture Happy Hour, Stephen Thompson and I have occasionally heard a plaintive cry: "Why do you guys mention The Bachelor?" And it's true: we do. It comes up from time to time as a strange example of perplexing television, but we would never let it run roughshod over an entire episode.

The best of comedian and actor Patton Oswalt lies in his ability to truthfully observe what is small but important. That's true in his comedy, but it's true in his writing, too. Here he is in his new memoir Silver Screen Fiend, talking about his desperation to make an impression in his first movie role, a tiny part in the Kelsey Grammer comedy Down Periscope:

I don't know when people started to think they could successfully make fun of you for being a person who grew up listening to a lot of Billy Joel — and perhaps still does — but they can all forget it.

[This piece assumes you've seen the first four seasons of Downton Abbey. As to the fifth, it avoids specific spoilers, but does talk about themes and threads enough that you might be 20 percent less surprised by a couple of developments. It's the best balance I could strike.]

Let us get this out of the way right off: Particularly after its first two seasons, Downton Abbey has been enormously uneven. It's satisfying in some moments, dull in others, and always prone to falling so in love with a particular story beat that it cannot move past it.

In early December, we had a live show at the Sixth & I synagogue, the first part of which you've already heard. But sometimes, we like to top off our live events with a little bonus madness, so that's what's on tap this week.

It's hard to remember that The Apprentice was sort of fun once.


It's not an unfair generalization, I don't think, to say that identification with characters is fundamental to contemporary romantic novels. Most — not all, but most, by the numbers — are written for an audience of women, and they're emotionally centered on the romantic quest of a woman, often accompanied by another quest of some kind for career fulfillment, a peaceful relationship with parents, or the putting aside of past mistakes.

Is there anything left to say about Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn?

That is the question that animates big parts of Andrew Levy's Huck Finn's America: Mark Twain And The Era That Shaped His Masterpiece, a richly researched, copiously annotated, fascinating argument that in all the debates over the book's treatment of race and despite its position as both a widely banned book and a widely assigned book, we tend to miss some of the most important things it teaches.

We at PCHH are not together this week for the holidays, as we are scattered hither and yon, literally from coast to coast. But before we scattered thusly, we sat down with our friend (and film critic and musical theater aficionado) Bob Mondello to talk about Disney's new adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Into The Woods, starring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine and lots more.

I am not a great maker of lists. Unless pressed, I will make exactly one each year, and this is it.

This is a list of 50 of the wonderful things that wandered through my field of vision in 2014. It is not a definitive list of the best things. It is not merely subjective but sublimely subjective. It leans away from (but doesn't entirely avoid) what's been most highly praised and what seems to have been most rewarded.

This week's show brings our pal Audie Cornish into the studio for a conversation about Chris Rock's comedy Top Five. We get into the balance of industry satire and romance, the particular variety of raunchy comedy the film favors, and how his deft handling of the agony of junkets contrasts with the actually impressive round of interviews Rock has done surrounding the film.

The sun'll come out tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there'll be sun

It's hard to believe that not only was there no Serial six months ago, there was no Serial three months ago. The hugely popular podcast, a spinoff production of This American Life, didn't even premiere until early October, but since then, it has made its way with great speed into worlds from Sesame Street to Funny Or Die.

As The Conversation About Serial reaches a fever pitch in certain circles, those of us behind Code Switch and Monkey See have been talking quite a bit about the show.

Perhaps you are familiar with the oft-quoted wisdom of (allegedly) Coco Chanel that when a woman gets dressed and believes she's ready, she should take off one accessory before she leaves the house.

Chris Rock has been on a tear — a widely shared interview with Frank Rich in New York Magazine, a widely shared guest column in The Hollywood Reporter, interviews with Audie Cornish on All Things Considered, Terry Gross on

My friend Alan Sepinwall and I have both written in the past about our affection for Parks And Recreation, the NBC comedy that is not only about to end, but is about to end in a burst of weekly back-to-back episodes that will have it over by the end of February.

On Tuesday night, December 9, we gathered at the historic Sixth & I synagogue in Washington for our biggest live show yet. Along with our great friend Barrie Hardymon, Stephen, Glen and I talked about some of our takeaways from the year, from podcasts to great books to the music that wouldn't die.

Here at PCHH HQ (PCHHQ?), we are hard at work preparing for our December 9th live show at Sixth and I in Washington. For that reason, we decided to bring you a couple of encore segments from past holiday editions of the show.

It's a holiday weekend for many of us, but we've still got a fresh episode — and a sparkly new panelist in the fourth chair: Guy Raz, host of NPR's TED Radio Hour. When we asked Guy about coming on the show, we learned that pop-culture-wise, he — like our own Stephen Thompson — spends a lot of time sharing stuff with his kids. So this seemed like a good week to get around to Disney's current hit, Big Hero 6. But not just that! We also cover new shows on Amazon, old films Stephen will harass you into seeing, and lots more.

On today's All Things Considered, my great dream came true: Audie Cornish and I sat down for a chat about Hallmark/Lifetime/UP movies of the holiday season. Do people really watch them? What are they about? Can they save Christmas? You may have read my story a couple of weeks back about being busted watching these movies, so you know that I mean it when I say I watch them and I don't judge.

We're getting into the thick of Oscar movie season, and one of the interesting and curious entries is Foxcatcher, starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo in a film fairly loosely based on a true story out of Delaware in the mid-'90s. (Details here; to the degree history can be a spoiler, that is one.) We sat down this week to talk about the film with our pal, NPR film critic Bob Mondello.

[At the top of this post, you'll find a discussion from me and my Pop Culture Happy Hour colleague Stephen Thompson about Mike Nichols and his work. Stephen tells a great family story about the impact of Nichols' comedy — give it a listen.]

In 2005, Lisa Kudrow starred in a little HBO show called The Comeback, a show styled as — get ready for this — the raw footage for a (fictional) reality show about a (fictional) actress named Valerie Cherish, getting her big chance to come back in the (fictional) sitcom Room And Bored. The show was well reviewed but low-rated, and it was canceled after 13 episodes.

The best and worst thing I can say about the new NBC drama State Of Affairs is the bottom line: if this is the kind of show you like, you might like this show.

We chose not to assign ourselves Dumb And Dumber To this week. Call it the shortness of life, call it the urgency of busy schedules, call it limited tolerance for catheter jokes — we declined. We did, however, get talking about whether this film, and others that come many years later to try to pump life into an aging franchise, are ever simply too late to the party to be successful.

Michelle MacLaren is a familiar name, or at least a familiar creator, to fans of high-end television: She directed episodes of Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and other series, she's worked extensively as a producer (including on Breaking Bad), and she's one of a handful of television directors whose presence behind the camera can stir enthusiasm about upcoming projects.