Linda Holmes | WYPR

Linda Holmes

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She 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. Her first novel, Evvie Drake Starts Over, will be published in the summer of 2019.

Why would a person who has never been interested in running become a person who wants to run a marathon? Not why would she get more active, but why a marathon? That's the question that lingers at the edges of Brittany Runs a Marathon, a likable and upbeat comedy that never quite comes together as a story.

This Way Up, which premieres on Hulu on August 21, is a stellar example of one of the challenges in what we've come to know as "peak TV": It doesn't have a star who's famous in the United States, it doesn't have a particularly high concept, and at first glance, there are other shows superficially similar to it. But it's very good, and it's warm and clever, and it will — or would — precisely hit the spot for a lot of people, if only they can find it.

There are comedy creators whose sensibilities are darker than Danny McBride's. There are some whose satire is sharper, some whose characterizations are weaker, some whose sense of the moment is more or less developed. But there is no one more convinced than Danny McBride of the raw, unstoppable comedic power of male nudity — both frontal and rear.

How audacious do you have to be — how direct, how unafraid of accusations that what you're doing is a little on-the-nose — to just go ahead and name a ruthless character "Shiv"?

You have to be as audacious as Jesse Armstrong, the creator of Succession, the Emmy-nominated drama that returned to HBO for its second season on Sunday night.

How do you do a reboot when there's absolutely no reason to do a reboot?

The idea of an anthology TV series inspired by Four Weddings and a Funeral, the 1994 film that established Flopsy-Haired Hugh Grant as a romantic comedy staple, is a solid one. I wish I were here with better news about how it turned out. I hung in with it as long as I could; there are ten episodes, and I watched all seven that they've made available to critics. I really wanted to like it.

Ah, friends.

We should have known Jane The Virgin would know how to execute a beautiful finale, but what a relief to actually see it.

By way of introduction, I should say that I would normally be more hesitant about spoilers than I am about to be with the Netflix film Secret Obsession, except for two things. The first is that the trailer gives away basically everything that happens in the movie (which has been available for a week already). The second is that they called it Secret Obsession, so, I mean, they're kind of giving away the ballgame. It's not called Nice Marriage.

The Muppet Movie is 40 now. And I could tell you that this makes me feel old, but it doesn't. It oddly makes me feel just right. The music has been with me from when I was little until right now, and I can still listen to it and discover new things. How could you not? It has "Rainbow Connection" in it.

[Spoiler alert: This contains information about the new season of Veronica Mars that dropped on Friday. Do not say you were not warned.]

I confess at the outset that I was skeptical about the 2014 Veronica Mars movie that was crowdfunded by fans. I wrote at the time that "the movie feels more commemorative than creative; more of a gift to put on a shelf than an expansion or even an extension of the story."

Maybe you have opera jokes. We did.

When the Pop Culture Happy Hour team planned a trip to the Metropolitan Opera in New York, we grudgingly served up to each other our dusty old gags about Bugs Bunny and helmets with horns and Pretty Woman and ... have we left anything out?

We chose to see Rigoletto, precisely because it's a classic. It's real, hardcore actual opera. We didn't want to be reluctant, or to insist that opera come meet us where we were. We wanted to dive in. All jokes aside, we really did want the opera experience.

The 17th season of Project Runway concluded Thursday night, handing the win to Sebastian Grey.

It was the show's first run without Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, who reigned while Runway ran on Bravo and then on Lifetime. Back on Bravo now, it features model Karlie Kloss in the host role and designer (and former Project Runway winner) Christian Siriano in the mentor role.

When Mindy Kaling, then a writer on The Office, first started appearing on camera as Kelly Kapoor, Kelly was a quiet, unassuming, frumpily dressed office drone like everybody else — another person for Michael Scott (Steve Carell) to mistreat. It was later that they realized what she should be: She should be awful. Kelly should be vain and insufferable and demanding, needy and greedy and self-obsessed. It made Kaling a star.

Broadway has changed a lot in the last few years, and in an important way: We've cleared the period of time when everything seemed to be about Hamilton, and then about post-Hamilton, and then about whether there could ever be another Hamilton. (There won't.) Broadway had another big year for box office, it's learning how to use social media to connect with younger audiences — whatever the next phase is, it seems that it's started.

Oh, hello, it's a romantic comedy!

Let us begin with a story. A story of revenge (sort of).

The opening moments of Booksmart, the directorial debut of actress Olivia Wilde, present a question, just by force of viewing habit: What kind of cinematic high-school girl type is this?

Is it weird to keep asserting that Summer Movie Season starts Memorial Day weekend, when Avengers: Endgame, the ultimate summer movie, and also the year's (the decade's! the century's!) biggest blockbuster, opened last month?

Maybe. Sure. Who cares?

"Summer movie" is a term, after all, that has taken on a negative connotation, as it tends to be deployed by those looking to sniffily dismiss the whole crop of films that come out in the months without an R. See also: "popcorn movies," "comic-book movies."

If Hulu had announced an original dramatic miniseries that follows a World War II soldier awakening to the horrors of war, executive produced and partly directed (two episodes out of six) by George Clooney, and if the result had been Catch-22, it would have seemed largely successful. But the series, available in full now, is, of course, an adaptation of Joseph Heller's much-chewed-over 1961 novel, a book very unusual in both its tone and its structure. And as an adaptation, it struggles to meet the inevitable expectations.

The new Netflix show Dead To Me is very good. Beyond that, it's a hard show to review. It's hard to even discuss what kind of show it is without spoiling things that you should get to discover for yourself. But let's try, because it's an enormously interesting and rewarding watch.

Avengers: Endgame is the culmination of a hugely profitable series of films that began with Iron Man in 2008. It makes sense that the opening weekend of the concluding chapter — which also happens to be a very good movie with a 96 percent critics' rating on Rotten Tomatoes — would make a lot of money. But if there's a place in box office coverage for "whoa, Nellie" anymore, it is perhaps here. And so let us say: Whoa, Nellie.

One crazy night.

It's the foundation of movies both silly and not so silly, including After Hours, Superbad, American Graffiti, Adventures in Babysitting, Go, Can't Hardly Wait ... there are a lot to choose from. A new one coming to Netflix this week that's of the "female friendship forever" variety is Someone Great. Written and directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, it's a comedy about three New York women who just want — of course — to get into one big event and to get a little crazy.

Who would want to date someone named "Brooks Rattigan"?

It sounds like a jerk who makes furniture. It sounds like a corrupt law firm. It sounds like a preppy mobster. It sounds like an announcement of the two competitors who will face off in the final match of a wrestling tournament in a town whose population was built only by reproduction between and among people who rowed crew in college.

Marsai Martin is a star.

If you could bottle the keen curiosity the new FX series Fosse/Verdon has about the details of both Bob Fosse's genius and his destructive, dishonest, sexually harassing, emotionally abusive behavior, you would perhaps have a little bit of curiosity to spare to make up for the project's limited interest in what it all meant for Gwen Verdon and countless other women he treated like hot garbage.

"Bringing a unicorn here is not an easy or inexpensive endeavor. You have to be the right sort of girl."

The right sort of girl.

Old stuff spoiler alert: This piece discusses the plot of Jordan Peele's Get Out and the plots of a handful of old Twilight Zone episodes, but doesn't spoil episodes from the new run that debuts Monday.

What is the scariest thing you can imagine?

Lindy West's 2016 book Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman is, appropriately, a holler. It's a holler of triumph, of laughter, of hurt, of anger, of joy, of frustration, of defiance ... but it is a holler. West talks about life on the Internet as a feminist and a fat woman, she talks about being loved and being at peace with her body, and she talks about learning to unapologetically occupy space, both literally and figuratively.

It feels wrong to be writing a remembrance of Luke Perry, who died Monday at only 52 following a stroke last week. It feels like it cannot be, like he was just here, like he was just narrowing his eyes into the California sun only weeks ago. Maybe months at most. But here we are.

When it comes to niche programming, there is everything else, and then there is Documentary Now!

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