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.

"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!

It turns out the Oscars telecast doesn't need a host.

Don't leave!

Are you the person who didn't read past that headline and left the comment saying, "I would never watch the Oscars! Who cares? NPR, I am so disappointed in you!"? I hear you. I have heard you. Welcome.

They should have called it something else.

It's not that the name PEN15, with its allusions to juvenile if not infantile scribble humor, doesn't capture something cheerfully dumb about the setting of this new Hulu series about middle school. But the title suggests a cheap and bawdy laugh — which certainly has a place in the world — when in fact, by the end of ten episodes, the show has offered a portrait of adolescence in girls that is very funny, but also might be as tender as anything since My So-Called Life.

We meet sports agent Ray Burke (Andre Holland) in the glittering bar at the top of The Standard, a Manhattan hotel that looks out over the High Line. Surrounded by huge windows, Ray sits across from his client Erick (Melvin Gregg), a rookie who's signed to play for New York. Erick isn't getting paid yet, and he's not practicing with his team yet, because there's a lockout. The owners and the players are at a stalemate, and Erick has gotten panicky that he'll go broke before the game starts up again.

A woman whose curly red hair spills past her shoulders stands in front of a bathroom mirror as a party rages outside. She looks at her reflection. People bang on the door to get in. She turns and leaves, through a door with a handgun for a handle, out of the bathroom where the areas of the walls and door glow with blotches of chilly blue light. As she leaves, two women push their way past her into the bathroom, and she moves into the room where the party is. Friends swarm around her. A woman cooking in the kitchen offers her a joint laced with cocaine. Something is wrong.

Fyre Festival just keeps delivering drama.

As turn-of-the-millennium YA soaps on television go, Roswell was no Buffy or Dawson's Creek, but it had its devotees. Furthermore, it was the big break for both Shiri Appleby and Katherine Heigl, both of whom are still in TV 20 years after Roswell premiered in 1999. Now, the reboot business has found Roswell — now called Roswell, New Mexico in its new form on the CW. (Both are based on the Melinda Metz book series Roswell High.)

You'll find a lot of 2018 films more loved by critics than Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody, but both have found enthusiastic audiences. On Sunday night, they were the big winners in film at the Golden Globes, in a ceremony that dragged 20 minutes past its scheduled time and occasionally felt as if it was rushing through a list of awards and trying desperately to get winners to wrap it up.

If you've always wondered what a sing-off between the Phillie Phanatic and Goofy from Disneyland would look like, The Masked Singer is about as close as you're going to get. It premiered on Fox on Wednesday night, and the network would love to see it burn brightly, even though the high (like, extremely high) concept suggests it might burn rather briefly.

Netflix is hungry, and it's got its eye on a juicy slice of interactivity.

Standard caveats (really standard — same as last year!): I don't watch everything. I am behind on many things. That's just the way the world is. So if something you loved isn't here, it is not a rebuke.

The first rule of Mary Poppins is that you must never explain Mary Poppins.

Perhaps the smartest decision in the sequel Mary Poppins Returns is that it's no more clear than it ever was how, exactly, this nanny floats in. We don't know where Mary came from, how exactly she has relatives given that she seems to have simply materialized from the sky, or whether she was ever a child herself. Mary Poppins simply is.

Penny Marshall was famous as an actress first. She was the Laverne in Laverne & Shirley, one of what felt like so many '80s comedies with a catchy theme song, weird supporting characters, increasingly oddball plots and a messy last couple of seasons as contracts and cast changes interfered. But for years, she "schlemiel, schlimazel"-ed down a Milwaukee street with Cindy Williams, who played Shirley. Just a couple of single girls.

Hundreds and hundreds of series air every year. They are good and they are lousy; they are new and they are old. There's too much television for a comprehensive ranking, so Glen Weldon, Linda Holmes and Eric Deggans round up 16 of their favorite shows from 2018.

The Americans (FX)

At the movies, 2018 was the year of Black Panther, the year of more Incredibles and Avengers, more Star Wars and Mission: Impossible. But it was also the year of intimate stories of youth and love. It was the year of period pieces and fantasies, crushing tragedies and raucous comedies. Bob Mondello, Linda Holmes and Glen Weldon would never agree on a single list of best movies of the year. But here are 15 of the movies we admired and will remember.

Black Panther

Are the Golden Globes an awards milestone that sometimes suggests where the season might be going? A genuine opportunity to recognize a fresher batch of shows and films than sometimes dominate the Emmys and Oscars? A boost that has legitimately helped some good but under-the-radar projects raise their profiles? A special chance to acknowledge talent that doesn't get recognized enough?

It is one of the oldest and most sexist tropes of all that husbands make messes and wives clean them up. Widows, directed by Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave) and co-written by McQueen and Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), spins that idea in a new direction.

The new documentary series Shut Up and Dribble, which premiered the first of its three parts this weekend on Showtime, is a response to commentator Laura Ingraham's dismissive February 2018 sneer in the direction of LeBron James, one of the series' executive producers.

Television has been asking this question a lot: What should we do with terrible memories?

Should we resign ourselves to being stalked by them, like the family in Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House? Should we just acknowledge that we will walk with apparitions and that the ghosts of our own mistakes will snuggle into our beds and put their cold fingers on our bellies while we sleep?

I never really thought about Dunk Fatigue until I saw Hasan Minhaj, on his new Netflix show Patriot Act, masterfully working around it.

Two groups of people don't care at all about how the first episode of The ConnersRoseanne without Roseanne — was. The first group doesn't care because they found Roseanne Barr the real person so personally and/or politically noxious that avoiding this project, made as it is by a network and a team willing to work with her until relatively recently, is a matter of principle.

What if you were trapped in the middle of a traditional addiction narrative forever?

In a traditional fictional addiction narrative, the person with the addiction begins the story able to coexist with it, if indeed it even has emerged. The addiction deepens, loved ones discover it and there is a single lowest point. Then there is a surrender by the person suffering and a willingness to get help. Or, sometimes, there is not, or there is another fall and then there is death.

"You're bouncing off the atmosphere."

Early in director Damien Chazelle's First Man, this is one of the cautions given to Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) during his pilot training, years before he walked on the moon. That idea of the barrier between Earth and space, the violence of making the journey through it and the almost mystical experience of being on the other side of it forms the spine of the film.

It's hard to make a show about high school football in 2018, even seven-plus years after the end of Friday Night Lights. FNL was so revered, so satisfying, so good, that a show that asks us to care about 17-year-old running backs faces a steep climb.

Fall is often the most intense movie season of all. Awards contenders begin to come into focus after the Toronto International Film Festival, while comedies and thrillers continue to hit screens. We got to see a lot of upcoming films at TIFF — below you'll find write-ups of 15 movies we really enjoyed and a heads-up about nearly 40 notable releases.

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