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.

The Woman In The Window has been a little ... snakebit, let's just get that out of the way first. Filmed in 2018 (!), it was scheduled to come out in 2019 (!!), but it was pushed to 2020 for reshoots (!!!) and then to 2021 because of the pandemic (!!!!). That's a long road.

1. Sometimes, there's a reason things are done the way they are. Traditionally, Oscar night has ended with the announcement of the winner for best picture. This year, as the producers — including experienced risk-taker Steven Soderbergh — tried to mix it up a little in their train-station ceremony, they decided to change the order. They presented best picture to Nomadland, then best actress to Frances McDormand, then best actor to Anthony Hopkins for The Father.

Why do people still perform Romeo & Juliet? That, to mangle a reference, is the question.

When we asked our trusty Pop Culture Happy Hour listeners to vote for the Best Muppet, we knew they'd come through. Over 18,000 votes were cast; over 150 different Muppets received votes.

Yes. Some brave, beautiful, misguided soul voted for H. Ross Parrot. As Best Muppet. That is a thing that happened.

One way to think about the new Apple TV+ drama series Calls is as a podcast. Specifically, a podcast that's a descendant of the suspenseful radio drama, only it's played through your TV. A mix of science fiction, thriller and mystery, Calls is made up of a series of phone calls you listen to, accompanied by minimal graphics on screen: dots and names to represent people, sound waveforms to represent their voices, running captions of everything they say.

Hollywood loves a movie about Hollywood, so it's no real surprise that the Oscar nominations on Monday morning were led by Mank, director David Fincher's story about the writing of Citizen Kane. It landed 10 nominations: best picture, actor (Gary Oldman), supporting actress (Amanda Seyfried), directing, cinematography, costume design, makeup, sound, production design and score.

When Britain's Prince Harry got married in May 2018 to American actress Meghan Markle — who had found success as a regular on the basic-cable series Suits — they became the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. For a short time, they lived their lives as royals. They did events, they were affiliated with charities and they were — she was, in particular — unceasingly, often brutally, covered by the British press. Her clothes, the way she sat, the personality she supposedly had and her general suitability were under constant scrutiny.

This piece about the WandaVision finale contains many, many spoilers about the WandaVision finale.

The new Netflix film Moxie, directed by Amy Poehler from the book by Jennifer Mathieu, tries to stuff a lot of things into two hours. It's a story about Vivian (Hadley Robinson), a 16-year-old girl trying out the idea of a political self for the first time via a feminist zine (the titular Moxie) that she secretly begins publishing and stacking up on top of the hand dryers in the school bathrooms. The zine leads to the formation of a Moxie club, and then to something of a movement.

To understand the challenge presented by the new Netflix series Ginny & Georgia, it helps to know a little bit about Melrose Place.

As of this writing, as its Netflix adaptation is about to premiere, the 2008 Kristin Hannah novel Firefly Lane sits at #1 in the Amazon Kindle Store category called "Women's Sagas." And indeed, it is written and presented as a women's saga: the friendship of Kate and Tully, played as adults by Sarah Chalke and Katherine Heigl, as observed over several decades, beginning when they're teenagers and continuing into their forties (at least in these ten episodes).

When young veterinarian James Herriot first opened his eyes and saw the richly green hills around Darrowby in the new adaptation of All Creatures Great And Small, I felt my shoulders drop. When he saw the village tucked — it must be said — adorably into the valley between them, I felt my breathing slow.

I've been making annual lists of 50 Wonderful Things since 2010. And I have to admit, I was not sure I was up to it this year. It's been a hard one and a lonely one, even though I had the blessings of dear friends, a job I could do remotely and a dog who apparently never gets tired of me. As I point out every year, this is not the actual best things of the year, or it would be full of doctors and nurses and activists and delivery drivers and so forth.

It's tempting to review Bridgerton thusly: "I highly recommend this Shondaland series, which will remind you a little of Jane Austen and a little of Scandal, and which prompted me to specifically decline to seek out the precise definition of an orgy."

But let's say a little more.

Something has happened to Cassie.

Cassie (Carey Mulligan) was a star student in medical school, but she isn't anymore. She lives with her parents. She works at a coffee shop. We first find her practically passed out at a bar alone, an easy mark for a guy who scoops her up and takes her home with him. But she is not as she seems; this does not turn out the way he hopes it will. He doesn't know who she is. And he's not really ready.

It has been a momentous year for everything we consider TV.

A pandemic, civil rights reckoning, streaming war and presidential election shook up the industry in a dozen different ways. It blurred lines between genres, platforms and story forms, while also encouraging us to develop our own, deep rabbit holes of favorite media. So when our team of four critics sat down to figure out what we liked most onscreen this year, we each had a lot of stuff on our lists no one else did.

There is a whole genre of comedy-thriller that you might call the Long Night story. Our central character goes out and does something foolish, or perhaps just stumbles into the wrong place at the wrong time, and suddenly, everything is a mess. Maybe the police are chasing them, maybe criminals are; maybe it's just going to be a long time before they emerge, squinting and blinking, into the sun, probably looking a mess, maybe still wearing the Long Night outfit.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The holiday family romcom tends to go a certain way. The loving parents are having some kind of troubles (medical? financial? marital?) that they haven't fully shared. The kids come home for the holidays, and they have their own things going on: they're not ready to reveal a breakup, or they're not happy about running into an ex, or they're looking to introduce a new partner for the first time.

Every year, a barrage of holiday films arrives to fill our lives with sweaters, children, chaste kisses, and even Santa. We've rounded up the ones from Hallmark, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Lifetime, OWN, Hulu, Netflix, TV One, Bounce and BET, so you can find whatever you might be looking for.

The Netflix series The Queen's Gambit follows a chess prodigy named Beth, played Anya Taylor-Joy, from her childhood in an orphanage through her spectacular career in chess. She learns in a basement from a custodian and grows into a champion.

The spine of the Steve James documentary series City So Real is the 2019 campaign that led to Lori Lightfoot becoming mayor of Chicago. But the heart of it is the conviction that no single election, no matter how hard-fought and no matter how high-stakes, is the single cause of or cure for problems that are systemic and longstanding. Director Steve James (Hoop Dreams, but also fine films like Life Itself and Abacus: Small Enough To Jail) may not have gotten the story he anticipated when he started, but the one he tells here has arrived right on time.

Sarah Cooper is in a tough spot. A great spot! But a tough spot. And from that spot, working quickly to make her special Sarah Cooper: Everything's Fine, she has managed to create one of the most effective pieces of the year when it comes to representing what this year has felt like.

The question that may determine whether you enjoy Netflix's new comedy-drama series Emily In Paris is this: Do you think Americans who take jobs in France and want the respect of their co-workers should probably be able to speak French?

Does it even matter that it's fall? We're stuck inside much of the time, anyway, and new TV shows come at us all year round. Well, yes, there's reason to celebrate precisely because of how the pandemic disrupted things. Broadcasters couldn't develop new material, thanks to production being halted. So, viewers watched more streaming services. Even HBO, FX and Showtime were forced to push back some of their best material to ensure they could get through the long summer.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In the pandemic era, the Emmy Awards are not the first major event that can't be a traditional shindig, but they're perhaps the most high-profile awards show so far to attempt quite this kind of socially distanced, mask-wearing, virtual ceremony. Host Jimmy Kimmel and everyone producing the broadcast had a pretty tough hill to climb in making it watchable.

And surprisingly enough, it was. It wasn't just watchable; it was ... pretty good.

Ratched is beautiful, but it's really bad.

A community of strange locals, closed-mouthed about their history and their practices but firmly separated from most of society, is a staple of mystery stories. So is the person who stumbles upon them, fascinated and frightened and seduced by the unknown.

Pages