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.

You don't need me to tell you how much more television there is than there used to be, or how many more places you can find it. You don't need me to tell you that its population of creatively ambitious and idiosyncratic shows has grown enormously, as has its population of cheaply made UCSs – Undiscovered Channel Shows, where you learn that a show is entering its third season and only then do you realize that (1) it exists and (2) your byzantine cable menu actually does get that channel (although perhaps not in HD).

The only surprising thing about Bette Midler coming to Broadway in a revival of Hello, Dolly! is that she hadn't already come to Broadway in a revival of Hello, Dolly! There have been many incarnations of Dolly Levi (including Carol Channing, Pearl Bailey, Ginger Rogers, Ethel Merman, Mary Martin, and, in the film, Barbra Streisand), but perhaps none more blindingly obvious than Midler.

Last year, the Tony Awards were swamped, particularly in the minds of many who only follow theater casually, by the phenomenon that was Hamilton. It got 16 nominations, it seemed like (and was) a lock to win many of them, and every other Tony story struggled to get a little bit of sunlight.

It's not just Hamilton.

Musicals have always had a built-in advantage as cultural products. Individual songs can translate and build interest via cast albums or Tony telecasts in a way that's very difficult for plays to emulate. A lot of kids grow up on musicals like Grease and Annie -- and, yes, now Hamilton — while early introductions to plays, however great, might make them seem impenetrable or like homework. (I'm looking at you, William Shakespeare, and doing so lovingly.)

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page


Would you believe this time, Ned Ryerson gets a big ballad about the meaning of life?

Tale as old as tiiiiiiime ...

By which, of course, I mean "tired people return from South By Southwest."

But in any event: this week's show kicks off with a discussion with our pal Katie Presley of Bitch Media about the live-action version of Disney's Beauty And The Beast. How are the candlesticks? How's the new music? And, as Katie wonders, is there adequate eroticism within the Beast, compared to the cartoon Beast who set Katie's young heart aflutter so many years ago? And what's the Les Miz-iest part of the Beast's new tune, anyway?

First, it was the iron. Then, it was the thimble. Now, Monopoly has kicked two more longtime tokens out of the game.

Step away, boot. Roll yourself away, wheelbarrow.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Well, excuse me while I throw away my first draft, won't you?

Perhaps nobody cares about their clothes anymore.

Back in 2013, Monkey See brought you an exclusive interview — "exclusive" in the sense that it happened only in our minds and we therefore were the only ones who knew about it — with the iron, just after Monopoly announced it was being retired from the game. During that interview, the iron darkly alluded to a difficult history with another game piece: the thimble.

Grey's Anatomy is back Thursday night for the second part of its 13th season. It's hard to last that long, but it does seem that Grey's is — in the words of a friend of mine — "unkillable." And when you press its viewers on their thoughts about it, you often get a clear-eyed, fully aware evaluation of strengths and weaknesses that add up to a habit that's endured for over a decade.

Mary Tyler Moore, who died Wednesday, wasn't just beloved. She was the kind of beloved where they build you a statue. Moore's statue is in Minneapolis, where her best-known character, Mary Richards of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, worked for the fictional television station WJM. She'd already won two Emmys playing Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show, but Moore cemented her icon status when Mary Richards walked into that job interview. Even if she got off to a rough start with Lou Grant, her soon-to-be boss, who kept a bottle of whiskey in his desk.

Lauren Ober listens to a lot of podcasts.

Ober is the host of The Big Listen, a broadcast about podcasts, you see. Her job is to listen to, and recommend, tons and tons of podcasts.

We — Glen Weldon and Linda Holmes — at NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, also listen to a lot of podcasts. Not on an Ober-esque order of magnitude, admittedly, but we have plenty of favorites.

Most television shows arrive accompanied by the question, "Is it good?" Revivals of old shows, however, often arrive with the question, "Is it necessary?"

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Oh, American Idol. You were too good for this world.

OK, maybe not too good. Maybe too rooted in people voting via telephone calls.

Sure, people fight about superhero movies and sci-fi movies and who was the best James Bond. But if you want to see some deeply felt disagreement, get in a fight about romantic comedies. Or, if you don't care to, just enjoy this Twitter debate I had a couple of weeks ago with actor and comedian Kumail Nanjiani, who has almost as many opinions about such things as I do. (Almost. And I really do think we should have a podcast called "Isn't It Romantic?" where we fight about this weekly, because I think it would take a long time to run out of ideas.)

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

More and more, I eschew end-of-year best-of lists for the simple reason that they're arbitrary and imply a comprehensiveness on which they can never deliver. What works for me is to compile a list that reflects some of the enormous gratitude I feel for getting to enjoy other people's work and art — one that doesn't even pretend to define what is best, but simply to share some of the abundant good stuff I run into.

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