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.

The Brad Bird-directed Tomorrowland didn't make a lot of dough in its opening weekend, despite Bird's impressive reputation and the star power of George Clooney. It didn't get great reviews, either, but one of us (spoiler alert: it was me) liked it more than a lot of people did. We talk on this episode with our friend Bob Mondello about how the film's underlying message about optimism works and doesn't work, and about how its execution of its ambitious concept sometimes lets down the things it's trying to say.

Inevitability has a crucial role in lots of good dramatic works, and every good use of it gives lie to the idea that it's definitionally incompetent to create anything "predictable." From the opening minutes of Nightingale, a new film airing on HBO Friday night starring David Oyelowo (Selma), there is only thick dread about what is going to happen to Peter Snowden, the only character on screen for the nearly 90-minute running time.

[This discussion of the Mad Men finale gives away all kinds of information about the Mad Men finale, so if you don't want to know things about it, please stop reading.]

The hippies were probably inevitable.

This week's show came to you a little late, because that's how much we wanted to drag our pal Petra Mayer of NPR Books to see Pitch Perfect 2 with us before we taped.

[This post about the plot and characters in Avengers: Age Of Ultron discusses the plot and characters in Avengers: Age Of Ultron.]

We were never going to avoid gender politics with a character named "Black Widow."

What's upfronts week, anyway?

Upfronts week is when the broadcast networks, in this order and in general, (1) make final decisions about canceling or keeping existing shows, (2) unveil their schedules for the fall and spring seasons, and (3) present their new shows to advertisers to kick off their ad sales. In other words, "Look at this beautiful show! Wouldn't you like to put your beautiful commercial right between the first and second acts?"

What do we know about new shows at this point?

[Note: Listen to the audio above to hear a conversation I had with Pop Culture Happy Hour team member Stephen Thompson about the end of the show.]

Ahead of its fall programming presentation to advertisers in the afternoon, Fox announced Monday that the 15th season of American Idol, which will begin in January 2016, will be the last.

The opening credits of the new Netflix comedy (maybe comedy-drama) Grace And Frankie lay out the show's high concept using the song "Stuck In The Middle With You" and a set of wedding cake toppers. You see two couples, then two couples with kids, then the husbands kissing, then the abandoned women falling through the broken cake.

You may have heard about a plucky little indie film called Avengers: Age Of Ultron, which opened last weekend.

The film I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story, which focuses on the life of puppeteer Spinney, avoids a few common pitfalls in the biographical documentary. It doesn't occupy its entire running time with people saying how amazing Spinney is or with testimonials to the importance of his work. It doesn't return to the same analyses of the effects of Sesame Street on children that have been offered a million times before. It doesn't explain over and over how puppeteers merge with their characters.

On the fantastic advice podcast Judge John Hodgman, one of the things Hodgman always says in getting litigants to relay their stories is that "specificity is the soul of narrative." Specificity is also the soul of parody, as we saw Tuesday night on Inside Amy Schumer.

Sunday night's Mad Men was the antepenultimate episode of the series – a word we don't get to use enough, but one that can be surprisingly significant in television. The second to last episode is often (rightly or wrongly) understood and analyzed as finale table-setting, so this third to last episode is sometimes the last that feels like the regular show. And for Mad Men, it seemed to serve as a crystallizing hour for the themes that the show has returned to over and over, reaching no conclusions about those themes but turning them over and over in its narrative hands.

Another year, another Free Comic Book Day!

It's been many years since I did my three semesters of college a cappella, but it remains a genre of performance for which I have enormous affection. In 2012, the arrival of Pitch Perfect meant that suddenly, I knew a lot more people who even knew what a college a cappella was.

Just a very quick post this week while I work my way through my emotions about the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella.

On the show this week, we're joined by our pals Gene Demby and Kat Chow to tackle the issue of food in culture, including cooking shows that feature great cooks, cooking shows that feature lousy cooks, and cooking shows that actually make us better at cooking. We talk about food for the soul and food for the glutton, and we learn a fascinating biographical tidbit about Kat.

It's fair to say George Lucas is a person who has had a lot of attention paid to him.

The opening moments of Good Kill, a new drama starring Ethan Hawke and written and directed by Andrew Niccol (who also directed Hawke in Gattaca), almost eerily resemble the opening moments of American Sniper. A man watches and tries to interpret the movements of a woman and child who don't see him, deciding whether to kill them. This man, however, isn't concealed nearby. The woman and child are in Afghanistan and the man is piloting a drone from an air conditioned trailer on a military base in Nevada.

Why open a film festival whose reputation is for independent voices with a documentary salute to Saturday Night Live?

One of the central conceits of the first season of HBO's Veep was the carnival of humiliations suffered by Selina Meyer, played so brilliantly by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, in her capacity as vice president. She battled for relevance while waiting for the phone to ring, surrounded by a staff even more determinedly clinging to shreds of power and significance than she was. Later, Selina wound up battling primary opponents in her own bid to become president — a path that proved to have its own endless frustrations.

This week, paired with the return of Louie, FX introduced a comedy series called The Comedians, which features Billy Crystal and Josh Gad as ... well, as Bizarro Billy Crystal and Josh Gad, forced to work together on a fictional FX sketch comedy show.

Does that make sense?

It's always a pleasure to welcome Barrie Hardymon to any Pop Culture Happy Hour, even a short one. So this week, we sat down to chat about Wolf Hall, the prizewinning novel an adaptation of which just started airing on PBS. Barrie and I talk sweating sickness, intrigue, kings, sad stories, and the fact that she is available for all your "what's going on in this scene" needs. Seriously. You can tweet at her. She thinks about Henry's wives a lot.

I've written before about how I became a fan of Duke basketball. Stephen Thompson has talked before about being from Wisconsin (and, yes, even attending the University Of Wisconsin). As you can imagine, Monday night's men's final between our basketball teams will put us in a very tricky situation.

["Spoiler" alert: This review of the season premiere of Mad Men discusses the season premiere of Mad Men.]

Those of you with Netflix may have had a chance by now to catch up with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a show created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock (of 30 Rock) that was originally intended for NBC before winding up at its online home. We spend some time with the first 13-episode run this week, joined by our friend Kat Chow, of NPR's Code Switch.

Chris Klimek has appeared on Pop Culture Happy Hour a number of times, including the time he was our fourth chair for a chat about the Hugh Jackman robot-boxing movie Real Steel. Despite the fact that he's very knowledgeable regarding a number of non-punching fields (he's a theater critic!

There's a saying about lawyers in court, which is that you never ask a question you don't know the answer to. I'm going to warn you now that this is not court, and that at the heart of this piece are a bunch of questions I don't know the answers to.

It remains a sore point in my TV-watching heart that ABC Family's fabulous comedy-drama Bunheads lasted only one season, so I was particularly pleased to see that its star, Tony winner Sutton Foster, was coming back to television. Specifically, she's in a comedy called Younger on TV Land, which premieres Tuesday night but the pilot of which is already available to preview online.

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ANTHONY MICHAEL HALL: (As Brian Johnson) You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal.


Kumail Nanjiani is a standup comedian, the co-host of the comedy show The Meltdown With Jonah And Kumail for Comedy Central, an actor (including a regular gig on HBO's Silicon Valley), and a popular Twitter presence.