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.

This week is a special one for us at Pop Culture Happy Hour: we invited our pals Barrie Hardymon and Petra Mayer, along with the marvelous and hugely knowledgeable Sarah Wendell, who runs the romance web site Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

Here's what you're really looking for if you're looking at this post: the list of recommendations, both authors and specific books (and a couple other things) that all of us (mostly Sarah) rattled off over the course of this show. So let's just get on with it.

Let's get weepy, people. Seriously, seriously weepy. And ... I mean, spoiler alert, obviously. But this show and movie sort of spoils itself structurally, so.

It's pretty rare for us to spend much time on something with no redeeming qualities at all, but it's also pretty rare to come across something as devoid of redeeming qualities as The Briefcase.

The least promising thing about Lifetime's strong new drama UnREAL, which takes place behind the scenes of a The Bachelor-like show, is its title. Yes, it's capitalized in the self-consciously offbeat way common to overvalued tech startups and adolescents experimenting with identity.

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?

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