Linda Holmes

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

One of the things we're still learning about the pandemic we're enduring is what art will come from it. That's for a few reasons: the emotions it produces can crowd out others, the political moment crisscrosses with and complicates it, and logistically, any art that requires gathering, of artists or audiences or both, is too dangerous to undertake in many places. It's not clear how long those things will be true.

Less than five minutes into the four-episode Showtime documentary series Love Fraud, a woman named Tracy says, "There's no excuse not to have teeth these days." She's talking about online dating and literal teeth, about arriving for a date with a man she found online and realizing he didn't have teeth. But could you take this as a little bit of a mission statement for the series? You could.

I'm overwhelmed by so many things right now, not the least of which is that I keep having to build wind turbines.

When you think about a Seth Rogen movie, he's almost always got pals around. He's made comedies with James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Adam Sandler and — if you count Steve Jobs — even Michael Fassbender. It only makes sense he would eventually make a buddy movie with himself.

Evan Rachel Wood says in the new HBO documentary Showbiz Kids that there's an easy way to spot a child actor. Just look for anyone who's good at juggling, or at Hacky Sack — as she puts it, "any kind of weird skill that you had to master by yourself." Not because child actors are antisocial or friendless, but simply because actors on film sets spend so much time alone, and if you spend a lot of time alone as a kid, these are the kinds of things you teach yourself. It's one insight among many to be found in this strong new film.

There's an argument that a review of Palm Springs, new this weekend on Hulu, should just say, "Watch it; it's fun. Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, romantic comedy hijinks — just watch it." That's as much as I knew about it, and I enjoyed seeing it reveal itself, and if you're willing to take my word for it, then off with you! Watch it; it's fun.

Now ... what to say to the rest of you, who need a little more, or who have already seen promotion for the film that you can't unsee. Promotion that gives away the premise.

We committed the unpardonable crime of being mavericks who were successful, and everybody hated us. It would've been fine if we'd been just hacks and made a lot of money, that's OK. Or to be really original and starve, that's OK. But it's not OK to do both, and they didn't forgive us.

Early in Irresistible, a film directed and written by Jon Stewart, we cut from your basic Washington weasel to what is labeled in a caption as "Rural America," and under that, "Heartland, USA." This wry joke suggests that ripping off this meaningless, cynical label slapped on the Wisconsin town we're about to visit will be the film's purpose. Unfortunately, "Rural America: Heartland, USA" is how the movie sees the town, too. The town is generic, the people are generic, the movie is generic, and its politics are generic.

Note: This review discusses, and the show contains, scenes depicting, and stories about, sexual assault.

In the first episode of the HBO series I May Destroy You, Arabella has other things going on before she's sexually assaulted. She's trying to meet a book deadline, and she's worried she can't, and in the great tradition of writers doing everything else when they can't write, she steps out for a drink. When she next comes to, she realizes she was drugged and assaulted.

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

When Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum left Project Runway, it wasn't clear whether it could survive without them, or whether they could succeed on a different show. We know the answer to the first question, at least creatively: The new incarnation of Runway, starring Christian Siriano and Karlie Kloss, is better than most of us expected, and Siriano in particular has carved out a very different mentor role than Gunn's that's satisfying in new ways.

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

At Sunday's Oscars, on a night when almost everything went as planned and as usual, the one true surprise came in the biggest moment of all.

There are nine nominees for best picture this year, and we've covered all of them on Pop Culture Happy Hour. We're cramming for Sunday night's awards, and we know some of you are too. We'll be tweeting and writing and recording on Sunday night, and we'll have our wrap-up on Monday morning, so until then, enjoy this look back at some of our favorites (and not-so-favorites) of 2019 that have risen to the top of this particular pack.

'1917' Is Not Your Dad's War Movie

Endings are sad, but without them, nothing matters.

That was only one of the lessons of the thoughtful, emotional finale of NBC's The Good Place, which itself ended after four seasons and only 52 episodes. But, as the show itself stressed in its last couple of installments, heaven is not continuing forever: It's leaving at the right time, when you've done your work. When you're ready.

The headline out of this morning's Oscar nominations could have been newness. There was the arrival of Netflix's two best picture contenders (Marriage Story with six nominations and The Irishman with 10). There was the huge showing for Bong Joon-ho's remarkable Parasite (six nominations) out of South Korea, the extraordinarily rare foreign-language film to make the leap to best picture and the first from South Korea.

We have this conversation every year, but that doesn't mean it's not true: It's hard to know what to make of the Golden Globes telecast. We — and by "we" I mean most awards show watchers — hold a few truths to be self-evident: that the Globes are silly, that it's nice to see people be praised for good work and that the Globes (like most awards, unfortunately) do a pretty terrible job of rewarding people who do good work in an equitable way, which means even deserved wins can feel bittersweet.

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