Linda Holmes

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.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The Help shot up the Netflix charts over the last week after Netflix added it on June 1, and I've been trying to wrap my head around it ever since. What, I wondered, other than the most general aspiration to engage with the idea of racism, could make this the the time to watch The Help, a 2011 film (based on a 2009 novel) about a white journalist who gets her big break passing along stories told to her by black maids in 1963? A movie Viola Davis regrets appearing in, because the maids' voices weren't placed at the center of the story?

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.

HBO Max, WarnerMedia's new streaming service launching Wednesday, grants subscribers access to all HBO series and hundreds of movies, as well as some shows in the Warners stable that were originally broadcast on other networks — like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Big Bang Theory.

The service also launches with a handful of original series. We've got a quick preview of those that were made available to media early.

Craftopia

It's been five years since Parks and Recreation ended its run, after a final season that jumped forward into the future — specifically, to 2017. We haven't got the nifty transparent touchscreens their 2017 showed. Instead, we have a pandemic, and we have social distancing, and we are doing without many of our comforts, large and small. But for a half-hour on Thursday night, we did not have to be without our friends from Pawnee.

It's a blessing to meet very special people when you're young and dumb. You'll get older either way, but without them, without how hard you will try to deserve them, how will you ever get less dumb?

The documentary series The Last Dance, which begins Sunday night on ESPN, is about basketball.

Maybe that should be obvious, since it's the story of Michael Jordan and the dominant Chicago Bulls team that won six NBA championships in the 1990s. But understand: it's really about basketball. It's not O.J.: Made In America, which was primarily about race and policing and media. It's not like some of the documentaries in ESPN's 30 For 30 series — to which this feels like a spiritual cousin — that use sports as a way to talk about other things.

"With everything else going on in the world, now I gotta spend almost nine hours of my life thinking about Phyllis Schlafly?"

It only seems honest to admit to this reaction to the approach of Mrs. America, a nine-part miniseries created by Dahvi Waller. It was made under the FX Networks umbrella, but it's available only on Hulu, which drops the first three episodes on April 15. The series is not exclusively interested in Schlafly, but she is its point of greatest fascination, as it tells the story of the battle over the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s.

The streaming service Quibi — short for "quick bites" — calls itself "the first entertainment platform designed specifically for your phone."

Translation: They're doling out their shows in 7-to-10-minute chunks — er, episodes — at a rate of one per day. Quick bites, get it? Perfect for the busy, distracted, on-the-go consumer! Too bad none of us are on-the-going anywhere these days.

Quibi divides its shows into three categories: Movies in Chapters (read: serialized narrative), Unscripted and Documentaries (read: episodic nonfiction) and Daily Essentials.

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The great frustration of Little Fires Everywhere, the Hulu adaptation of Celeste Ng's popular novel, is that of the eight episodes, they only made seven available for review.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The 2018 Netflix romantic comedy To All The Boys I've Loved Before, based on Jenny Han's YA novel, was a big enough success that they quickly announced plans to adapt the other two novels in the trilogy: P.S. I Still Love You and Always And Forever, Lara Jean.

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 new Comedy Central series officially called Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens uses the shorter title Nora From Queens in its own animated graphics.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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.

One of my best teachers told me once — warned me once — "Good teachers want students, not disciples."

I don't remember what the context was, except that he wasn't cautioning me about anyone in particular. He was just speaking about teaching and expectations, and about the dangers of a cult of personality in the context of education. I thought about this statement a lot while watching the six-episode Netflix documentary series Cheer.

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.

Golden Globes Preview

Jan 5, 2020

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SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

Standard caveats (really standard — same as last year and the year before): I don't watch everything. I am behind on many things. That's just the way the world is. So if something you loved isn't here, it is not a rebuke.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's time to talk about "Cats."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JELLICLE SONGS FOR JELLICLE CATS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (Singing) Jellicle songs for jellicle cats, jellicle songs for jellicle cats.

NPR's movie critic and Pop Culture Happy Hour hosts picked 20 of their favorite films of the year.

1917

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NOEL KING, HOST:

The Hallmark Channel is in a bit of a mess over an ad campaign for Zola, which is a wedding planning website. The channel recently aired this ad.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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