Linda Holmes

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OK. We're going to talk a little bit about television now. Maybe you remember a gay lawyer and a straight interior designer who made TV history. Here they are playing a party game in the 1998 pilot of their TV show.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "WILL AND GRACE")

It's one thing to be a Hollywood actor who can respectably warble your way through a karaoke scene now and then. It's another to be able to perform the lead in a Broadway production of a Stephen Sondheim musical. Sondheim's melodies are complicated, the vocal ranges they require are considerable, and the surprises buried in them are startling. They require not only a lot of sound, but a belly full of feeling.

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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.


Not starting the SpongeBob SquarePants musical cast album with "Whoooooooo lives in a pineapple under the sea?" is like not starting an Abe Lincoln musical with "Four score and seven years ago." Okay, maybe not that. Maybe it's more like not starting an Oscar Meyer musical with "my bologna has a first name."

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The 2016 Tony Awards were fun, but undeniably a little anticlimactic. By then, it was in large part a coronation of Hamilton, a delivery mechanism for the many, many awards we all knew it would win. (And did.)

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).

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.

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?

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?

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.

When Morning Edition host David Greene spoke to DJ Khaled recently, there was simply too much good stuff to fit all of it on the radio. Fortunately, the show passed along to us an extended version of the interview, which opens with David explaining why this was the second time they set up an interview with the musician, producer and social media super-super-superstar.

You should listen to the whole thing for yourself, because none of this sounds as intriguing in print as it does when DJ Khaled says it, but here are a few of the things you'll hear.

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?"

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

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

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The hard numbers on Sunday night's Primetime Emmy Awards told a story that could look a little dull to the glancing eye.

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Transcript

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[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.

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Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE BREAKFAST CLUB")

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

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Everything old really is new again. Even aliens.

Fox announced today that The X-Files, which ran on television from 1993 until 2002 and was accompanied by feature films in 1998 and 2008, will be back as a six-episode "event series," with production beginning this summer. Creator and Executive Producer Chris Carter will be in charge once again, and yes, Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) will be, too.

The rain that fell on Hollywood as the hours of red-carpet coverage wore on may have provided one of the evening's best visuals: actual people running around wearing plastic bags as they guided famous people out of limos, under umbrellas and to the waiting microphones of interviewers who wanted to know who made the dress, the shoes, the jewelry. It was literally the packing up and encasing of humanity to keep reality out: What could be more Oscars than that?

The nominees are in, the arguments have been had, and the ceremony is all that's left of Oscar season. (Well, and the griping over what should have won.)

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