WCSU

Linda Holmes

While the television season no longer runs neatly from September to May, there's still a rush of new shows — especially on broadcast networks — in the fall. Eric Deggans, NPR's TV critic, joined Pop Culture Happy Hour for our annual fall TV preview, and you can hear that audio by hitting the big PLAY button. (As always, our conversation concludes with our regular weekly segment What's Making Me Happy This Week, which this time around includes a music documentary, a new album, yet another TV show to consider and a podcast on the topic of television.)

It's not just Hamilton.

Musicals have always had a built-in advantage as cultural products. Individual songs can translate and build interest via cast albums or Tony telecasts in a way that's very difficult for plays to emulate. A lot of kids grow up on musicals like Grease and Annie -- and, yes, now Hamilton — while early introductions to plays, however great, might make them seem impenetrable or like homework. (I'm looking at you, William Shakespeare, and doing so lovingly.)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that parsing the broader implications of The Bachelor/Bachelorette can feel an awful lot like examining the semiotics of mashed potato flakes. But can we not also agree that the fact that a narrative is ridiculous and phony doesn't mean it isn't both reflective of and influential upon the culture out of which it grows?

To revisit the box office numbers for 1988 is to remember when movies that made a lot of money looked entirely different than they do now. Rain Man grossed more money domestically than anything else that year. It was followed in the top 10 by Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Coming To America, Big, Twins, Crocodile Dundee II, Die Hard, The Naked Gun, Cocktail, and Beetlejuice. Only one sequel in the bunch. That's two adult dramas (if you count Cocktail, which ...

At an exceptionally strong Toronto International Film Festival this year, Moonlight was the film I kept hearing that people couldn't get into. One critic told me he'd tried at three different screenings; all were full. That's not a terribly common Toronto tale, particularly with a film where the director/screenwriter and the lead actors are not especially famous. What was driving people to the film was word of mouth. What was driving them to it was that people kept telling them how good it was. That's how it ought to work; that's not how it always works.

The regular Pop Culture Happy Hour team is gearing up for our west coast tour, which kicks off Monday, October 17 in Seattle, continues on October 19 in Portland (the only date with tickets still available), October 21 in San Francisco with Mallory Ortberg, and October 23 in Los Angeles with Kumail Nanjiani.

There are television shows — warm and tidy comedies, generic action shows, underbaked procedurals — that feel as if they are made by no one at all. They seem to have simply arisen naturally as a result of the environment in which they exist, like mushrooms growing on a wet log. You look up and they are simply there, being bad, being nothing, and then you look up again and they are gone and no one misses them.

Baz Luhrmann seems aware that as an Australian writer-director who first became known for Strictly Ballroom, he isn't the most obvious choice to produce a drama series about the origins of hip-hop in the South Bronx in the late 1970s.

In August of 2015, I wrote a list of five fictional TV shows representing some of the ideas networks seem to return to over and over (and over) again. One of the entries read like this:

It's odd to view the O.J. Simpson trial in a renewed cultural spotlight today, 22 years after the murders and 21 years after the verdicts, almost in defiance of our tendency to observe round-number anniversaries. But between FX's The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story earlier this year and now Ezra Edelman's 7 1/2-hour documentary O.J.: Made In America, we are not observing a milestone, but attempting an almost convulsive reckoning with every open or tenuously bound wound the case touched and still touches: racism and sexism, certainly.

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