Linda Holmes

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

On a chilly winter night, two old flames meet again on a train.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN")

Before we begin, a note: See how the adjective up there in that headline is "favorite," not "best?" That's intentional.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

One of the awards contenders that's emerging toward the end of this year is Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. It stars Frances McDormand as a woman named Mildred who sets up the billboards in question to demand action from local police to solve the murder of her daughter. But it slowly shifts focus until it's only partially about Mildred; it's also about the dryly funny family man (Woody Harrelson) who's the police chief and about a viciously racist officer (Sam Rockwell) who's been terrorizing the black population of the town.

ABC has followed up on the lessons of Modern Family with several successful and high-quality family comedies. One of them is Black-ish, the only network comedy other than Modern Family itself to land an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series for both of the last two years.

Now and then, we can serve up an episode that consists of our panel joyfully explaining why we all truly were moved and thrilled by a piece of work. This is one of those weeks, as Aisha Harris of Slate's podcast Represent and music journalist Katie Presley join the panel to talk about Lady Bird.

This spring, we talked to Shereen Marisol Meraji, the co-host of the Code Switch podcast, about why she doesn't really like superhero films but was excited to see what director Taika Waititi did with Thor: Ragnarok. Shereen is a Waititi fan, having loved his work in the past, including the feature films Hunt For The Wilderpeople and What We Do In The Shadows.

It's safe to say John Hodgman is a favorite podcaster of those of us on Pop Culture Happy Hour. Both Glen Weldon and I have spoken of our fondness for his show Judge John Hodgman, and we were lucky enough to welcome him to our live show in Brooklyn in May of 2017.

Robert Guillaume, who died Tuesday morning at 89, became familiar on TV largely via Soap and Benson. On both, he played Benson DuBois, who was the butler on Soap but rose on Benson from head of household affairs for a governor to his own political career as lieutenant governor. Guillaume won an Emmy for playing Benson back in 1979 when he was still on Soap and then an Emmy for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series in 1985 — the last black actor to win in the category before Donald Glover for Atlanta earlier this year.

A while ago, I heard a rumor that Tamara Keith — NPR White House correspondent and a core member of the NPR Politics Podcast team — enjoyed ABC's Shark Tank. This information was filed under "HUH," where I keep many interesting tidbits.

If you first saw Tom Hanks act in Bosom Buddies, you've been watching him for almost 40 years. He has two Oscars. He's played astronauts and soldiers and a widower sending up his voice like a signal flare. He's directed and produced and written films and TV projects, and now he's written a book of short stories, called Uncommon Type.

NBC's The Good Place is an unconventional comedy. It begins with death — with Eleanor (Kristen Bell) waking up and being informed by Michael (Ted Danson) that she's in heaven — The Good Place. Eleanor knows she doesn't belong there; she's surrounded by people who seem to be much better than she is. What now?

It's no secret that movie theaters are trying to preserve the theatrical experience as something special — something you can't replicate, even in your tricked-out living room with your home theater system. Theater design is one of the ways they're trying to add value, as consultants and Shark Tank competitors might put it.

But at a recent screening of Blade Runner 2049, I experienced a technology that isn't new but was new to me, and with it, the need to make a plea that I never expected to make. Theaters, I beg you: don't manhandle my physical being.

Something is gained and something is lost when a full creative work breaks down into familiar pieces that pass from hand to hand like baseball cards. It happened to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it happened to The Simpsons, it happened to The Big Lebowski. And over the 30 years since its release, it happened to The Princess Bride.

"I hope he remains loyal. And if he doesn't, let me know, and I'll attack him."

Just as the original Will & Grace did in 1998, the new Will & Grace finds our two favorite roommates playing a party game. But while the original scene was more like $25,000 Pyramid ("Driftwood ... John Wayne ... your parents' marriage ..." "Things that are dead!"), this time, they're playing Celebrity — similar, but different. This time, it's a joke about Newt Gingrich looking like a lesbian, one about Melania Trump being a "rich hostage" (thus confused with Patty Hearst) and one about Caitlyn Jenner being hard to like.

Pop Culture Happy Hour has had a busy summer full of travel, great guests, special episodes, and much more. This week, we take a breath.

Regular panelists Stephen Thompson and Glen Weldon sit down with me to chat about some of the films that you can catch in theaters right now. We talk about the second Lego movie of the year, Lego Ninjago, and whether we really needed two Lego movies in one year. We talk about Kingsman: The Golden Circle and why some violence works and some violence doesn't.

[This examination of the season premiere of This Is Us discusses, in detail, everything that has happened on the show up to and including the season premiere, and it also includes what I promise is baseless speculation on my part about what might be coming in the future. — LH]

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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")

Law & Order, in some form, has been on the air since 1990. There were 20 seasons of the original series, we're on the 19th season of Law & Order: SVU, there were 10 seasons of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and there was a season each of Law & Order: L.A. and Law & Order: Trial By Jury. The franchise fed the boom in police procedurals and made "chung-chung" (or "donk-donk" or whatever you choose to call its signature sound) as familiar as NBC's own "N-B-C" chimes.

On Tuesday morning, the first announcement went out that in Fall 2018 — only a year away! — Broadway performances will begin of Pretty Woman: The Musical. Prior to that, Chicago will host the world premiere run, beginning in the spring.

Sooooooooooooooooo if you've been wondering when one of Hollywood's most endearing-slash-problematic stories would make it to the stage, it's almost time!

Imagine you're looking at a Venn diagram of people who really liked Darren Aronofsky's mother! and people who watch CBS's The Big Bang Theory. It is a very small circle next to a very big circle. Now, look closer. Closer. Closer. Do you see that tiny area of overlap? Do you see that there is one lonely person inside of it, waving? That's me. I like weird art movies that are maybe about annoying poets and about the Bible and might be saying something about herbalism? And I also like The Big Bang Theory. Well, sort of.

Every year, summer gives way to fall, and in movie theaters, blockbusters give way to awards contenders. On this week's Pop Culture Happy Hour, film critic Bob Mondello of All Things Considered and I spoke with Tasha Robinson of The Verge and film writer Bilal Qureshi about some of what we all saw at the Toronto International Film Festival, which kicks off the fall movie season.

Pop Culture Happy Hour discussed Battle Of The Sexes on this week's episode. To hear the episode, click the play button.

In the story of Billie Jean King beating Bobby Riggs, told again in Battle Of The Sexes, it's often forgotten that she didn't particularly want to do it. In fact, she didn't do it until Riggs had badly beaten Margaret Court, who was one of the greatest players in women's tennis at the time.

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.

What is it fair to reveal about Darren Aronofsky's new film, mother!? Certainly what little the trailers and marketing have given away, which is that it stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as a couple (identified only as "Mother" and "Him") living in a house where something is not right.

If you've never seen the Property Brothers on television, here's how their show works: Their names are Drew and Jonathan Scott, and they're twins. (Of course they're identical; like television cares about fraternal twins. Fraternal twins might as well be on the radio!) They show prospective housebuyers — invariably a romantic couple — some houses, and the couple picks one.

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