Linda Holmes

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.

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.

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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")

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!

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.

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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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."

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.)

Award-winning writer Denis Johnson died Thursday at 67, according to his publisher, Farrar Straus and Giroux. The prolific writer explored many forms during his career, and in 2007, novelist Nathan Englander wrote about Johnson's short story collection Jesus' Son for NPR.

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.

First up, let me mention this: one big piece of news out of this week's show is that we announced a live show at the Bell House in Brooklyn on June 6. Tickets will be on sale May 9, and we've been known to sell out pretty quickly sometimes, so be there at noon on Tuesday the 9th and grab your tickets!

Last year, the Tony Awards were swamped, particularly in the minds of many who only follow theater casually, by the phenomenon that was Hamilton. It got 16 nominations, it seemed like (and was) a lock to win many of them, and every other Tony story struggled to get a little bit of sunlight.

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?

Our team is just back from a wonderful live show in Chicago — thank you all for coming! — with W. Kamau Bell as our special guest and Sam Sanders in our fourth chair. (Both were wonderful.) We'll have audio from that show in your feeds later, but this week, we've got a special edition.

First up, we bring you a segment Glen Weldon did with our buddy Gene Demby of Code Switch about diversity in comics. It originally aired on the Code Switch podcast, but we thought we'd bring it to you here as well.

Tale as old as tiiiiiiime ...

By which, of course, I mean "tired people return from South By Southwest."

But in any event: this week's show kicks off with a discussion with our pal Katie Presley of Bitch Media about the live-action version of Disney's Beauty And The Beast. How are the candlesticks? How's the new music? And, as Katie wonders, is there adequate eroticism within the Beast, compared to the cartoon Beast who set Katie's young heart aflutter so many years ago? And what's the Les Miz-iest part of the Beast's new tune, anyway?

While we're waiting for Stephen Thompson to return from South By Southwest, we wanted to bring you two of the segments we did on our fall tour with friend of the show Guy Branum, who hosts the Maximum Fun podcast Pop Rocket and is also the host of the upcoming TruTV show Talk Show The Game Show, based on a live format he's been doing for a while. Guy joined us at the Now Hear This festival in Anaheim to talk about memes and fads, and to offer some pop culture advice to our listeners.

I've shed many of my physical books during my various moves, but one that I still have is Bill Walsh's Lapsing Into A Comma. Its subtitle: A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong In Print — and How to Avoid Them. I either loaned it to someone at some point or I intended to, because I wrote on the dedication page: "A book I read and loved, that it takes a grouchy writer to appreciate."

That comma should not be there, so that's embarrassing.

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.

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