Linda Holmes

It's one delight of doing a lot of TV criticism: Some shows really sneak up on you. It's just so much fun when it happens.

When we invited our buddy Sam Sanders, of the It's Been A Minute podcast, to talk to us about the Winter Olympics, we didn't even remember that in 2014, he helped NPR cover the Winter Olympics in Sochi. As it turned out, in addition to his usual insight and thoughtfulness, Sam possesses relevant experience!

HBO got Alan Ball at the right time.

Ball won an Oscar in 2000 for writing American Beauty. Shortly thereafter, in 2001, with HBO's drama brand still in its infancy (The Sopranos was a couple of seasons old), he created Six Feet Under for the network. Both it and later Ball's True Blood were fundamental to HBO's growth, and now, the network is ready to introduce his new show.

Gary Oldman is probably the frontrunner to win the best actor Oscar for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in the historical drama Darkest Hour, which is also up for best picture. This week, we dive into the film to separate its stately ... well, Oscar-ness ... from its actual virtues. Do actors get extra points for playing real people? Should they? How much does it matter if an entire film turns on an invented scene?

"Less plot, more ladders."

That's a philosophy espoused by a college friend of mine with a fondness for Jackie Chan movies. Chan is known for incredibly inventive action sequences in which he fights using whatever is handy — including, in First Strike, a ladder. But what my friend does not want from Jackie Chan movies is a lot of time unwinding a boring, byzantine plot. Less plot, he would demand. More ladders.

The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl on Sunday night. You could be forgiven for not expecting it — it's never happened before. And on this historic occasion, Stephen Thompson and I sat down Monday morning to talk with some of our favorite panelists about the game and the surrounding entertainment. With us is Katie Presley, a New Orleans Saints fan without too much at stake in this game. But also with us is Gene Demby of NPR's Code Switch team. Gene is a longtime Eagles fan who had, in terms of fandom, a lot at stake in this game.

Allow me to be the first — and probably the last — writer to draw a comparison between NBC's new comedy A.P. Bio, premiering Thursday night, and Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread, which is nominated for best picture.

Hospital shows are a network TV staple. There are more than 625 episodes of just Grey's Anatomy and ER combined — and Grey's is still going. Just as last season, NBC found a hit in the fairly traditional family drama This Is Us, ABC has gotten lucky with the hospital show The Good Doctor.

Phantom Thread is only the latest Paul Thomas Anderson film to examine a troubled, perhaps toxic genius and the people in his orbit. Daniel Day-Lewis, in what he says is his last film, plays Reynolds Woodcock, a 1950s dress designer in London who lives with his sister and a succession of women with whom he eventually grows tired. When Woodcock meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), who serves him breakfast and gets his order right, he takes her into his house as his lover and muse. Their relationship is, to say the least, a little intense.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Academy Award nominations were announced today. And if you're looking for an early front-runner, you could do worse than Guillermo del Toro's romantic science fiction fantasy "The Shape Of Water." It led the way with 13 nominations including best picture.

Updated at 11:09 a.m. ET

The nominations for the 90th Academy Awards were announced Tuesday morning by a dapper, genial Andy Serkis and the always-intoxicating Tiffany Haddish.

Writer-director Sean Baker shot his 2015 feature Tangerine on an iPhone. He returns with The Florida Project, which isn't shot on a phone but still feels organic and close to the ground. It tells the story of Moonee, a 6-year-old girl who lives with her mother in a motel that exists in the low-income shadow economy adjacent to Walt Disney World — all the stuff that sounds like it might be part of the Magic Kingdom, but isn't.

If you saw the Golden Globes on Sunday night, you saw Allison Janney win in the supporting actress category for playing Tonya Harding's mother in I, Tonya. You're likely to see more of her in this awards season, and more of Margot Robbie, who plays Harding herself in the film, directed by Craig Gillespie and written by Steven Rogers.

Only a few minutes into Sunday night's Golden Globes red-carpet broadcast on E!, Debra Messing explained to host Giuliana Rancic why nearly all the women were wearing black. (The men were, too, but they always do that.) Messing explained that it was part of the Time's Up initiative, which supports women who suffer from sexual harassment and assault — and not just in Hollywood. She went on to call out the recent departure from E!

The reputation of the Golden Globes is that they're the Oscars' rowdier, tipsier, weirder cousin — sometimes refreshingly so. And while awards season is always the most intense time of year for celebrity fashion, this year the allegations — and, in some cases, admissions — of sexual harassment and assault added a far more serious layer of conversation. Some women said in advance that they would wear black to convey their support for people who have reported abuse.

Note: At the top of this page, you can listen to the Pop Culture Happy Hour episode about Black Mirror, with guests Brittany Luse and Chris Klimek.

Black Mirror is an anthology where technology, at times, might seem like the lurking monster. Originally created for British television and now produced by Netflix, the series imagines leaps forward in software, surveillance, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and biotech that result, usually, in disaster. Not always — but usually.

Standard caveats: 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.

In 1971, The New York Times and then The Washington Post began publishing excerpts from the Pentagon study of American involvement in the Vietnam War that became known as the Pentagon Papers. The new Steven Spielberg film The Post is about the role that paper played in the story, and particularly the decision-making of Post publisher Katharine Graham, played by Meryl Streep.

We've done some holiday episodes of Pop Culture Happy Hour in the past. But very often, because many of us on the panel celebrate Christmas, we end up talking about that. This year, we wanted to talk a little about Hanukkah as both a religious and pop-cultural event, so we called in two of our favorite women who celebrate: Barrie Hardymon of Weekend Edition and Sarah Ventre of member station KJZZ in Phoenix.

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

Sally Hawkins stars as a woman who doesn't speak in the new film The Shape Of Water. Writer-director Guillermo del Toro is highly regarded for films across a spectrum wide enough to encompass Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy and Crimson Peak. But The Shape Of Water is a romantic fable told in soft greens and blues, which co-stars Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon, Doug Jones, and Michael Stuhlbarg. We invited self-described del Toro fangirl Neda Ulaby, of NPR's arts desk, to talk about it with us.

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.

Pixar writes about a lot of critters — robots and bugs and toys and fish and so forth. But Coco is about, first and foremost, a kid. Twelve-year-old Miguel wants to be a musician, but his relatives are firmly against it because of a long family history nobody likes to talk about too much. Eventually, this sends him into the Land of the Dead on the holiday Dia de los Muertos.

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.

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