Linda Holmes

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.

Holmes was a writer and editor at Television Without Pity, where she recapped several hundred hours of programming — including both High School Musical movies, for which she did not receive hazard pay. Her first novel, Evvie Drake Starts Over, will be published in the summer of 2019.

When young veterinarian James Herriot first opened his eyes and saw the richly green hills around Darrowby in the new adaptation of All Creatures Great And Small, I felt my shoulders drop. When he saw the village tucked — it must be said — adorably into the valley between them, I felt my breathing slow.

I've been making annual lists of 50 Wonderful Things since 2010. And I have to admit, I was not sure I was up to it this year. It's been a hard one and a lonely one, even though I had the blessings of dear friends, a job I could do remotely and a dog who apparently never gets tired of me. As I point out every year, this is not the actual best things of the year, or it would be full of doctors and nurses and activists and delivery drivers and so forth.

It's tempting to review Bridgerton thusly: "I highly recommend this Shondaland series, which will remind you a little of Jane Austen and a little of Scandal, and which prompted me to specifically decline to seek out the precise definition of an orgy."

But let's say a little more.

Something has happened to Cassie.

Cassie (Carey Mulligan) was a star student in medical school, but she isn't anymore. She lives with her parents. She works at a coffee shop. We first find her practically passed out at a bar alone, an easy mark for a guy who scoops her up and takes her home with him. But she is not as she seems; this does not turn out the way he hopes it will. He doesn't know who she is. And he's not really ready.

It has been a momentous year for everything we consider TV.

A pandemic, civil rights reckoning, streaming war and presidential election shook up the industry in a dozen different ways. It blurred lines between genres, platforms and story forms, while also encouraging us to develop our own, deep rabbit holes of favorite media. So when our team of four critics sat down to figure out what we liked most onscreen this year, we each had a lot of stuff on our lists no one else did.

There is a whole genre of comedy-thriller that you might call the Long Night story. Our central character goes out and does something foolish, or perhaps just stumbles into the wrong place at the wrong time, and suddenly, everything is a mess. Maybe the police are chasing them, maybe criminals are; maybe it's just going to be a long time before they emerge, squinting and blinking, into the sun, probably looking a mess, maybe still wearing the Long Night outfit.

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The holiday family romcom tends to go a certain way. The loving parents are having some kind of troubles (medical? financial? marital?) that they haven't fully shared. The kids come home for the holidays, and they have their own things going on: they're not ready to reveal a breakup, or they're not happy about running into an ex, or they're looking to introduce a new partner for the first time.

Every year, a barrage of holiday films arrives to fill our lives with sweaters, children, chaste kisses, and even Santa. We've rounded up the ones from Hallmark, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Lifetime, OWN, Hulu, Netflix, TV One, Bounce and BET, so you can find whatever you might be looking for.

The Netflix series The Queen's Gambit follows a chess prodigy named Beth, played Anya Taylor-Joy, from her childhood in an orphanage through her spectacular career in chess. She learns in a basement from a custodian and grows into a champion.

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