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There's plenty to watch this Thanksgiving holiday weekend


Many of us will gather in person for Thanksgiving and for the first time in actually a couple of years. Now, whether that means cozying up with family and loved ones or sneaking away from that contentious conversation around the dinner table, there's plenty to watch on TV this Thanksgiving. NPR critics Linda Holmes and Glen Weldon co-host NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. And they're here with a list of recommendations. Hello, you two.

GLEN WELDON, BYLINE: Hey, good morning.

LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Hello. Good morning.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Now, I don't know why I would be compelled to watch anything other than the winless Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, but it seems like there's a lot new content that I should be thankful for. So, Glen, let's start with you. A movie on your list about a family who's celebrating Thanksgiving in a Manhattan apartment - tell us about this film.

WELDON: Yeah. This is "The Humans." It's hard to describe. It's based on a play by Stephen Karam. Karam directs the film. And as you mentioned, it takes place in real time over the course of a Thanksgiving dinner. There's a young woman and her boyfriend who invite her parents and sister, as well as her ailing grandmother, over for Thanksgiving in her rundown apartment in Manhattan that they haven't furnished yet because they just moved in. Now, on paper, that may sound like a pretty familiar setup for drama. It may not shock you to learn that, over the course of the dinner, secrets get revealed. That's, you know, theater 101. The writing here and particularly the performances are so grounded that it really feels like you're eavesdropping on this family.

The cast is spectacular. You've got Richard Jenkins. You've got Jayne Houdyshell, who won the Tony for this role on Broadway, Steven Yeun, Beanie Feldstein, Amy Schumer. There is an extra element to this film, and that's the sound design. We hear the heavy footsteps of their neighbors and the creaking pipes and this ancient, wheezing elevator that really creates a real profound sense of dread and claustrophobia. And I realize as I say this out loud, that doesn't sound like fun for the whole family over Thanksgiving. But you have to see this thing. You're not going to forget these performances. That's "The Humans," which is in theaters now, and it's also streaming on Showtime.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Linda, now you have a recommendation that's sure maybe to put us in a bright holiday spirit. It's called "Love Hard." What's "Love Hard" about?

HOLMES: So "Love Hard" is a Netflix film. You know, many people have seen - whether you have seen them on Hallmark or Lifetime or Netflix or wherever - these kind of holiday rom-coms. That's basically what this is. It stars Nina Dobrev and Jimmy O. Yang. And Jimmy O. Yang you might know from kind of broader comedy stuff. He's a stand-up. He was also in "Silicon Valley" and a bunch of other things. This is a kind of a more laid back rom-com lead for him. This has a very classic romantic comedy set up, which is that, you know, she gets interested in his online dating profile, but he's using someone else's picture. She spontaneously decides to go and visit him, and she learns that, you know, he's not the person she thought in terms of his photo. And there's a lot of kind of then she finds the guy whose picture it really was and their identities are scrambled. And it's a very classic rom-com set up, which is why this kind of thing always runs on charm and not surprise. I - look, I'm never going to tell anybody that this kind of film is groundbreaking or whatever, but I did enjoy it quite a bit.

MARTÍNEZ: Now another movie set to release on Netflix is called "The Power Of The Dog." Glen, you've said that this film is your favorite of the year. Tell us why.

WELDON: Well, it's Jane Campion's latest film, and she's returning to some of the themes that she explored back in "The Piano." It's - Jesse Plemons is a rancher in Montana in the 1920s. He brings his new bride, played by Kirsten Dunst, and her teenage son home to live with him and his brother, who is played by Benedict Cumberbatch. And, man, Cumberbatch's character is so racked with jealousy and just this pure seething malice that he sets out to destroy her. So this is kind of a tough movie about, among other things, how masculinity can curdle and how homophobia in particular poisons the soul.

But when it's over, you start to realize - and I'm going to be careful here - you start to realize that certain things that seemed just like a series of events were in fact a very intentional design. So it's one of those films that when you're talking it over with your friends, you realize that a look that was exchanged between two characters seemed to mean one thing when you watched it, but now you realize what was actually being communicated in that look. Man, it's so good. It is in select theaters now. It's coming to Netflix, as you mentioned, on December 1. It is the best film of the year with some of the best performances of the year.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, sounds like a lot of good, fantastic new releases. But, Linda, what about those maybe looking for a little nostalgia this holiday season?

HOLMES: Yeah. I feel like Glen is kind of bringing the prestige to this conversation and I'm kind of bringing about the watch it in your pajamas. But as soon as I heard, like, you know, what should people kind of watch over Thanksgiving, I thought you know what my current favorite recommendation is, is "Colombo." And I speak here of the old classic detective show "Colombo," which is now available on a couple different streaming services. You can look around. Some of them are free with commercials. You can kind of poke around. This is, of course, Peter Falk playing the detective who comes upon various murders committed by celebrities of the 1970s.

I Think it has a kind of a loping, relaxing quality despite the fact that it's always about murders. But it also has this wonderful kind of revolving door of cast members. It's like "The Love Boat" with murder. So you're constantly getting these sort of - it's like, oh, it's Leonard Nimoy, it's William Shatner, it's Martin Sheen. It's surprising how well "Colombo" works because it's not superhot current television. But I think it's a really good holiday recommendation. And also if you're looking for, like, the get me a hot toddy and my jammies, like, it's also very good for that. Like, if it's just you and you're just chilling out, try "Colombo."

MARTÍNEZ: Now, Glen, any old favorites that you'll be bringing this week?

WELDON: Yeah, I got a hot toddy and jammies pick. I got layers. "Galavant" is a sitcom that ran on ABC for two seasons a few years back. It is a musical comedy series set in this medieval fantasy world with a handsome knight who sets out to rescue his girlfriend, a beautiful maiden, from being forced to marry an evil king. But it turns out she is totally fine with marrying the evil king because it means she's going to get to be an evil queen. So that's the show's premise, turning a lot of these very familiar tropes on their head. This show is so funny. It's so self-aware. It breaks that fourth wall but just enough, you know, not too much.

And it's filled with all these cameo appearances by people like "Weird Al" Yankovic and Kylie Minogue and Rutger Hauer and Hugh Bonneville and John Stamos, randomly. And as funny and as joke dense as these scripts are, man, it's the songs for me. These lyrics are really clever. They're really fun. The songs are catchy. This is pure comfort viewing. I have returned to it often over the course of the pandemic. You can find it streaming in several places, including Apple TV. That's "Galavant." I say it's two seasons, but it's just 18 half-hour episodes in total - makes a great weekend binge

MARTÍNEZ: By the way, why does every heroic knight have to be handsome, Glen? Why can't there just be an average kind of just normal-looking scrubby knight saving the day?

WELDON: I think you've just created the plot for "Shrek" so...


HOLMES: (Laughter).

MARTÍNEZ: So it's been done.

WELDON: (Unintelligible) Go back in time.

MARTÍNEZ: Right. Glen, Linda, happy watching. Thank you both so much as always.

WELDON: Thank you.

HOLMES: Thank you.


A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Glen Weldon
Glen Weldon is a host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He reviews books, movies, comics and more for the NPR Arts Desk.
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.