Linda Holmes

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."

While the television season no longer runs neatly from September to May, there's still a rush of new shows — especially on broadcast networks — in the fall. Eric Deggans, NPR's TV critic, joined Pop Culture Happy Hour for our annual fall TV preview, and you can hear that audio by hitting the big PLAY button. (As always, our conversation concludes with our regular weekly segment What's Making Me Happy This Week, which this time around includes a music documentary, a new album, yet another TV show to consider and a podcast on the topic of television.)

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.)

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.

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?

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?