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Streaming Preview: Idris Elba In 'Turn Up Charlie' And Aidy Bryant In 'Shrill'


We're talking about new television this morning. I have two of NPR's critics here - NPR's pop culture critic Linda Holmes and NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. Hi, you two.



GREENE: Why are you bringing me new shows? I feel like all I get is new show...

HOLMES: (Laughter).

GREENE: ...Suggestions from people. I don't have time. I don't even have time to even keep track of, like, the shows that I've been on for a while.

HOLMES: That's what you need us for.

DEGGANS: Exactly.

HOLMES: Help narrow it down.

DEGGANS: There's so much great stuff out there. And it's our job to tell you about it.

GREENE: Well, Linda, let me start with you.


GREENE: We're talking about a new show on Hulu. It's called "Shrill." What's it about?

HOLMES: So this is an adaptation of Lindy West's book, which is also called "Shrill." Lindy's a kind of a cultural commentator. She writes a lot about feminism. She writes a lot about reproductive rights. She writes a lot about fatness as well. So this is a story about - it's kind of loosely adapted from her book of essays. Some of her experiences are reflected in this, in which the character Annie, who is sort of her avatar in the series, is played by Aidy Bryant. Aidy Bryant you might know from "Saturday Night Live."

GREENE: Yeah, like beloved from "Saturday Night Live," right?

HOLMES: She's wonderful on "Saturday Night Live." She plays Annie. And Annie is a magazine writer who is trying to get more into writing. And the story talks a lot about her ambitions but also about her relationships. She has a kind of a weird boyfriend who makes her go out the back door, which is never...

DEGGANS: (Laughter).

HOLMES: ...A good sign.


HOLMES: And the first episode deals with an unexpected pregnancy. And talking openly about unplanned pregnancies and the options that women have is something that Lindy West has written about a lot but not something television does a lot. So in this story, they managed to go from kind of really funny to really moving scenes. I want to play you the scene where she goes to the pharmacy and asks about the morning after pill.


AIDY BRYANT: (As Annie) So do you sell more of the morning after pill in the morning or is it kind of an all day thing? (Laughter).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Hey, Nick, do we sell the morning after pill?

BRYANT: (As Annie) Oh, that's OK. We don't need to bother Nick. He's doing pill business. I will just pay, and this will be over.

GREENE: Oh, you can feel the tension, like, dealing with a really hard moment with humor.

HOLMES: Absolutely. And she's so - Aidy Bryant is so good in these scenes. She's so funny. She's such a naturally comic person, but she winds up having a much more serious conversation with her best friend about what to do after she does learn that the morning after pill has not been successful for her. And she's now pregnant, and she has a conversation with her best friend that's much more serious and thoughtful. And I want to play that clip, too.


BRYANT: (As Annie) I keep having this little thought of like, maybe this is my chance to be a mom.

LOLLY ADEFOPE: (As Fran) OK. You're going to have a lot more chances to be a mom. And maybe we just don't take this one, which is the one with the guy who makes you leave through the back gate.

BRYANT: (As Annie) I just mean, like, there have been moments in my life where I, like, didn't think that I would ever get to have that, you know, because of what I looked like or because there's, like, a certain way that your body is supposed to be. And I'm not that.

GREENE: Different role for Aidy Bryant than a lot of what she does on "SNL," I take it.

HOLMES: It's different. But it brings out this kind of deep humanity in her and in the way that she performs. I think it's an absolute breakout for her. It's so good. It's really, really a good show and, again, coming to Hulu.

GREENE: All right. Well, let's go to Eric Deggans. Eric, we're going to talk about a show on Netflix. It's called "Turn Up Charlie." And this is Idris Elba - right? - who is People magazine's sexiest man alive.

DEGGANS: (Laughter).

GREENE: But it sounds like he's...

DEGGANS: That's right.

GREENE: ...Playing a bit of a loser here. Can he pull that off?

DEGGANS: That's the question. So this is Idris playing a down-on-his-luck DJ who's best friend from school turned out to be a huge movie star and married a woman who is a really popular DJ and music producer. And he winds up in this situation where he winds up watching their bratty kid in exchange for maybe them helping him with his career. And normally, this is the kind of show that I would absolutely hate, especially if it was something that was done on, like, a sitcom.

GREENE: Why would you normally hate it?

DEGGANS: I would normally hate it because it's kind of formulaic. And it's unrealistic.


DEGGANS: And it's also weird to take the most famous person in the show and have him play a loser who is the not famous person.


DEGGANS: As a viewer, there's a dissonance there where you're constantly looking at Idris, but he's playing a loser who nobody knows. But you get a sense that his character is how Idris might have turned out if things hadn't gone so well for him. He's actually a DJ. He's performing at Coachella this year. And if things hadn't worked out so well for him on "The Wire" and in his acting roles, maybe he would have been this guy.

GREENE: Oh, interesting. You almost - you feel an actor on a personal exploration of a different side of them.

DEGGANS: Exactly. And I love the relationship that he has with his aunt, who's an immigrant, and his best friend. And I queued up a little interaction between them where he's arguing with his aunt Lydia about whether or not he should even take this job watching this kid.


JOCELYN JEE ESIEN: (As Lydia) So how are you going to take care of a little girl?

IDRIS ELBA: (As Charlie) Well, I'm just keeping an eye on her while they settle in. That's it.

GUZ KHAN: (As Del) Because you're the nanny.

ELBA: (As Charlie) No, I'm not the nanny. I'm just helping out some mates while - and they're going to help me out. I jump on the mic. She loves it - No. 1 hit - bang.

DEGGANS: So I just liked seeing a different side of Idris Elba. As you can tell, he's not necessarily cracking jokes. He's playing this character pretty much the way he would play any character. But because the situation is so absurd, there's a humor that comes through. And I particularly like the characters.

GREENE: OK. I'm going to put you both on the spot real quick. Linda Holmes - one other TV show that we should definitely make sure to check out as we head into spring.

HOLMES: Oh, wow. Does it have to be new?

GREENE: No, I don't care.


GREENE: What are you watching?


GREENE: It could be "Happy Days" for all I care - whatever you want to tell me about.

DEGGANS: (Laughter).

HOLMES: You know what I love right now? What I love right now is "Speechless" on ABC, which is a show about a family of a kid who uses a wheelchair and is non-verbal. But the family is super funny and great. Everybody in it is wonderful. The show is really funny. I love it, and I want everybody to watch it. And I don't want them to cancel it, so please watch it.

GREENE: All right. That sounds really cool - Eric Deggans.

DEGGANS: Amazon is going to debut a show "Catastrophe."


DEGGANS: It's a great comedy. It's in its fourth season. This is its last season. We get Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan playing this odd couple. This British woman or this woman in Britain who has a one-night stand with an American who's in the country, she gets pregnant. They decide to get married. And in this fourth season, it's just been revealed that he has a problem with alcoholism that he's been hiding. And the two of them have to negotiate this while they also negotiate their very unusual marriage. It's a very funny show. I think it's been overlooked the whole time it's been on the air, so check it out.

GREENE: All right. We're with our critics. We're in the critics corner. Maybe we should start calling it that on NPR. NPR pop culture critic Linda Holmes and TV critic Eric Deggans, thank you both.

DEGGANS: Thank you.

HOLMES: Thanks, David.


Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.
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.