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Glen Weldon

Glen Weldon is a regular panelist on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He also reviews books and movies for NPR.org and is a contributor to NPR's pop culture blog Monkey See, where he posts weekly about comics and comics culture.

Over the course of his career, he has spent time as a theater critic, a science writer, an oral historian, a writing teacher, a bookstore clerk, a PR flack, a seriously terrible marine biologist and a slightly better-than-average competitive swimmer.

Weldon is the author of Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, a cultural history of the iconic character. His fiction and criticism have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Slate, Story, McSweeney's, The Dallas Morning News, Washington City Paper and many other publications. He is the recipient of an NEA Arts Journalism Fellowship, a Ragdale Writing Fellowship and a PEW Fellowship in the Arts for Fiction.

The FX series The Americans has never been a ratings juggernaut, but over the course of five seasons it has earned the unstinting devotion of fans and critics. That's at least partly attributable to its willingness to put its characters, and its audience, through something that's become a hallmark of the era of "Prestige Television": Change.

There will be grunts.

Grunts of recognition, that is. If you watch Steven Spielberg's solidly built sci-fi phantasmagoria Ready Player One in a crowded theater, there will be grunts aplenty, so prepare yourself for them.

You can't, you won't — but try.

For the first hour or so of HBO's two-night documentary event, The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, you'd be forgiven for assuming the key word in that title is Diaries. In a brief opening, Shandling himself, who died almost exactly two years ago now, shows the diaries he kept all his life to the camera, and reads a particularly banal passage.

He grins. Or maybe he winces. It's a little of both, really. And there it is: That pained smile was the patch of comedy real-estate Shandling staked out for himself, and still owns.

(THE FILM CRITIC steps to the podium.)

CRITIC: Good evening. Thank you all for coming. I'll read a brief statement, and then I'll be happy to take your questions.

(He removes a piece of paper from his jacket pocket, unfolds it, and begins to read.)

The process of coming to terms with one's sexuality varies widely, depending on the individual — it can be scary, invigorating, heartbreaking, life-affirming; usually it's some complex combination of those feelings and more. What does not vary in the process of coming out is the fact that it is a process. It has a timeline, and not necessarily a smooth one. It's marked by fits and starts, denials and avowals, fraught conversations in somebody's car, the fear of rejection and, hopefully, the relief of acceptance.

Which is probably why we keep making movies about it.

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