Jonathan McNicol | Connecticut Public Radio
WNPR

Jonathan McNicol

Producer, The Colin McEnroe Show / Host, The Second First Season

Jonathan started at WNPR as an intern in 2010 and was hired later that year. In his work, Jonathan is always just trying to figure out a little bit of how the world works, while paying special attention to the absurd and the just plain goofy. He is as likely to produce a show on America’s jury system as he is a story on all the grossest parts of the human body. His work has been heard nationally on Here & Now and locally on WNPR’s talk shows, on Morning Edition, and on All Things Considered.

Jonathan comes to radio from a background in, of all things, graphic design. He lives in the greater New Haven area.

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Over just six years, from 1954 to 1960, Alfred Hitchcock made four movies -- Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960) -- that are routinely mentioned among the very best movies ever made. It's maybe an unparalleled run in the history of cinema.

And that's just those four movies. Hitchcock's filmography is full of classics: Notorious (1946), Strangers on a Train (1951), The 39 Steps (1935), The Wrong Man (1956), The Birds (1963). The list goes on.

HARU_Q / flickr creative commons

There's a theory that ours isn't the only universe. That there are, actually, infinitely many universes.

That there are, then, infinitely many yous.

That there are infinitely many different yous reading infinitely many different versions of this show synopsis. That there are infinitely many universes that don't even bother to include you. Or this show synopsis. Or even reading.

Fox Searchlight

On Thursday, Hasbro announced that its Mr. Potato Head brand would drop the "Mr." in a move toward inclusiveness. But they also made clear, in a move toward not being yelled at by the internet, that the Mr. Potato Head character (and the Mrs. Potato Head character, for that matter) would continue.

Also this week, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled a new design for its mail trucks. The internet yelled about that some, too.

And: Nomadland is Chloé Zhao's third film as writer and director. It is nominated for four awards at this weekend's Golden Globes, including two for Zhao (Best Director and Best Screenplay) and one for Frances McDormand (Best Actress in a Motion Picture -- Drama).

Carol Rosegg

Thornton Wilder's Our Town debuted more than 80 years ago. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and, over the decades since, it has continuously been one of the most produced of American plays.

It is known for its spare set -- just some chairs and tables, perhaps some ladders -- and lack of props and sometimes even costumes. It's known for its metatheatricality and its Stage Manager character, who addresses the audience directly and rarely participates in the action of the play, as much as there really is any.

It is known as old-fashioned, sentimental, nostalgic and, simultaneously, obviously and intentionally not old-fashioned, sentimental, and nostalgic.

This hour, a look at perhaps the quintessential American play: Our Town.

We had trouble mustering enthusiasm to wrap up our final episode of this second season of Pardon Me. Last week's roller coaster of a trial culminated in 43 senators choosing to acquit on a weak and deceptive defense -- despite a factual and painstaking accounting of how bad the breach was, how bad it might have been, and how Donald Trump incited it.

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In a new essay for Harper's, filmmaker Martin Scorsese criticizes the current state of the movie business and all these new fangled streaming platforms and their algorithms. "We can’t depend on the movie business, such as it is, to take care of cinema," Scorsese says.

And: Judas and the Black Messiah is a biopic of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton. It is director Shaka King's studio feature film debut, and it's nominated for two Golden Globe Awards. It is one of two movies nominated for Golden Globes this year that portray Hampton (along with The Trial of the Chicago 7).

MARCO VERCH / flickr creative commons

We live in an "Everything Should Take Twenty Minutes" world. Movies are too long. SundanceTV has a show that airs in 10-minute episodes. Tierra Whack has a 15-minute album made of fifteen 60-second songs. Todd Rundgren's memoir has 183 one-page, three-paragraph chapters.

So today, we turn our hour over to five short, little shows about short, little things.

Donald Trump's legal team delivered their defense of the former president Friday. They followed a tightly argued and visceral presentation delivered by House managers that, some say, has made it easy for Republican senators to convict Trump. They likely won't.

We wondered if our show, recorded in part on Thursday, would omit important events that occurred thereafter. Given that many Republican senators have already decided to acquit, why would the defense feel the need to address the 144 constitutional lawyers who debunked their First Amendment argument, the 150 constitutional lawyers who say the impeachment of Trump is constitutional, or the people of this country?

We knew the ending before it even began.

Marvel Studios

WandaVision is a Disney+ miniseries that's part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and that's set, like, inside the history of television? It follows Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff and Paul Bettany as Vision as they try to conceal their superhero powers and blend into a generic sitcom neighborhood. Episodes so far have taken on the look and feel of American sitcoms from the 1950s, '60s, '70s, and '80s.

Jonathan McNicol / Connecticut Public Radio

Who's afraid of the Bix bad Beiderbecke?

Hartford has an amazing jazz history, and Colin has a lot of jazz musician friends. This hour, a little onstage jazz party recorded in front of a live audience long before the pandemic put a pause on live audiences as a thing.

Colin and the panel look to make jazz accessible to mere mortals. They talk about what makes jazz jazz, invite the audience to sing, and teach the audience to scat.

Vevo

Olivia Rodrigo's "drivers license" is in its second week as the No. 1 song in the country, having debuted there last week. It is the first debut single by any artist to hit the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 1 in history.

And: Pretend It's a City is Martin Scorsese's seven-part Netflix documentary series about Fran Liebowitz that's actually also kind of about New York City.

And finally: How To with John Wilson is John Wilson's six-part HBO documentary series of advice and tutorials that's actually also kind of about New York City.

Janus Films

André Gregory has directed and acted in the theater for more than 50 years. He has appeared in a number of movies, including Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ, Woody Allen's Celebrity, Brian De Palma's The Bonfire of the Vanities, Peter Weir's The Mosquito Coast, and many more. He has starred in three movies about the theater with the playwright, actor, and comedian Wallace Shawn: A Master Builder, Vanya on 42nd Street, and the iconic My Dinner with Andre.

Gregory's memoir is This Is Not My Memoir. He joins us for the hour.

We took a chance that House Democrats were going to send the Article of Impeachment to the Senate this week. We were wrong. Instead, the House will transmit its Article of Impeachment charging former President Trump with "incitement of insurrection" to the Senate on Monday.

Why should the House wait any longer when more than a dozen Republican senators are trying to dismiss the impeachment trial before it begins, based on the disputed claim that it's unconstitutional to try an ex-president. And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is already walking back his prior claim that Trump incited the riot at the Capitol.

The House will transmit its Article of Impeachment charging former President Trump with "incitement of insurrection" to the Senate on Monday.

Previously on Pardon Me (Another Damn Impeachment Show?): House Democrats voted to impeach President Trump on two Articles of Impeachment: "abuse of power" and "obstruction of Congress." He was later acquitted promptly after Senate Republicans voted against calling witnesses or admitting new evidence.

Now (less than 48 weeks later), on Season Two of Pardon Me: House Democrats, along with 10 Republicans, voted to impeach President Trump Wednesday on one Article of Impeachment: "incitement of insurrection." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promptly responded that there'll be no trial while he's Senate leader.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Netflix, Inc.

Tom Cruise's seventh Mission: Impossible installment has been one of the few huge Hollywood productions trying to to figure out how to film during the pandemic. Cruise has been in the news lately for blowing up at his crew for breaking COVID protocols, and now he's back in the news for… buying COVID enforcement robots?

And: Could front porches be just the right "magical intermediate zone" to keep communities connecting during a time of social distancing?

And finally: Nicolas Cage is hosting a documentary series on Netflix called History of Swear Words. Normally I'd try to give you a little more context here, but I feel like that first sentence pretty much covers it.

Previously on Pardon Me (Another Damn Impeachment Show?): House Democrats voted to impeach President Trump on two Articles of Impeachment: "abuse of power" and "obstruction of Congress." He was later acquitted promptly after Senate Republicans voted against calling witnesses or admitting new evidence.

Now (less than 48 weeks later), on Season Two of Pardon Me: House Democrats, along with 10 Republicans, voted to impeach President Trump Wednesday on one Article of Impeachment: "incitement of insurrection." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promptly responded that there'll be no trial while he's Senate leader.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Netflix, Inc.

Last weekend, a little girl asked her father for help opening a can of beans. Rather than help her, Bean Dad left his daughter to figure it out for herself. For six hours (supposedly). And tweeted about it. It was peak internet.

Also: This will come as a shock (it probably won't), but Kim Kardashian is rumored to be divorcing Kanye West. Or she's rumored to be about to be divorcing Kanye West. Or she's rumored to be considering divorcing Kanye West. Or something.

And finally: Bridgerton is a period drama series on Netflix produced by Shonda Rhimes. It's set in Regency London during "the social season," and you're either super interested in a show with that premise or you aren't.

matt / flickr creative commons

As our show starts today, the U.S. Congress will begin the process of officially tallying the Electoral College votes in the 2020 elections for president and vice president.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris received 306 votes, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence received 232 votes, and this should be a pretty pro forma exercise.

Should be. Instead, scores of congressional Republicans are expected to object to the certified votes from a number of swing states. The president thinks the vice president has the power to pick and choose which votes to count. The vice president reportedly disagrees. In any case, the objections are expected to gum up the works -- probably for hours.

Johannes Gärtner / flickr creative commons

Nietzsche called Richard Wagner "a volcanic eruption of the total undivided artistic capacity of nature itself," and Thomas Mann said he was "probably the greatest talent in the entire history of art."

More than a thousand movies have Wagner on their soundtracks, including classic scenes from Apocalypse Now, The Blues Brothers, Bugs Bunny cartoons, and Charlie Chaplin.

But, there's a reason Woody Allen says too much of Wagner's music gives him "the urge to conquer Poland." Wagner is nothing if not a problematic figure. As the new book Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music puts it, "An artist who might have rivaled Shakespeare in universal reach is undone by an ideology of hate."

Sachitha Obeysekara / flickr creative commons

To round out the year, we round up the best jazz of the year. We've done this every year for at least the last seven years.

Marc Tavernier / flickr creative commons

2020 was ... not great.

But, from a pop culture point of view, it wasn't so bad either. I mean, we got the Hamilton movie, The Queen's Gambit, the final season of Schitt's Creek, David Byrne's American Utopia, the Borat sequel, "WAP," I May Destroy You, Tiger King, two new Taylor Swift albums, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom...

The list goes on.

This hour, The Nose looks back at the year in pop culture that was 2020.

Chion Wolf (file photo) / Connecticut Public Radio

Toward the end of every year since 2014, we've picked a day and put "Big Al" Anderson, Jim Chapdelaine, and Colin in a room together, sung some songs, told some stories, and wound up with some sort of a holiday special.

The "in a room together" part of that is essential… and just not going to happen in 2020.

So, in lieu of doing a new show with Al and Jim, this year we've gone through all six of the previous shows we've done and pulled out some of the best songs -- 11 of them, no less -- and some of the best guest appearances and some of the other best bits and bobs and we've added a brand-new version of an age-old Big Al song that Al and Jim sent along special. And we've wound up with this sort of best-of edition of our annual holiday spectacular.

Netflix, Inc.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is George C. Wolfe's film adaptation of the August Wilson play. It stars Viola Davis in the title role and Chadwick Boseman in his final film performance, and it's available to stream on Netflix.

Christopher Nolan's Tenet was the first tentpole movie to be released in theaters during the pandemic. It did okay business (it's currently the third-highest grossing film of 2020), but nothing like what Warner Bros. would've hoped for in a normal time. It's still in theaters, and it's now available to buy on physical disc or from digital platforms. It will be available to rent digitally in January.

Andrew E. Larsen / flickr creative commons

Kurt Andersen's last book, Fantasyland, looks at America's "centuries-old weakness for the untrue and irrational, and its spontaneous and dangerous flowering since the 1960s" and how it got us where we are today.

His new book, Evil Geniuses, is a kind of sequel, a companion. It's a parallel history, really, that looks more closely at "the quite deliberate reengineering of our economy and society since the 1960s."

This hour, public radio great Kurt Andersen on "the unmaking of America."

We Like To Watch

Dec 18, 2020
Robert Couse-Baker / flickr creative commons

For decades, we didn't take television seriously. We saw it as ephemeral, as "chewing gum for the eyes," as, literally, furniture.

And then, around the turn of the century, things started to change. There was The Sopranos. The Wire. And, at the same time, shows like Big Brother and The Amazing Race. For Emily Nussbaum, it was Buffy the Vampire Slayer that forever changed her take on television.

This hour: A serious appraisal of television with The New Yorker's television critic.

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2001: A Space Odyssey. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. A Clockwork Orange. The Shining. Full Metal Jacket. Spartacus. Eyes Wide Shut.

This hour, a careful consideration of the filmmaker Steven Spielberg called "the best in history": Stanley Kubrick.

Netflix, Inc.

Mank is David Fincher's feature film portrayal of the writing of Citizen Kane. Gary Oldman plays the title character and Kane screenwriter, Herman J. Mankiewicz. Mank hit Netflix last Friday, and it's already got lots of Oscar buzz.

The Godfather: Part III is a movie that was actually nominated for seven Oscars 30 years ago (it didn't win any), and it's the third film in a series that had already won nine Academy Awards, including two Best Pictures. Part III, though, has always been thought of relatively poorly. And so, for its 30th anniversary this month, Francis Ford Coppola has rejiggered it and rereleased it as The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone. This new version is four minutes shorter, starts with a different scene, ends slightly differently ... and is ultimately the same movie.

Alvaro Galve / flickr creative commons

Seventeen AFC East championships. Nine Super Bowl appearances. Six Lombardi trophies. Twenty seasons pairing maybe the greatest head coach in the history of the NFL with maybe the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL.

At the same time, there are words like "spygate." "Deflategate." And even "solicitation in Florida."

This hour, a look at one of the all-time great (and all-time most divisive) sports dynasties: the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick/Robert Kraft New England Patriots.

Ciro Duran / flickr creative commons

In May, I discovered (along with the rest of the internet) a video on YouTube of a guy in his loft in Surrey, England ... solving a Sudoku puzzle. It was intense, a roller-coaster ride, and, ultimately, sublime.

Those are not words you might expect someone to use to describe watching a stranger solve a little number puzzle, but here we are.

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