Picks and Pans Main: People Picks


No. 1 So Long, David Letterman

Wake the kids, phone the neighbors: It’s the end of an era!



Last year, visiting CBS’s Late Show, Amy Schumer told host David Letterman she was thrilled to be there. “No,” he said with his customary caustic relish, “this is like buying produce off a prison truck.” Letterman, retiring after more than three decades on the air with different networks, was the first talk show star to acknowledge that the job was ridiculous—perhaps even unworthy of an adult. Yet that scorn freed him to fill late nights with fresh, absurd, mocking humor: Has there ever been anything as reductively funny as Stupid Pet Tricks or the Top Ten List? That crabby man changed comedy. (CBS, May 20, 11:35 p.m.)

No. 2 I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story



It’s okay to be afraid to look into Big Bird’s nest. After all, no one wants to ruin a Sesame Street icon by suggesting that he’s, of all things, human. But this doc gives Spinney, who’s played the 8’2″ featherball for 45 years (along with Oscar the Grouch), a gentle foray out of the yellow suit. While the film does touch on his rough early days on the Street and failed first marriage, the real dirt is how taxing it is to play the Bird. Still, it’s Spinney’s optimism and genuine awe at being allowed to inhabit this character for so long that will stay with you. So don’t fret—follow that Bird! (May 15, unrated)

No. 3 Avery Wilson, ‘If I Have To’

The Voice alum makes a triumphant debut



Wilson, then 16, won over the Voice judges on season 3 with his cover of the David Guetta (feat. Usher) hit “Without You” before getting booted off—too early! Fast-forward three years, and he’s found a famous fan in Clive Davis. Wilson is the first signing in years by the megaproducer. Judging from this debut single, an uplifting, midtempo ballad that showcases the singer’s soaring falsetto, Mr. Davis has not lost his golden touch, nor has Wilson.

No. 4 Parenthood: The Complete Series

The brave dignity of the Bravermans



With a fine ensemble headed by Peter Krause and Lauren Graham, the NBC series about the extended Braverman clan was never the hit it deserved to be. But fans—and this six-season set should earn the show new ones—will cherish its gentle insistence on the core importance of lives rooted in the solicitude (and, sometimes, annoyance) of family. Even in an era of bravura TV narrative, such commonsense kindness counts for a lot.

No. 5 I Love Lucy Superstar Special



Hollywood has as many ghosts as any other town, maybe more. These two colorized episodes revolve around guest spots by Oscar winner William Holden and TV Superman George Reeves, but the only still-tangible superstar here is Lucille Ball. Even today, her clowning with Holden is spoken of with reverence—not just the bit with the putty nose, but the way she blinks in awestruck panic at her brush with what was fame. (CBS, May 17, 8 p.m.)

No. 6 Grace of Monoco



Kidman is quite good in this cheap, silly movie, all but buried after a disastrous premiere at Cannes. The performance is stamped with a deep but chilly hostility that undercuts the film’s easy sentiment. Grace, renouncing a Hollywood comeback, embraces the role of Princess of Monaco to bolster husband Prince Rainier’s hold on the throne. But the anger in Kidman’s eyes suggests this princess slept on a mattress stuffed with peas. And. Did. Not. Like. It. (Lifetime, May 25, 9 p.m..)

No. 7 Pitch Perfect 2

A sequel in sync with the original



Is it rude to sing along to the a cappella jams in this satisfying sequel? (Asking for a friend.) College singing group the Bellas return with a sound that rocks and (just as important) jokes that land. After a disastrous performance, Beca (Anna Kendrick) takes a job at a music company, while she and her singing sisters sweat a militaristic German group likely to beat them at the world championships. Costar-director Elizabeth Banks totally gets the Pitch appeal, even if she milks a few scenes for more than they’re worth. You’ll hum your way home. (May 15, PG-13)

No. 8 The Best New Books

Two dark, satisfying almost-summer thrillers and a controversial photographer’s revealing memoir

Christopher Bollen



When a series of murders upends the sleepy Long Island town of Orient, residents cast a wary eye on Mills Chevern, a teen drifter boarding with a local architect. Also making waves: wealthy New York City artist arrivals, plus a mutant animal that washes ashore, causing widespread panic. This is beach reading that’s as intelligent as it is absorbing.

Sally Mann

Hold Still


In this extraordinary book, the photographer whose nude photos of her kids drew both acclaim and censure proves she’s equally fearless with a pen. Plumbing family archives, Mann unfolds tales of scandal, murder-suicide and racism, while the stunning visuals reveal her evolving creative growth. The result is as fresh and startling as a candid.


Jessica Knoll

Luckiest Girl Alive


Ani has the ideal life: a hot body thanks to hours at the gym and no carbs, a prestigious job at The Women’s Magazine and a loaded fiancé. So why does she keep imagining plunging a knife into her husband-to-be? The answer emerges bit by bit in this dark novel about a woman whose carefully crafted facade cracks as the past finally catches up with her. To reveal more would be a crime—but we can say that Knoll’s debut is the perfect page-turner to start your summer.


Rossi, 33, founded the HelloGiggles site with BFF Zooey Deschanel. Now she’s written a smart tween novel about pals—with an intro by Zooey, of course.

Did Zooey inspire you?

She’s always my inspiration! But I think the book was inspired by our site and that community of friendships.

Why a novel for tweens?

I was obsessed with Sweet Valley High and Nancy Drew…. Zooey once spent a whole year on eBay and got me all the Sweet Valley High books!

What interests you about friendship?

Your first best friend is your first love. And I wanted to tell a story about friends that wasn’t competitive or image- or fashion-based.

Are you and Zooey still besties?

She’s the best bestie ever. We’re so different but so the same. But I hate when people call her quirky! She’s not that—she’s just herself.

No. 9 David Duchovny, Hell or Highwater



The truth is out there: Duchovny can sing! The versatile X-Files alum reinvents himself as a broody rocker with 12 songs (which he wrote) about heavy stuff—from lost love (“Let It Rain”) to commercialism (“Positively Madison Avenue”)—on an R.E.M.-inspired debut.

No. 10 I’ll See You in My Dreams

Blythe Danner shines as a woman who finds her third act



Carol (Danner) has a lovely existence playing cards and hitting golf balls, but is it enough? A night of karaoke with her pool guy (Martin Starr) sparks a yearning that Danner delivers with impressive restraint: It’s revelatory to see an actress who’s so at ease in her skin play a character who isn’t. Sam Elliott adds rakish fun as a hot date, Bill. Without sounding like a vitamin ad, he reminds Carol that if she isn’t dead, she might as well live. (May 15, PG-13)

No. 11 Mad Max: Fury Road



As Max, Tom Hardy is the new road warrior, but this reboot of the dystopian series has a feminist roar. Charlize Theron is Furiosa, a soldier of the evil Immortan Joe (’79 Mad Max vet Hugh Keays-Byrne), who flees with some of his most precious treasures. She and Max battle Joe’s warriors in scenes of unrelenting violence. In other words, it’s hugely fun. (May 15, R)

No. 12 Mariah Carey, #1 to Infinity



Mimi’s latest is as much a piece of radio history as a greatest-hits album. It gathers together 18 singles that, collectively, spent a whopping 79 weeks atop Billboard’s Hot 100—from “Vision of Love” (1990) to “Touch My Body” (2008). New track “Infinity” showcases that trademark five-octave range. This diva could last to infinity, and beyond.

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