2016 hasn’t been that great.
I could go on and on about Donald Trump, or Orlando, or Brexit to explain why, but I think most people get it.
Pop culture has become more than something I like. It’s becoming, more and more, something I find comfort in.
And luckily, pop culture hasn’t disappointed this year. In fact, so far, things have been pretty good, especially on the TV front.
Below are some things I’ve really enjoyed so far this year (in no particular order). Here’s to hoping the rest of the year keeps up the good work.
Veep (Season 5)
Season 5 is probably Veep’s best season, and episode 9 (Kissing Your Sister) is probably the show’s best episode. Five seasons in, Veep just continues to get better and better, as well as funnier and funnier. I challenge you not to laugh during any scene feature Richard Splett (played by the very funny, low-key Sam Richardson). I know people roll their eyes when Veep picks up Emmys year after year, but anyone that watches it knows that the show only becomes more and more deserving with each passing season.
Game of Thrones (Season 6)
What a step-up from Season 5. While Season 6 didn’t have the strongest over-arching narrative (like Seasons 1, 3, and 4 in my opinion), the sequences within these 10 episodes are some of the strongest and most thrilling the show has every produced. I’d argue that the 20-minute King’s Landing scene from the finale is the best that the show has come out with. But then again, you could make similar arguments for the Battle of the Bastards and the “Hold the Door” sequences. As a book reader, it was a ton of fun to see the show grow into it’s own entity. If you’re not watching this show yet, get on it. You have a year until Season 7.
Better Call Saul (Season 2)
It’s hard to try to convince people to watch this show. It’s not Breaking Bad, and that, in my opinion, is where the show excels. It’s its own thing. And it’s impressive. And Season 2 of Better Call Saul stands among any great season of Breaking Bad.
Bruce Springsteen – The River Tour 2016
A guy goes on tour and performs a 20-track album he came out with 36 years ago. And it was awesome.
The Night Manager
Anyone who doesn’t think Tom Hiddleston would make a great 007 should check this miniseries out.
Captain America: Civil War
When I look at how well Civil War handles it’s huge ensemble, it makes me think that X-Men: Apocalypse and Batman v. Superman have no excuse for being as bad as they are. If shared universes and having big casts are the way things are now, all superhero movie writers/producers/directors should use this movie as a holy grail example of how to get the job done and done well.
I haven’t seen Horace and Pete yet, but I got to see Louis CK on tour this year. He set all seat prices at $50, and traded the traditional black t-shirt and jeans for a suit. And the routine was hilarious. Maybe I’m a little biased because I was actually there in person, but the set that I saw was one of his best.
The Nice Guys
It makes me so sad that they’ll probably never make a sequel to this movie.
The People vs. OJ
I could care less about OJ Simpson before watching this show. If it wasn’t for initial positive reviews, I probably would’ve passed on it. But I’m glad I gave it a try, because I walked away very impressed. Anchored by some incredible performances (Sarah Paulson, Courtney Vance and Sterling K. Brown deserve Emmys), the 10-episode run looks at all angles of the “trial of the century”. While I wasn’t old enough to remember the actual trial, the show does a fantastic job highlighting the fact that the themes highlighted then still resonate very loudly today.
“Before the Fall” by Noah Hawley
If you’re a fan of the TV-show version of Fargo, I highly recommend this read. Written by the show runner of the hit FX show (and my favorite show of last year), I felt like I was reading a third season of Fargo. It’s paced both wonderfully and tensely, and is sure to hold your attention until the final chapter.
I didn’t go into this year thinking that the podcast I enjoy listening to the most would be about Donald Trump. But “Trumpcast” is great. The podcast examines the national embarrassment and phenomenon known as Donald Trump by inviting on guests from all sorts of backgrounds (psychologists, historians, comedians, actual Trump supporters, etc.) to try to make some sense of what the hell is happening. It’s both funny and smart. Host Jacob Weisberg promises he won’t end the show until Trump is gone from the political stage, and never before have I hoped a show I love would end so soon.
Last Week Tonight
Long live John Oliver.
Special Mention: GOP Debate Intro Fail.
I will never not laugh at this.