Pop Culture Highlights 2012

It’s hard to believe that another year is almost in the books. Time seems to be speeding up the older I get – when I was a kid, a year felt like forever. Now I blink and it is almost 2013. I guess time does indeed fly when you are having fun.

2012 was a very good year for me in many ways – professionally, personally and of course in the realm of pop culture. After what many considered a lackluster 2011 in cinema, 2012 rebounded and had what has turned out to be a pretty fantastic crop of film offerings (though to be fair, 2012 also brought us Battleship and John Carter, so it wasn’t all spectacular – especially if your name is Taylor Kitsch). Television continued to be strong in 2012, reminding everyone that some of the best storytelling is happening on the small screen. It was a good year for movies and concerts and I personally had many of the best pop culture experiences of my life this year.

So without further ado, here are some of my pop culture highlights for 2012. And before you get mad that your favorite didn’t crack the top five, please remember that these are the best of what I’ve seen. Even a person who consumes as much pop culture as I do can’t see everything. So if something doesn’t make the list, it may simply be because I didn’t have time for it. And of course it goes without saying that taste is subjective; what speaks to me may not necessarily speak to you. I’m not saying these things are the definitive best things that 2012 had to offer – just the things that I enjoyed the most.

Top 5 movies

  1. Argo
  2. The Avengers
  3. Skyfall
  4. Django Unchained
  5. The Dark Knight Rises

Honorable mention: Wreck It Ralph and Bernie

Top 5 Television Shows

  1. Breaking Bad – This was really only a two show race for the top and I gave a slight edge to Breaking Bad because I think that they had a harder level of difficulty than the show I put at #2. The stakes continue to be high and just when you think Walter White can’t break any “badder,” he somehow finds new depths to sink to. Though it was an abbreviated season this summer, the season ended with a big revelation and has set things up nicely for the final episodes of the series. Brilliant acting all around and my adoption of Jesse’s penchant for adding “bitch” to the end of sentences has certainly made my conversations much more colorful.
  2. Mad Men – This should really be 1a and 1b, as I can’t think of two shows that made me happier in 2012. While some people were not on board with the increased focus on Mrs. Draper, I loved it and thought it introduced some interesting dimensions to characters that we thought we already knew everything about. Any time Don and Peggy share a scene, you are watching something pretty special unfolding. They just work so well together. The fact that Jon Hamm has never received an Emmy for his portrayal of Don Draper will never not bother me. Great cast, great look, great stories. It’s pacing may not be for everyone, but it really doesn’t get much better than this.
  3. Community – This show is constantly a surprise, in the best way possible. It’s ability to play around with genres and homages to other pop culture phenomena, while staying true to the characters has really been a pleasure to watch. NBC hasn’t done right by this show and I’m guessing the season that debuts in 2013 will be its last, but it is still the best comedy on TV right now.
  4. Game of Thrones – I’m so glad I took a chance on this show; it’s outside of what I normally watch, but I was hooked almost instantly. It’s the first time in history I have stopped reading a book because I don’t want it to ruin the TV show. I’ll admit that the show’s large cast and myriad relationships often confuse me; I have often joked that I want to put a white board in my living room so I can diagram all that is going on. But even if I have to occasionally rewind the DVR to give myself some clarity, it’s worth the added work I have to put in. Very much looking forward to the new season in March.
  5. Happy Endings – This quirky little comedy has so many jokes crammed in that I often don’t catch all of them until a second viewing. The show always manages to make me smile and I hope that it finds its audience soon. I’ve rewatched the recent Christmas episode more times than I’d like to admit.

Honorable mention: Parks and Recreation, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Girls, Justified, Bob’s Burgers

Top 5 albums

My musical taste is admittedly not the best, so take these recommendations with a grain of salt. But all 5 of these albums found themselves on heavy rotation on my iPod and on Spotify throughout 2012.

1. The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter – One of my biggest regrets of 2012 was not going to see The Avett Brothers when they rolled into town in April. Though less famous than Mumford and Sons, I actually think that The Avett Brothers are slightly better. I really enjoy their combination of many different musical inspirations.

2. Mumford & Sons – Babel –I’ve become very frustrated that Mumford & Sons have become so popular because now it is nearly impossible to get tickets to see them. Plus I felt much cooler when no one else had heard of the band and I had; I’m rarely on the cutting edge musically. Their folk rock sound on Babel is the soundtrack to many of my days in the office.

3. Jack White – Blunderbuss –I was more than a little upset when word came that my beloved The White Stripes had called it a day in 2011; I just loved their sound and was looking forward to many more albums from the duo. However, with Blunderbuss, Jack White’s first solo album, I found that sound was still alive, though it was melded with all sorts of different inspirations. Jack White is just an incredible musician and I look forward to whatever he does next.

4. Fiona AppleThe Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do – I will admit that I was not the world’s biggest Fiona Apple fan; I’d loved her debut album Tidal back in college, but had kind of lost track of her over the years. When I decided to go see her this year in concert, it was kind of a lark. People who know far more about music than I were very excited about her shows and I kept hearing raves for her new album.  I walked out of the concert with my fandom renewed and with a deep appreciation for The Idler Wheel…. I even made a play list on Spotify that mirrors her play list from the concert that I attended so I can relieve it.

5. Bruce SpringsteenWrecking Ball – Springsteen may be in his sixties, but with Wrecking Ball he proves that he is still The Boss. Another great album that speaks to our times; “We Take Care of Our Own” was used as both a campaign song and a moving tribute to those who lost everything in hurricane Sandy. Like a fine wine, Springsteen only gets better with age. If he rolls into your town with the E Street Band, I highly recommend going to check him out. You’ll be exhausted after watching him on stage.

Honorable mention: Frank Ocean, Agent Orange.

Top 5 favorite posts

This is the 196th post that I’ve written this year – holy cow! That’s a lot. Over 2012 I’ve written a lot of stuff that I’m proud of – and a few that I wish I could re-do – but even though I claim to love all my posts equally, I do have some favorites.

1. T.V. Theme Songs – This was one of those posts that felt like it just wrote itself. It was nice to find out that other people love a good theme song as much as I do.

2. Bruce Springsteen – I think this may have been the best thing I ever wrote on the blog and it was certainly the most personal. I got a lot of positive feedback from this post and I’m glad that sharing something so close to my heart was so well received.

3. Review of Liz & Dick – It’s great when I like something, but the posts that are the most fun for me to write is when something is just straight up terrible. Liz & Dick fits the bill; it was so bad. I had to use the thesaurus to remind myself of other words that mean the same this as “sucks.” Turns out, I enjoy being a mean girl every once in a while.

4. Jim Jefferies – This was such a crazy and hilarious night that I was glad I got to relive it writing up this post. Jim Jefferies earned himself a new fan that night – I’ll be tuning in to his new show Legit on FX this January – and it was a good lesson on how to handle a heckler. It also reinforced how much I love going to comedy shows. I already have 4 shows lined up for early 2013.

5. Jersey – This actually wasn’t one of my favorite posts when I wrote it, but someone at WordPress liked it enough that it was featured on their web page and directed a lot of traffic my way. I picked up a lot of new readers that day and it was a good reminder that sometimes you just have to trust what you write; sometimes simple is better.

Honorable mention: Being a Bills Fan, which was cathartic to write on many levels and Anchorman 2, which is when I realized people were actually reading the blog based on the number of friends who said that they found out about the new movie from reading me.

Top 5 Pop Culture Experiences

1. The Blog – Of all the amazing things I did in 2012, by far the best was my decision to start writing this blog. It has been so much fun for me to share my thoughts and opinions on all things pop culture and it has really pushed me to try new things and make more of an effort to go to shows and movies. I didn’t even realize I needed this creative outlet until I started writing again. It is a constant surprise to me that anyone other than my mother reads this; I honestly thought that I’d write this for a few months and then quit when no one read what I had to say. So thank you to each and every one of you for stopping in to listen to me ramble on about pop culture. I’m looking forward to blog’s first anniversary in January!

2.The Mixtape Festival – While there were some obvious problems with this weekend in Hershey, PA, the good far outweighed the bad. I was able to see all sorts of fun bands – Kelly Clarkson stands out in particular – and got to fulfill a childhood dream by meeting New Kids on the Block. And honestly, the whole experience was worth it for the people watching alone. This weekend may have marked my retirement from boy bands, but I’ll admit that I smile every time I hear The Wanted on the radio. A great weekend with a great friend, rain and disorganization be damned.

3. The U.S. Open – One of the things that I am most proud of myself in 2012 was that I stopped waiting around for other people and started planning and doing things that I wanted to do. Toward the top of the list was going to a golf tournament and I finally was able to do that this year when I attended the U.S. Open in 2012. It was a really fun day, even if it started out stressful because I had trouble meeting up with my friends. It was a great workout – you spend a lot of time walking – and I got to see some of the best golfers in the world do what they do best. And nothing is quite like seeing the “Tiger Wave” live and in person. I had so much fun that I’m hoping to go to the PGA Championship in Rochester this year.

4. MLB Playoffs – I was lucky enough to go to two playoff games this year at Yankee Stadium and they were exciting and dramatic. I feel so fortunate that I was at both games when Raul Ibanez decided he was going to homer the team into the next round or die trying. I was also there for the night that Nick Swisher turned on Yankee fans (as much as I love him, I still think he was being a baby about the whole thing) and I heard an eerie silence fall over the Stadium when Jeter fell to the ground with a broken ankle. And, most importantly, I was able to have a deep fried Twinkie before those become a thing of the past (R.I.P. Hostess). It was an exhausting week, but worth every penny.

5. Broadway/Christmas in NYC – This was another thing that had been sitting on my to do list for quite some time and I was so glad I could finally cross it off my pop culture bucket list in 2012. It was such a fun day and I got to do so many little things in NYC that I’ve always wanted to do (thanks to Amanda for being such a good sport and letting me be a tourist). My next trip to Broadway is already in the works for 2013. Plus I had my first random celebrity sightings in over 10 years, which was exciting.

So there you have it – my pop culture highlights for 2012. What are some of yours? Sound off in the comments. As tremendous as this year has been, I have a feeling that 2013 is only going to be better. Thanks for sticking with the blog this year. Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2013!

2 thoughts on “Pop Culture Highlights 2012

  1. Happy New Year Heather – and I also know that your trek to see a Soap Opera legend surely will always have a special place in your 2012 heart. Love you!

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