Each year, we dedicate an early Inventory to the things we’re most looking forward to in pop culture’s coming months. As serial optimists, we hope all these things are fantastic and life-changing—and often they are, ending up with rightful spots on our best-of lists. This year, we thought it’d be fun to see what happened to the things we were salivating for last year: Did they actually come out? Were they as good as we’d hoped? See below for the answers. On the whole, we weren’t disappointed, which is a great thing to not be. Along the way, we also provided links to lots of coverage readers might have missed throughout the year. (To see what we’re anticipating for 2013, just head here.)
2. Indecision 2012
We don’t review individual episodes of The Colbert Report and The Daily Show, but we certainly enjoyed their election coverage more than we enjoyed the seemingly endless, depressing, mainstream-news election coverage. We look forward to Indecision 2016 with cautious resignation.
3. TIFF’s traveling Robert Bresson retrospective
This was a bit outside our normal list of movies and music, so points to us for being hoity-toity. We didn’t cover the actual show, but we celebrated it by writing a Bresson Primer. He’s one to know.
4. House Of Lies
We saw serious potential in House Of Lies’ cast, particularly Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell. The show wasn’t a complete letdown (and Cheadle is great), but it never climbed far above average. It’s coming back for another season, though.
The idea of Hurley from Lost pursuing criminals who had mysteriously disappeared from Alcatraz, only to reappear decades later, in a show produced by J.J. Abrams… That’s a good idea, right? But Alcatraz never really found its feet. We liked it fine, but the network quickly axed it.
Tim Kring, the hero/villain behind Heroes, launched this show about a special boy with very special powers, mostly predicting the future. We watched the first episode and then gave up, though viewers didn’t: It’ll be back for another season.
7. The Grey
Liam Neeson! Wolves! Knives! Snow! Intrigue! More like Liam Neeson, wolves, knives, snow, intrigue. It was okay.
8. John Mulaney: New In Town
Saturday Night Live scribe John Mulaney didn’t set the world on fire with his Comedy Central special (which was also released as a DVD and CD), but we loved it anyway.
What a crazy life Luck had, with streaks of brilliance and character setups that should’ve paid off down the road. If only low ratings, high budgets, and a series of horse deaths hadn’t stopped the show in its tracks.
10. Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas
Pop music is a young man’s game, but Leonard Cohen—now in his late seventies—never played by anyone’s rules but his own. Old Ideas was a funny title for an excellent record.
11. Final Fantasy XIII-2
The latest in this confusingly titled series pleased hardcore gamers, including our own Gus Mastrapa, put the Final Fantasy saga back on course.
We called it “essentially an adult version of Glee,” but Smash didn’t really live up (or down) to that promise. It is getting another season, though.
13. The River
No one—not even ghosts, whose viewing habits are being tracked by Nielsen now—watched this horror TV show from Paranormal Activity’s Oren Peli. We asked why they didn’t just make it a miniseries, and in the end, ABC did—canceling it after seven episodes.
14. The Secret World Of Arrietty
The latest from Japan’s Studio Ghibli, home of Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, and many more animated classics, was pretty clearly going to be a slam-dunk in terms of quality. No big surprise that we loved the film as much as the anticipation.
15. Dirty Three, Toward The Low Sun
Nick Cave essentially forced The Dirty Three out of business by stealing Warren Ellis for Grinderman, but the instrumental trio returned in 2012 with an almost-excellent album. We gave it a B+.
David Wain can’t seem to decide whether he wants to make populist romps or filthy, inside-joke-laden movies like the beloved Wet Hot American Summer. With Wanderlust, he sorta made both. It has high points and low, but certainly isn’t a classic.
17. The Hunger Games
Critics mostly liked the first film in the Hunger Games trilogy—we gave it a B—and audiences gave it all their money, to the tune of $400 million domestically. We will cautiously anticipate the future films; the next one, Catching Fire, made this year’s list.
18. Adam Lambert, Trespassing
Turns out we didn’t really care about the new album from the American Idol runner-up. We didn’t even review it!
19. The Pirates! Band Of Misfits
We were hoping for something a little more antic from this Aardman Animation outing, like “The Wrong Trousers” or “A Close Shave,” but this stop-motion feature from Aardman co-founder Peter Lord was a perfectly enjoyable bit of fancy fluff.
20. The Shins, Port Of Morrow
We wanted this to be a Shins album as good as Oh, Inverted World or even Chutes Too Narrow. It wasn’t.
21. The Republic Of Thieves
Scott Lynch hasn’t released a new installment in his Gentleman Bastard series since 2007, and even 2013 seems unlikely for this new one. There’s a new contender in town for the George R.R. Martin Honorary I’ll Write It When I Write It title.
Turns out even our anticipation wasn’t enthusiastic enough to cover the quality of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ terrific new comics series. This was one of our favorite new things in 2012.
23. Wii U
Our write-up up of the big new console release of 2012 was a bit of a hedge (“it’s hard not to be intrigued”), and John Teti at our launched-in-2012 sister site Gameological ended up a bit baffled, and not too impressed with the unit.
24. The Wind Through The Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel
We had high hopes for Stephen King’s return to his Dark Tower series, and The Wind Through The Keyhole didn’t disappoint King-lover Zack Handlen, who gave it an A- and wrote it up as his favorite book of the year.
A new HBO series from Armando Iannucci, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, seemed like a slam dunk, and it was. No episode of the series’ first run received lower than a B+ from Meredith Blake. We should totally anticipate this some more.
All we knew about Girls at this time last year was that Lena Dunham’s feature film, Tiny Furniture, was incredibly impressive, and that Judd Apatow was involved with the launch of her HBO series. Though the show divided the public and the commentariat, we loved it.
27. The Drowned Cities
Here’s what we said then: “[Paolo] Bacigalupi has a real talent for blending the perils of dystopia with the forward momentum of the best YA novels. Here’s hoping this is another depressing, absorbing read.” Turned out to be true, and Todd VanDerWerff loved The Drowned Cities.
28. The Avengers
Joss Whedon. All the superheroes. Hulk punched Thor. We laughed and marveled at the idea of a completely satisfying summer blockbuster.
29. Dark Shadows
We hedged our bets here, since Tim Burton hasn’t had the greatest track record in recent years, saying “if it doesn’t work out, we’ll still have the Frankenweenie film coming out in October.” It didn’t work out—Dark Shadows was middling at best, and Frankenweenie wasn’t much better.
30. The Chemistry Of Tears
We said: “Based on past experience with Carey, all we can really know before we get our hands on it is that we can’t wait.” Then Ellen Wernecke sighed and gave it a C+.
31. Moonrise Kingdom
At the time, we noted that details about Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom were elusive, though the cast was pretty much set. It turned out to be the most Wes Anderson-y Wes Anderson movie ever, and that was just fine by us.
32. The Afghan Whigs reunion shows
Not only did The Afghan Whigs end up doing a pair of festival gigs, they did sold-out shows around the world, to mostly enraptured audiences. We didn’t cover the shows, but we heard damn good things.
33. New Hot Water Music album
Oof. Hot Water Music, the gruff punk band that influenced many others, returned with a full-length album that failed to “school the youngsters on how punk is done.” Exister lacked energy and urgency, two key components.
34. Tyler, The Creator, Wolf
Tyler, The Creator talked a lot about his 2012 album Wolf, including dropping some song titles (“Herpes And Cupcakes”) and claiming it would be more beat-focused. And then he didn’t release it.
35. New Bruce Springsteen tour/album
Bruce Springsteen can never be anything except Bruce Springsteen, and that’s a good thing. Wrecking Ball was incredibly solid, and The E Street Band can still play incredibly long and well.
36. R. Kelly, Soula Coaster: The Diary Of Me
We didn’t end up reviewing R. Kelly’s autobiography—and we didn’t know Trapped In The Closet would return, which it did—but it’s probably a good idea to read it yourself anyway.
37. The Red House
Another disappointment. Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time had everybody excited, but Todd VanDerWerff was guarded in his anticipation for Haddon’s 2012 novel, The Red House. He had reason to be.
Pixar wasn’t sweating the critical drubbing that Cars 2 took, but the company still took a step back toward acclaim with Brave, which Tasha Robinson greeted with a solid B. It’s no Toy Story 3, but few films are.
39. Uncle Scrooge: Only A Poor Old Man
Noel Murray is a lifelong fan of Carl Barks’ comics work, especially on Donald Duck and his various friends and relations. He was particularly looking forward to this archive of “some of the best-loved Uncle Scrooge stories,” and it didn’t disappoint him.
40. The Amazing Spider-Man
Here’s a great idea: Reboot a franchise so soon after the last series ended that people don’t even know it’s different. And then hand the reins to a guy that made a summer rom-com. Actually, don’t do either of those things.
41. The Dark Knight Rises
Our prediction: “Given the enormous critical and commercial success of the previous two films in Nolan’s Batman trilogy, there’s no reason to think this film won’t top them all, likely becoming one of the top-grossing films of 2012.” The consensus: Great, but nowhere near The Dark Knight. It is the second-highest-grossing film of 2012, though, solidly behind The Avengers.
42. The Expendables 2
Were we really even anticipating this? We shouldn’t have been.
TNT’s reboot of Dallas—featuring many from the original cast—seemed like an awesome idea on paper, but as so many awesome paper-ideas turn out, it was just okay onscreen.
44. Twylight Zones
David Chase’s first big public appearance since The Sopranos ended up with a different title: Not Fade Away. (We’re guessing both the Twilight series and The Twilight Zone had issues with the original version.) The 1960s-set film about a band (and America, maaaaan) turned out pretty well just the same, scoring a B+ from Noel Murray.
45. Telegraph Avenue
Hooray Michael Chabon, for proving that there are things in life we can count on! Telegraph Avenue got an A.
46. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Oh, The Hobbit. You were all about managing expectations, and understanding that your source material was simply far less intriguing than your big brother, the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. But the best we can say about Peter Jackson’s first entry in his second trilogy is that it’s pretty okay.
47. Untitled Kathryn Bigelow Osama bin Laden movie
Well, it has a title now. Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, is in limited release now, and critics are loving it. Scott Tobias gave it a solid A, and it made No. 2 on our Best Of Film list.
48. Django Unchained
Merry Christmas, here’s Quentin Tarantino’s movie about a revenge-seeking slave, complete with lots of violence and naughty words. (Oh, and general excellence in the areas of writing, directing, and acting.)
49. Morrissey’s autobiography
Morrissey claims his autobiography is finished, but it still doesn’t have a release date. Meanwhile, there’s a comprehensive new bio about The Smiths, called A Light That Never Goes Out, which Morrissey—if the past is any indication—will probably hate. Just give us yours, then, Moz!
Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis and Abraham Lincoln, oh my. Day-Lewis was, as expected, fantastic, though the movie ended up being a bit more procedural than audiences probably wanted it to be. (In other words, it was no Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.) We liked it, though.
51. The Last Guardian
Last year, we made the bold statement that this game from Team Ico—those responsible for Ico and Shadow Of The Colossus—was “forthcoming.” We were absolutely correct, it is still forthcoming.
52. 4:44 The Last Day On Earth
Abel Ferrara’s latest didn’t make much splash in the world at large—we predicted that its thunder may have been stolen by Lars von Trier’s conceptually similar (and, as it turns out, superior) Melancholia. Still, Sam Adams gave it a B.
53. The Master
Talk about sure things: Paul Thomas Anderson has such a solid track record that it’s easy to get excited about anything the filmmaker announces. A year ago, The Master wasn’t even officially called The Master. Now it’s called The A.V. Club’s best film of 2012.
55. Matthew Dear, Beams
We were hoping that arty house producer Matthew Dear would deliver a pop masterpiece with Beams, and he didn’t fall too far short of that goal.
56. Untitled Terrence Malick film
It has a title now (To The Wonder), as well as a trailer. We did remark that “this one might get put off for a few years,” which turned out to be April 12, 2013.
57. Inferno: A Linda Lovelace Story
We called Inferno “a possible long shot” last year, at least partly because of the Lindsay Lohan factor. (She had already been booted at that point, replaced by Malin Akerman.) The porn-star story is still listed as “in pre-production,” which is not a great sign.
58. BioShock Infinite
Now March 26, 2013. But don’t hold your breath too hard.
Minecraft creator Markus Persson has been working on Scrolls for years. There’s still no release date.
60. Black Sabbath reunion tour and album
Everything was looking rosy for all four original Black Sabbath members to reunite for shows and an album in 2012, but by the middle of the year, drummer Bill Ward was gone—or perhaps was never really involved to begin with. (He publicly asked for a contract, and apparently didn’t get one.) The band’s live shows were met with mixed reactions, and an album never emerged, though supposedly it’s in the works.
We found Amy Sherman-Palladino’s new show to be largely above average —it’s no Gilmore Girls, but what is?
Brian Michael Bendis’ comics series about cops and superheroes got as far as a pilot, and it’s unclear whether it’ll get any farther.
63. Doom, Swift & Changeable
64. Dr. Dre, Detox
Another year, still no Doom/Ghostface collaboration and still no Dr. Dre album. Lots of Dr. Dre headphones, though, so that’s something. We’re anticipating it for 2013 instead. Also 2014, 2015, and perhaps until the end of time.